October 14, 2022
Article source: The Washington Post
By Paul Schemm
The awarding Friday of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize comes at a particularly fraught moment, amid Europe’s biggest land war since World War II, major increases in food and energy prices and growing alarm over talk of using nuclear weapons.
While the nominations closed in February — before the invasion of Ukraine — it is widely believed the war could have an effect on the final selection, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee often makes political statements with its choices.
In 2021, the committee put the focus on freedom of the press with awards to embattled journalists Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines, while in 2020, it feted the World Food Program. In light of current events, 2022 might be about politics again.
Here are some of the contenders as chosen by the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, whose shortlists in the past have included the 2019 winner, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and the 2018 winners, humanitarians Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad.
Two likely possibilities could be the most prominent opposition figures in Russia and its close ally Belarus: Alexei Navalny and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
Navalny, who has appeared on a string of shortlists over the years, is currently spending much of his time in solitary confinement at a Russian high-security penal colony 155 miles east of Moscow following convictions on embezzlement and other charges that rights groups have described as bogus.
His anti-corruption organization has highlighted the misdeeds of Vladimir Putin’s regime for years, resulting in his poisoning by Russian security forces with a banned nerve agent in August 2020. After a convalescence in Germany, however, he returned to Russia in January 2021 and was immediately imprisoned.
From his cell, he has managed to repeatedly condemn the war in Ukraine and Putin’s “criminal mobilization because of which tens of thousands of people are going to die in trenches.”
After her husband was imprisoned just two days following his announcement in 2020 that he would run for president, Tikhanovskaya became the leader of the opposition in Belarus against long-serving strongman and close Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko’s reelection victory in August 2020 was widely described as rigged, but the ensuing protests were crushed. Tikhanovskaya and her two children fled the country out of fear for their safety. But in the years since she became the face of a movement challenging Lukashenko’s rule, Tikhanovskaya has continued to present herself as Belarus’s legitimate leader.
The doomed 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong gained worldwide attention, as did China’s brutal treatment of the Uyghur minority in the far northwest of the country, which was addressed in a long-delayed United Nations report released in August.
The committee could send a message by awarding the prize to activists such as Nathan Law and Agnes Chow of Hong Kong or Ilham Tohti, an imprisoned Uyghur scholar.
Law, who was given political asylum in Britain last year, is one of the most prominent of the Hong Kong activists in exile. He co-founded the pro-democracy Demosisto party in 2016 and was briefly elected as a lawmaker in the city before being disqualified for not taking the oath of office correctly.
He fled the country before the passage of a draconian national security law in 2020 that outlawed most protests and snagged many of his fellow activists, including Chow.
She gained prominence as a 15-year-old spokesperson of the 2012 student protests and went on to participate in most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movements, including the Demosisto party. She was eventually arrested and imprisoned for 10 months for her role in the 2019 protests and was released in June 2021. She remains in Hong Kong.
Tohti, a professor of economics, has been imprisoned for life since 2014 on charges of advocating separatism. In 2006, he established a website to draw attention to the discrimination faced by Uyghurs, as well as provide a platform for exchange between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, China’s largest ethnic group. He was arrested in January 2014 and convicted in September after a two-day trial.
The selection of Harsh Mander, an activist for interfaith harmony in India, would cast a harsh spotlight on the growing religious polarization in the country that many say has been fueled by the right-wing Hindu nationalist government.
Beginning in 2017, Mander, 67, led activists, writers, lawyers and artists in his Karwan-e-Mohabbat, or Caravan of Love, across India to visit families affected by communal bloodshed.
Mander has been highly critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies, which Mander says deepen the religious cleavages in the country and are discriminatory toward Muslims.
In a time of increased rivalry among the global powers and competing narratives about world events, there is a degree of yearning for international institutions that can present impartial opinions, which makes the 77-year-old International Court of Justice, or “World Court,” an attractive candidate.
“Despite having no binding force, the Court’s advisory opinions nevertheless carry great legal weight and moral authority,” the court has noted about itself, and it has been an instrument of preventive diplomacy to keep the peace.
Established in 1945 after World War II, the ICJ is the main United Nations judicial body with a mandate to settle legal disputes between countries and provide advisory opinions on matters of law referred to it by other U.N. bodies.
On March 16, the court ordered Russia to completely stop its military operations in Ukraine. The decision is seen as mostly symbolic, as the court lacks a viable way to enforce its ruling.
If the committee decides to go the route of activism, two organizations that work on human rights and peaceful responses to conflict that might catch its eye are the San Francisco-based Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), an organization based in Belgrade.
HRDAG aims to bring the rigor of scientific analysis to human rights, with investigations into conflicts, while CANVAS educates activists about nonviolent resistance to autocratic regimes and the promotion of human rights and democracy.
Though HRDAG and CANVAS are not directly linked, they were formed in a similar period of activism around the turn of the millennium. Both organizations have worked on similar causes.
They carried out significant work during the Arab Spring, with CANVAS initially advising anti-government protesters in Syria before a violent government response to demonstrations helped precipitate civil war.
HRDAG gained renown at the start of the war, when it was one of the few organizations that tried to put a number on the war’s enormous toll in Syrian lives.
Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia; Theodora Yu in Hong Kong; Lily Kuo in Taipei, Taiwan; Gerry Shih and Niha Masih in New Delhi; and Maite Fernández Simon and Adam Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.