Peace Prize Campaign ‘06!

Norway helps those who help themselves.

Who do you like for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize? With the winner to be announced  Friday, Centrebet, an Australian bookmaker, is favoring Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and current president of the Crisis Management Initiative (2.25-to-1 odds), followed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (4-to-1) and the Free Aceh Movement (6-to-1). Centrebet obviously sees 2006 as Indonesia’s year, since all three nominees were involved last year in bringing peace to Indonesia’s Aceh province. (If natural disasters were eligible, Centrebet would likely judge the 2004 tsunami to be the likeliest winner, since that catastrophe did more than any human intervention to bring peace to Aceh.) The Nobel Peace Prize this year resembles the Tonys in that its greatest challenge would appear to be locating even vaguely plausible nominees. “The only really successful peace process in the past year has been the Aceh process,” Stein Tøennesson, head of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, told Australia’s The Age. Another thing Indonesia has going for it, in this age of galloping anti-Americanism, is that the Aceh peace process was overseen not by the United States but by the European Union. The United States supports the peace agreement, of course, but in Indonesia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has lately been more focused on exporting Sesame Street.

As I’ve noted many times before, Nobel Peace Prizes don’t award themselves. You have to campaign for them. Oprah Winfrey (on whom Centrebet places odds of 1001-to-1) is the candidate favored by the Oprah Winfrey for Nobel Peace Prize Fan Club, which has the goal of collecting 100,000 signatures by October 2007. The group has collected 60,000 so far. “We have people in our movement who are very close to Oprah,” says Rocky Twyman, a public-relations consultant who since 2005 has run the club (lately he prefers to call it a “grass roots organization”) out of his house in Rockville, Md. In Venezuela, where it is illegal to show disrespect to government authorities, a campaign has been underway since 2004 to win the Nobel Peace Prize for President Hugo Chávez (on whom Centrebet places odds of 251-to-1). On, a U.S.-based “independent” Web site that propagandizes in favor of the Chávez government, one Carlos Herrera argues that Chávez has the necessary “qualities and the accomplishments, even though his style may have upset some influential international personalities in the past,” and urges readers to sign a petition to the Nobel committee. That belligerence is no obstacle to nomination is further demonstrated by the peace prize nomination by Per Ahlmark, a neoconservative and former deputy prime minister of Sweden, of United Nations Ambassador (and Bush apparatchik) John Bolton (Centrebet: 251-to-1) and also Iran hawk Kenneth R. Timmerman (Centrebet: 251-to-1). This press release helpfully provides the phone number of an intermediary tasked with arranging interviews for Timmerman and Ahlmark; Bolton must presumably be more discreet, lest he cause an international incident.

And the putative front-runners? Well, Ahtisaari’s outfit offers on its home page a phone number and e-mail address for those who want to inquire about the peace prize he hasn’t yet won, though a press release notes sternly that Ahtisaari’s duties as the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for Kosovo have made it quite impossible for him to comment “until the winner is announced.” Last month, though, Ahtisaari very rashly told the Finnish press that his chances this year were better than last. Yudhoyono, who was nominated by U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., had the inside track until last month, when his standing slipped due to a pending execution of three Indonesian Christians accused of inciting religious violence.  But don’t count Yudhoyono out. He has the endorsement of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, a former leader in East Timor who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, and that may be enough for the judges in Oslo. He also has the instincts of a winner. “I’m humbled to be nominated,” Yudhoyono told Agence France Presse, “but my focus, my task and my work is now ensuring that the ongoing peace process in Aceh is moving well.” Like an Oscar nominee noting reverently that “it’s just an honor to be nominated,” Yudhoyono emphasized:

Many people, many sides have contributed to the ending [of the] conflict, I have to admit that. The credit must be given to all parties, to everybody [who has been] part of this peace process … on both sides.

And the Free Aceh Movement? Well, I can’t find any mention of its peace prize nomination on its Web site, which seems entirely preoccupied with implementing its peace treaty and monitoring enforcement of its provisions. No comments, no refusal to comment, nothing. Amateurs! They haven’t got a chance.

[Update, Oct. 13: It turns out not to be Indonesia’s year. The Oslo judges gave the award  to Muhammad Yunus  and his Bangladeshi Grameen Bank, which pioneered the use of “microcredit” as a tool for Third World development. In giving the award to Yunus, the Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to be acknowledging that the past year failed to produce any boffo peace agreements. Yunus is an evergreen, a regular on the international-humanitarian-awardee  circuit for more than a decade. His most influential advocate is former President Bill Clinton, who’s known him for 20 years and placed Yunus’ ideas at the center  of his own post-presidential Global Initiative, an annual Davos-like gabfest on rescuing the planet from poverty, war, global warming, etc. In 2002, the former president  said that Yunus “long ago should have won the Nobel Prize” and “I’ll keep saying that until they finally give it to him.” They finally did.

What can I say? Peace Prize odds making is an inexact science.]

Nobel Peace Prize Campaign Archive:

Feb. 17, 2004: “G.W. Bush, Accidental Peacenik
Jan. 25, 2002: “Who Wants To Be A Nobel Peace Laureate?”
Jan. 8, 2002: “Nobel Lobby Watch 2002
Oct. 12, 2000: “So You Want To Win the Nobel Peace Prize