Nobel peace prize predictions abound, but no clear favourite

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's easier to rule out names than guess who's going to win.

This year the field of possibilities facing the five members of theNorwegian committee tasked with awarding the prize was pretty wide, with 331individuals and organisations proposed for the prestigious prize, which willbe announced on Friday in Oslo.

And, as usual, despite the fact 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 in70 years over a #MeToo scandal at the Swedish Academy, Friday's peace awardhas become the most highly anticipated Nobel announcement this year.

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

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

"On the one hand, the inter-Korean breakthrough is I think the mostdramatic thing in this field this year," said Dan Smith, head of the StockholmInternational Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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

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

Trump? 'Inappropriate'

Could Moon get it on his own?

"(He) did well, with the peace-promoting use of the (Winter) Olympic Games"in Pyeongchang, said Peter Wallensteen, a Swedish professor who specialises ininternational relations.

But what of Trump? Certain international figures like Britain's BorisJohnson, when he was foreign minister, and even Moon himself have suggestedthe US leader could win the prize for his initiatives on the Korean peninsula.

At 7-1, the bombastic American president is one of three frontrunnersflagged by online bookies Betsson, far ahead of other global figures likeFrance's Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Theresa May and Russia's Vladimir Putinall with odds of 75-1.

Such a prize would be "inappropriate," said Smith, pointing to a string ofdecisions by Trump which "are very negative as far as peace is concerned",most notably withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran nucleardeal.

And in any case, the only known Trump nomination submitted to the Nobelcommittee was fake, filed by someone suspected of identity fraud as onlycertain individuals are allowed to propose names.

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

For Wallensteen, the peace prize could go to Ethiopian Prime Minister, AbiyAhmed. But he only took power in April with his peace overtures coming tofruition this summer.

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

Fighting sexual violence

Given the lack of certainty and the limited scope of progress onpotentially prize-winning initiatives, some observers are turning to somelonger-term contenders.

With the #MeToo movement raising global awareness about sexual abuse andharassment, the award could honour those engaged in the fight against sexualviolence, such as Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege or Yazidi rape victimNadia Murad.

Nominated many times in the past, Mukwege has spent two decades helpingwomen recover from the violence and trauma of rape in war-torn easternDemocratic Republic of Congo, while Murad became an activist after being kidnapped by Islamic State group militants and held as a sex slave.

Henrik Urdal, head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (Prio), believes the award could go to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), which feedsmillions 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 biggerhumanitarian challenges of our time," he said.

Other potential laureates include the UN refugee agency UNHCR, jailed Saudiblogger Raif Badawi, organisations defending the media such as ReportersWithout Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (RSF) and Russianhuman rights champions like the NGO Memorial and opposition newspaper NovayaGazeta.

With everything up in the air, the verdict will only be known on Friday at11:00 am (0900 GMT).

Read more news of Oslo on our site.
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