The winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced Friday October 12 in Oslo, Norway. The Nobel prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics will be announced earlier in the week in Stockholm, Sweden. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has emerged as the front-runner for the peace prize.
While the clouds of war appear to be gathering around Afghanistan, the talk is of peace in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. The selection committee has made its annual choice, and the suspense is gathering about who will be the 100th Nobel peace laureate.
The name of the winner is a closely guarded secret until next Friday. Geir Lundestad, the Nobel committee secretary, has a standard reply to persistent questions from reporters. "I can't comment specifically on that," he said. "We had 136 valid nominations for the prize this year, and many good candidates among those 136."
But as with nominations every year, there is intense speculation. This year's most talked-about nominee is United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Pope John Paul II is also being widely mentioned.
The final deliberations on the nominees for the peace prize were made after the terrorist attacks on the United States. That was when there was a last minute move to nominate President Bush. But Mr. Lundestad said it was too late for this year. "There's recently been a campaign to nominate President Bush, but this is with the special provision that he does not undertake military action in response to the September 11 events," he said. "If this nomination is made, it will be for 2002, because the deadline for nominations for 2001 expired a long time ago."
Many Nobel observers expect that this year's peace prize laureate will be relatively non-controversial. But Mr. Lundestad said the selection of controversial figures in the past has sometimes been instrumental in bringing about social change. "I think the one that has been most effective in changing developments may perhaps be the prize in 1996 to Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta from East Timor, and East Timor was at the time part of Indonesia, but which next year will become independent," he said. "I think the political and economic collapse of Indonesia is the main explanation for this dramatic development. But I certainly think the peace prize contributed very significantly."
The peace prize announcement next Friday will be the climax of a week in which this year's Nobel laureates in other fields will be announced in Stockholm.
The prizes come from a trust established by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. In 2000, each Nobel prize was worth more than $900,000 for each of the six recipients.
Special ceremonies are planned for December to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nobel awards. Mr. Lundestad said 34 of the 39 living peace prize winners have accepted invitations to attend, including Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Nelson Mandela.
The week-long celebration will feature a symposium at which the Nobel laureates will discuss the question of momentous events in the 20th century, and what can be done to make the 21st century better.