OSLO, Norway — A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including a Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban and a U.S. soldier accused of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks. Fifty of the nominations were for organizations.The secretive committee that awards the prize doesn’t identify the nominees, but those with nomination rights sometimes announce their picks.
Names put forward this year include Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who has admitted sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the secrecy-busting website WikiLeaks and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan.
“This year’s nominations come from all over the world … well-known names, well-known presidents and prime ministers and also lesser well-known names working in humanitarian projects, human rights activists,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee’s non-voting secretary Geir Lundestad, who announced the nomination numbers Monday. “In recent years, some of the Nobel Peace Prizes may have been controversial but they have added to the interest of the prize.”Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II, but not everyone approved the decision to give it to the bloc, which is dealing with a financial crisis that has led to hardship and suffering for many on the continent.
Three peace prize laureates — South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina — insisted the prize money of $1.2 million should not have been paid out in 2012 because they said the EU contradicts the prize’s values because it relies on military force to ensure security.
The nomination period for 2013 ended on Feb. 1. The previous record of 241 nominations was in 2011.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, and a prominent voice in the Nobel guessing game, listed Yousafzai as his favorite for this year’s award, followed by the Congolese physician and gynecologist Denis Mukweg — a leading figure in the fight against sexual violence worldwide — and three Russian female human rights activists: Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina and Lilya Shibanova.
None of Harpviken’s favorites have won the prize since he started guessing in 2009.
The Nobel Prizes also include awards in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature. A sixth award, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, was created by the Swedish central bank in 1968 in memory of prize founder Alfred Nobel.
The winners are usually announced in October and the awards are always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
The peace prize is awarded in Oslo, while the other Nobel Prizes are presented at ceremonies in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.
Last year, the Nobel Foundation decided to reduce the prize money of each of the six awards by 20 percent to 8 million kronor ($1.2 million) to help safeguard its long-term capital prospects.
The world was rooting for President Obama to earn another four years in the White House last week, and as we know that wish was emphatically granted. One global citizen who couldn’t be happier about the outcome is Bono.
“Congratulations are in order not just for turning out in record numbers – and forgetting politics for a minute – but for electing an extraordinary man as president. I think you have to say that whatever your political tradition,” Bono told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on Monday night.
Now that the election dust has settled, Bono has been in the nation’s capital these past couple of days to urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle not to cut U.S. funding for global assistance programs when “fiscal cliff” negotiations get underway in earnest. He’s had several meetings to stress that U.S. aid has done a world of good and can’t be eliminated now, and he doesn’t care who he has deal with to get that message across.
“Cuts can cost the lives of the poorest of the poor,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a hard case to make, but it is right now. In the halls of Congress, the Senate, maybe here in [Georgetown]. But I put it to you we must not let this economic recession become a moral recession. That would become a double cruelty.
“If George Bush were here right now, I’d get down and kiss him on the lips!” Bono told the mostly student audience at the Global Social Enterprise Initiative event at Georgetown. Bush and Bono collaborated together on relief programs during W’s years in the White House, and they maintained a positive relationship despite an undoubted difference of political opinion.
Bono told the attendees that Africa is vital to their futures. “People say China is the future,” he said, “but if you ask the Chinese, they’re all headed to Africa. Africa’s going to be big, and it’s going to be young. This is the era of the Afro-nerd!”
One African student asked Bono a pointed question: “What kind of advice do you have for young Africans like myself who have access to a world of knowledge and opportunities and want to be able to take that back, without being condescending?”
Bono was his usual candid self in reply. “We don’t quite have the answer. And honestly, I look forward to the day when you will be holding this speech. Because I see the absurdity of Paddy standing at the lectern because Desmond Tutu is busy.”
Laughter ensued, and Bono turned serious. “I am called to serve you,” he said. “I think we’re all called to serve each other in that way, by God. Or by a sense of common decency.”