No clear contenders for Nobel Peace Prize

Some punters consider North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in the front runners for their efforts at rapprochement between the two nations
Some punters consider North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in the front runners for their efforts at rapprochement between the two nationsPHOTO: AFP

Korean leaders said to be among possible winners, with announcement due tomorrow

OSLO • Mr Donald Trump? Hardly. Reconciliation between the Koreas? Rather premature. Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea? Probably missed the deadline.

As the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize looms, it is easier to rule out names than guess who is going to win.

This year, the field of possibilities facing the five members of the Norwegian committee tasked with awarding the prize was wide, with 331 individuals and organisations proposed for the prestigious prize, which will be announced tomorrow in Oslo.

And, as usual, despite the fact that the list of candidates is a secret, predictions about who might win are gathering pace.

With the postponement of this year's literature prize for the first time in 70 years over a #MeToo scandal at the Swedish Academy, tomorrow's peace award has become the most highly anticipated Nobel announcement this year.

Looking at the odds on some of the online betting sites, you might think North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in were the front runners for their efforts at rapprochement between the two nations.

But the Nobel experts - who are more often than not wrong - are scratching their heads.

"On the one hand, the inter-Korean breakthrough is, I think, the most dramatic thing in this field this year," said Mr Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

"On the other hand, I wonder whether it would be premature to be giving the prize on that basis this year."

Apart from anything else, Mr Kim's record on human rights hardly stands in his favour.

Could Mr Moon get it on his own?

"(He) did well, with the peace-promoting use of the (Winter) Olympic Games" in Pyeongchang, said Professor Peter Wallensteen of Sweden, who specialises in international relations.

But what of Mr Trump?

Certain international figures, such as Britain's Boris Johnson, when he was foreign minister, and even Mr Moon himself, have suggested the US leader could win the prize for his initiatives on the Korean peninsula.

At odds of 7-1, the bombastic American President is one of three front runners flagged by online bookies Betsson, far ahead of other global figures like French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin - all with odds of 75-1.

Such a prize would be "inappropriate", said Mr Smith, pointing to a string of decisions by Mr Trump which "are very negative as far as peace is concerned", most notably withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

The nascent reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has also fuelled hope that a durable peace can be reached between the two neighbouring countries after 20 years of war.

For Prof Wallensteen, the peace prize could go to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

But he took power only in April, with his peace overtures coming to fruition this summer.

That is a little late for the Nobel committee, which takes nominations at the start of the year.

Mr Henrik Urdal, head of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, believes the award could go to the United Nations' World Food Programme, which feeds millions of starving people every year.

From the battlefields of Yemen to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, "we are seeing now that hunger is becoming again one of the bigger humanitarian challenges of our time", he said.

Meanwhile, American scientists Frances Arnold and George Smith as well as British researcher Gregory Winter won the Nobel Chemistry Prize yesterday for harnessing the principles of evolution to develop proteins used to make everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals, the jury said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'No clear contenders for Nobel Peace Prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe