Will Angela Merkel Win The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize?

'Tis the season to honor someone for promoting "fraternity between nations."

Nelson Mandela. Malala Yousafzai. Martin Luther King Jr. Another leader will join that prestigious group when the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize is chosen early Friday.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, has been drawing up short lists of potential winners for over a decade, and several of those people have won in the past. His organization seeks to promote peace and is heavily involved in the Nobel Prize process, although it has no official ties to the Nobel Institute.

The criteria for winning the Peace Prize come straight from benefactor Alfred Nobel's will. Nobel Committee members look for a person or organization that "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The winner or winners are awarded a medal, a diploma and money.

Harpviken shares his two cents here on a few of this year's major Peace Prize contenders, not all of whom made his short list:

Angela Merkel

The German chancellor is Harpviken's number one pick for her leadership in addressing the refugee crisis across Europe. She has advocated for a more cohesive European strategy and opened Germany's doors to those seeking a safe haven.

Over the summer, Germany suspended enforcement of the Dublin regulation, a European Union law requiring that people apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach. The change effectively allows any and all Syrians who reach Germany to apply for asylum status there. In September, German asylum applications were up by 126 percent over the same month last year.

Unlike many of her European counterparts, Merkel has also recognized the benefits to welcoming refugees. More people may provide an economic solution to Germany's aging population. "The opportunities here are greater than the risks," she said Wednesday during a joint address with French President François Hollande.

Merkel has "risen above politics, taking a humane approach in a difficult situation," wrote Harpviken wrote.

Her odds are 6-1, according to Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky. "No one has done as much as Merkel this year for peace, and for people fleeing war," he wrote.

Juan Manuel Santos & Timoleón Jiménez

The Colombian government and the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are closer than ever to peace. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Commander Timoleón Jiménez reached a major milestone in negotiations in Havana at the end of September, agreeing to punish human rights abuses committed during Colombia's decades-long drug war.

"For the involved parties to set aside decade-long grievances in a conflict where both sides have committed atrocities is a grand achievement," Harpviken wrote of the two Colombian leaders who made his short list.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) poses with Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nati
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) poses with Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations on Sept. 26, 2015.

John Kerry & Mohammad Javad Zarif

The two primary architects of the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, may be recognized for their efforts to forestall nuclear warfare. After two years of toilsome negotiations, Iran and six world powers agreed in July to limitations on Iran's nuclear expansion in return for the elimination of sanctions against the country.

But Harpviken didn't highlight Kerry and Zarif. "I am not so sure that this will be the Nobel laureate this year. The deal in itself is a very good thing, but due to the mounting tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Nobel Committee would be sensitive about the deal being used in political competition," he said. 

"I don't think this is very likely or prudent -- let's give the deal a few years to work before we celebrate it," Slate's Joshua Keating wrote.

Pope Francis

The pope is viewed by many as a hero for his outspokenness on issues such as global poverty, climate change and the refugee crisis. He advocates for universal peace and stability by means of interfaith dialogue

Pope Francis did not make Harpviken's short list, however. "We know for a fact that the Nobel Committee has been rather skeptical of giving it to the pope, probably because of their conservative stance on things like birth control, gay marriage and the battle against AIDS," he said.

"There is maybe questions about whether it's right to give the Peace Prize to someone of one particular faith community," Harpviken added.

"Pope Francis is the great moral teacher of the world" and deserves the prize for speaking up for "the voiceless and powerless and underdogs of the world," argued Observer columnist Brent Budowsky.

Dmitry Muratov & Novaya Gazeta

The Russian independent publication Novaya Gazeta and its editor, Dmitry Muratov, are nominated for their efforts to produce unbiased journalism in a country marked by intense censorship. Several Novaya Gazeta journalists have been killed, and its website is a repeat target for cyber-hacking

A media outlet has never won a Nobel Peace Prize before, but "that is a reason why [Novaya Gazeta] should," said Harpviken. Such an award, he said, would cast a light on "very negative developments in Russia" in the areas of "human rights, freedom of democracy and expression," as well as "sharp conflict" over Ukraine and Syria.

"It does real journalism. It is the last major publication consistently critical of state power," said The Guardian's Luke Harding. "Novaya is a bright light in dark times. Giving the prize to Novaya would send an strong message to the Kremlin, which only believes in self-serving 'sovereign' narratives."

Edward Snowden

The National Security Agency whistleblower was already nominated once, in 2014, for his efforts to expose the scope of U.S. intelligence gathering. But Edward Snowden is a divisive figure: Some hail him as a hero for opening up a greater debate about mass surveillance and government secrecy, while others think he betrayed his country.

"I am afraid that Snowden's time has passed," said Harpviken. "The sacrifices he has made are important for freedom of information and protection of privacy, but it simply is too late. And it's no secret that to give the Peace Prize to a U.S. citizen who most Americans considered a traitor is quite a tall act."

The Guardian, which published some of Snowden's initial revelations, wrote last year, "While an award would merely lend credence to his heroic deeds, his continued involvement in surveillance reform despite his exile is truly an act of nobility."

Awarding Snowden the prize, Haaretz columnist Iris Leal wrote, would make the point to Western countries that "they were slowly becoming societies that kept populations and individuals under supervision and surveillance, in chilling contradiction of their declared democratic spirit."

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