Pierre-Henry DESHAYES

As the North Korean crisis rekindles the Cold War-era threat of nuclear catastrophe, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize could honour efforts to limit the spread of atomic weapons, several experts suggest.

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 on Friday at 11:00 am (0900 GMT).

Who will bag the prestigious prize is anyone’s guess, as the names of candidates - a total of 318 this year - are by convention kept a closely guarded secret for 50 years. After President Juan Manuel Santos won the prize last year for his efforts to bring peace to Colombia following a half-century-long conflict with rebel guerrillas, a peace prize honouring non-proliferation efforts would be appropriate this year, commentators say. “The Nobel committee would make a big splash if it awarded the prize to the Iran nuclear deal,” said Asle Sveen, a peace prize historian.

He said the honour could in such case go to former US secretary of state John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini - key architects of the landmark 2015 accord.

The Iran deal, concluded with six world powers (the US, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany) curbed Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of most economic sanctions.

Its supporters say the accord ensures Iran cannot pursue an atomic bomb and shows how open dialogue can defuse even the most high-stakes crises. But US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear it up, telling the UN General Assembly last month that the deal was “an embarrassment”.

Trump has recently fuelled a fiery dispute with North Korea over the reclusive state’s nuclear weapons programme as Pyongyang has conducted successive missile and underground atomic bomb tests. “With North Korea also at stake, it’s very important to support initiatives that guard against the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons,” the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (Prio), Henrik Urdal, said.

‘The man who mends women’

Although the identities of candidates for the Nobel - whose recent winners include former US president Barack Obama, Pakistani rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai and the European Union - are officially secret, those eligible to nominate individuals are free to disclose their choices.

An alternative laureate could be the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), according to the Norwegian Peace Council.

A coalition of non-governmental organisations, ICAN pushed for the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed by 122 countries in July but of a largely symbolic nature without the participation of the nine nuclear powers.

Other favourites for the prize include the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), possibly with its Italian chief Filippo Grandi, as the number of people uprooted by conflicts worldwide hit a new record of 65.6 million last year.

The UNHCR has already won the peace prize twice, in 1954 and 1981.

Other names circulating are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and independent voices such as Russia’s Svetlana Gannushkina and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and Turkey’s Cumhuriyet daily and its exiled former editor Can Dundar.

In the past year, two big Nobel names have passed away. The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Kaci Kullmann Five, died of breast cancer in February, and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, passed away in July after several weeks of conditional freedom, never able to pick up the Peace Prize awarded to him in 2010.–AFP

There has also been broad disappointment over Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 peace laureate who has been widely criticised for her failure to stop the atrocities being committed against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar. AFP

