"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

Liu has taken a clear stand for democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. In its announcement, the committee emphasizes the importance of human rights for peace, a long standing theme in the history of the peace prize, sustained through research demonstrating the close connection between the two. Noteworthy is the committee’s strong emphasis on the non-violent quality of Liu’s work, a quality that received little mention in the first media commentary on the prize.

The PRIO director had discussed Liu as a possible candidate, but he was not one of the three top candidates on his list for 2010. Harpviken had speculated that the prize this year would be awarded either on the basis of women, peace and security (human rights advocate Sima Samar); independent reporting and freedom of speech (exile-based radio and TV channel Democratic Voice of Burma); or transitional justice (Special Court for Sierra Leone).

In the past 5 years, the PRIO director speculations (Harpviken succeeded Stein Tønnesson in 2009) have been fully on the mark once, in 2007, when Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change won the prize. The speculation was also close in 2005, when nuclear arms was seen as the most likely issue, and the IAEA and Mohammad El Baradei were seen as possible winners in that category (with Richard Lugar & Sam Nunn’s Cooperative Threat Reduction on top). Martti Ahtisaari, who won the prize in 2008, had been on the PRIO director’s list of favorites for three consecutive years (2005, 2006 and 2007).

Read Kristian Berg Harpviken’s op ed (in Norwegian) on the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on dagbladet.no