Anti-nuclear campaigners lead crowded field for Nobel Peace Prize

With tensions between Washington and Pyongyang sending the risk of a nuclear confrontation soaring, the highlight of the Nobel awards season will be announced in Oslo. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

OSLO (AFP) - Efforts to limit or reverse the spread of nuclear weapons head the field for Friday's (Oct 6) Nobel Peace Prize but face likely competition from the UN refugee agency, Syrian do-it-yourself rescuers and a Congolese "miracle" doctor.

The five members of Norway's Nobel committee will unveil their pick at 0900 GMT (5.00pm Singapore time) in Oslo, in what is traditionally an eagerly anticipated award handed out during the foundation's prize-giving week.

While there is no public candidates list, speculation has grown in the run up to Friday's announcement that the honour could go to the key architects of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which effectively put an atom bomb out of Teheran's reach.

As such, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif, European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and former US Secretary of State John Kerry are all thought to be in with a shout.

"It would be a very a good prize, very unpopular for some, very popular for others," said Nobelhistorian Asle Sveen.

The 2015 accord between Iran and world powers drastically curbed Teheran's controversial nuclear programme in return for a gradual lifting of crippling economic sanctions on the Islamic republic.

As tensions soar between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang's pursuit of an atomic bomb, US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear up the Iranian deal, labelling it an "embarrassment".

"If Trump scraps this deal, it will also be a signal for instance to North Korea that it is impossible to have a decent deal with the United States because you'll never know what they will do," said Sveen.

Henrik Urdal, director of the PRIO think tank that monitors Peace Prize coverage, said the team behind the Iran deal would be a "worthy and notable winner".


Nobel Peace Prize predictions are notoriously difficult, especially since the Nobel Institute keeps the list of nominations secret for 50 years. Only those who are allowed to submit nominations are free to disclose their choices publicly.

As such, another anti-nuclear weapon initiative, ICAN, is also thought to be nominated.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has campaigned for a decade to consign the atom bomb to history and was this year a vital proponent of a non-proliferation treaty signed by 122 countries.

The accord was however largely symbolic as none of the known nine nuclear-armed nations put their names down.

Another contender and bookies' favourite is Syria's White Helmets civilian rescue service, which has gained worldwide renown for the bravery and selflessness of its volunteer paramedics.

And at a time when there are more displaced people worldwide than ever before recorded, some experts believe the UN's refugee agency UNHCR could be primed for its third Peace Prize.

"UNHCR has shown its capacity and integrity in standing up for refugees' rights and needs time and time again," said Urdal.

"They are working tirelessly to mend the consequences of war in major conflict theatres like Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan." UNHCR previously won Nobels in 1954 and 1981.


Another perennial contender is Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, known as "Doctor Miracle" for his work treating survivors of sexual violence in the restive Democratic Republic of Congo.

For his role in bolstering a peace accord between Colombia's government and rebel groups, Pope Francis is thought to be nominated.

The jailed journalists of Turkey's oldest newspaper, Cumhuriyet, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and US civil rights crusaders the ACLU have all also been mentioned in the build-up to Friday.

But the Peace Prize has a recent history of throwing up surprises, including in 2015 when the committee plumped for four Tunisian groups instrumental in the country's transition to democracy - none of whom had been mentioned in any pre-announcement speculation.

The Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine and literature have already been announced - all going to men.

All recipients, barring British author Kazuo Ishiguro, have hailed from Western Europe or the US.

Lawmakers and cabinet ministers, former laureates, and some university professors are among the thousands of people around the world entitled to suggest candidates for the Peace Prize.

This time around they have thrown up names such as Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and former French leader Jacques Chirac.

One online gambling site had a eye-catching outsider offer on the eve of the prize - North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un at 500/1.

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