Nobel Peace Prize winners

2016: Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)
2015: The National Dialogue Quartet (Tunisia)
2014: Kailash Satyarthi (India) and Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan)
2013: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
2012: The European Union (EU)
2011: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Tawakkul Karman (Yemen)
2010: Liu Xiaobo (China)
2009: Barack Obama (US)
2008: Martti Ahtisaari (Finland)
2007: Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2006: M Yunus (Bangladesh) and the Grameen Bank
2005: IAEA and Mohamed
ElBaradei (Egypt)
2004: Wangari Maathai (Kenya)
2003: Shirin Ebadi (Iran)
2002: Jimmy Carter (US)
2001: Kofi Annan (Ghana) and UN
2000: Kim Dae Jung (South Korea)
1999: Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
1998: John Hume and David Trimble (Northern Ireland)
1997: Jody Williams (US) and the Int’l Campaign to Ban Landmines
1996: Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta (East Timor)
1995: Joseph Rotblat (Britain) and the Pugwash movement
1994: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres (Israel) and Yasser Arafat (PLO)
1993: Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk (South Africa)
1992: Menchu (Guatemala)
1991: Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma)
1990: Gorbachev (Soviet Union)
1989: Dalai Lama (Tibet)
1988: UN Peacekeeping Forces
1987: Oscar Sanchez (Costa Rica)
1986: Elie Wiesel (US)
1985: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
1984: Desmond Tutu (South Africa)
1983: Lech Walesa (Poland)
1982: Alva Myrdal (Sweden) and Alfonso Garcia Robles (Mexico)
1981: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1980: Adolfo Perez (Argentina)
1979: Mother Teresa (Albania)
1978: Anwar Sadat (Egypt) and Menachem Begin (Israel)
1977: Amnesty International
1976: Betty Williams (UK) and Mairead Corrigan (Northern Ireland)
1975: Andrei Sakharov (Soviet Union)
1974: Sean MacBride (Ireland) and Eisaku Sato (Japan)
1973: Henry Kissinger (US) and Le Duc Tho (Vietnam, declined)
1972: prize not handed out
1971: Willy Brandt (Germany)
1970: Norman Borlaug (US)
1969: Int’l Labour Organisation
1968: Rene Cassin (France)
1967: prize not handed out
1966: prize not handed out
1965: UNICEF
1964: Martin Luther King Jr (US)
1963: ICRC and the League of Red Cross Societies
1962: Linus Carl Pauling (US)
1961: Dag Hammarskjoeld (Sweden)
1960: Albert Lutuli (South Africa)
1959: Philip Noel-Baker (Britain)
1958: Georges Pire (Belgium)
1957: Lester Pearson (Canada)
1956: prize not handed out
1955: prize not handed out
1954: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1953: George Marshall (US)
1952: Albert Schweitzer (France)
1951: Leon Jouhaux (France)
1950: Ralph Bunche (US)
1949: Lord Boyd Orr of Brechin (UK)
1948: prize not handed out
1947: Friends Service Council (The Quakers), American Friends Service Committee (The Quakers)
1946: Emily Greene Balch (US), John Raleigh Mott (US)
1945: Cordell Hull (US)
1944: ICRC
1939-43: prize not handed out
1938: Nansen Int’l Office for Refugees
1937: Viscount Cecil (Britain)
1936: Carlos Saavedr (Argentina)
1935: Carl von Ossietzky (Germany)
1934: Arthur Henderson (Britain)
1933: Sir Norman Angell (Britain)
1932: prize not handed out
1931: Jane Addams (US) and Nicholas Murray Butler (US)
1930: Nathan Soederblom (Sweden)
1929: Frank Billings Kellogg (US)
1928: prize not handed out
1927: Ferdinand Buisson (France) and Ludwig Quidde (Germany)
1926: Aristide Briand (France) and Gustav Stresemann (Germany)
1925: Sir Austen Chamberlain (Britain) and Charles Gates Dawes (US)
1924: prize not handed out
1923: prize not handed out
1922: Fridtjof Nansen (Norway)
1921: Karl Hjalmar Branting (Sweden) and Christian Lange (Norway)
1920: Leon Victor Auguste (France)
1919: Thomas Wilson (US)
1918: prize not handed out
1917: ICRC
1914-16: prize not handed out
1913: Henri La Fontaine (Belgium)
1912: Elihu Root (US)
1911: Tobias Michael Carel Asser (The Netherlands) and Alfred Hermann Fried (Austria)
1910: Permanent International Peace Bureau
1909: Auguste Marie Francois Beernaert (Belgium) and Paul Henri Benjamin Balluet, Baron d’Estournelles de Constant de Rebecque (France)
1908: Klas Pontus Arnoldson (Sweden) and Fredrik Bajer (Denmark)
1907: Ernesto Teodoro Moneta (Italy) and Louis Renault (France)
1906: Theodore Roosevelt (US)
1905: Baroness Bertha Sophie Felicita von Suttner (Austria)
1904: Institute of Int’l Law
1903: William Randal (Britain)
1902: Elie Ducommun (Switzerland) and Charles Albert Gobat (Switzerland)
1901: Jean Henri Dunant (Switzerland) and Frederic Passy (France)