Cryptic clues spark more speculation about the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

You have to hand it to Thorbjörn Jagland, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, he certainly knows how to get tongues wagging in advance of the Peace Prize announcement later today (11:00 CET).

The committee has courted controversy with its selections since the former prime minister of Norway became its chairman in 2009. US President Barack Obama received the prize in 2009, less than a year into his term of office. In 2010, the prize went to imprisoned Chinese writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, prompting a strident response from state authorities against Norway.

In an interview with Associated Press on Wednesday, Jagland drops some cryptic clues about this year’s Peace Prize recipient, He is quoted as saying:

“The most positive development will get the prize. So I’m a little bit surprised that it has not been already seen by many commentators and experts and all this because for me it’s obvious.”

So who have people listed as being in line for this year’s prize? I’ve blogged about this before, but The Guardian has a good rundown of the hopefuls. including Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, the Russian human rights group Memorial, Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Ten years to the day that US-led troops went into Afganistan, Sima Samar, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, would be a timely award.

So-called “leading Nobel-guesser” Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, says his top picks are Egyptian activists Israa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Maher and the April 6 Youth Movement, a pro-democracy Facebook group they co-founded in 2008.

Fanning the flames of speculation further, Jagland told the Norwegian newspaper VG on Thursday that this year’s recipient “is involved with something that has been important to me my whole life.” Could it be the European Union, then? Even though Norway is not a member, Jagland is a strong supporter of the EU, and in 1990, he wrote “My European Dream”, a book about European unity after the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

Two more Jagland quotes from Wednesday’s AP interview tease further. He said the prize would go to:

“Not necessarily a big name, but a big mission — something important for the world.”

followed by:

“For me and the committee, I think it’s quite obvious if you look at the world today and see what is happening out there. What are the major forces pushing the world in the right direction?”

An LA Times article throws up an interesting potential candidate, which if you look beyond the sensationalist headline, could satisfy Jagland’s cryptic clues. It asks: “Could he be referring to a Web platform that allows users to connect around the world?”


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