Nobel Peace Prize: You Got A Shot?

Nobel Prize medal medallion generic
AP
It's that time of year again — time to cross your fingers, rub your rabbit's foot and hope that the secretive, five-member committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize decides it's your turn. Finally.

Sure, Pope John Paul II, with his 25 years of advocating for peace, is considered a top contender for the prize, to be awarded Friday. And yeah, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who led his country out of communism, is a leading candidate.

You've still got a shot, right?

Well, perhaps you should hold off on deciding how to spend your 10 million Swedish kronor (that's $1.3 million). For those whose previous achievements are more along the lines of "World's Greatest Grandpa" or "Employee of the Month," there are a lot of misconceptions about the world's most famous award.

Geir Lundestad, secretary of the secretive committee that awards the prize, on Monday addressed some of the most common misunderstandings for The Associated Press:

Myth 1: The awards committee announces a shortlist of possible winners.

Wrong. The committee, with a strong tradition of not leaking, does not release the names of any candidates and keeps records sealed for 50 years. Any "Nobel shortlist" most likely stems from names being guessed as possible contenders by the news media or others.

Most Nobel watchers put Havel at the top of their list in a last minute shift against guessing the pope. But Web-based betting site Centrebet gave John Paul 2-1 odds of winning the prize, ahead of Havel (8-1), who received this year's Gandhi Peace Prize.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was given 14-1 odds, while Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had 25-1 odds.

Also on the "guess list": the Russian anti-war group Mothers in Black; jailed Iranian dissident Hashem Aghajari; Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalyev; the Italian charity The Community of Sant' Egidio; the Salvation Army and American politicians Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar for their Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Other nominees include U2 singer and social activist Bono, pop singer Michael Jackson, former Illinois Governor George Ryan for commuting 167 death sentences, President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, Women in Black for promoting Israeli-Palestinian ties, and Cuban human rights activist Oswaldo Paya Sardinas.

Experts agree there is no clear favorite. And it can be hard to guess. Last year, former President Carter wasn't seen as a strong candidate, but he received the prize.

Myth 2: A massive campaign for a particular candidate can sway the awards committee.

Wrong. It could have the opposite effect on the fiercely independent committee, since it fears its decision could appear to have been influenced by public pressure.

Myth 3: Candidates can be nominated until the last minute.

Wrong. The strictly enforced deadline for nominations being postmarked is Feb. 1.

Myth 4: Anyone can nominate a person or group for the Peace Prize.

Wrong. Nobel statutes clearly state who may make nominations: former laureates; current and former members of the committee and their staff; members of national governments and legislatures; university professors of law, theology, social sciences, history and philosophy; leaders of peace research and foreign affairs institutes; and members of international courts of law.

Myth 5: The prize can be revoked if a laureate does not live up to the standards of the peace prize.

Wrong. There are no provisions in the Nobel statutes for revoking the prize.

Myth 6: The prize can be awarded posthumously.

Wrong. The prize was awarded posthumously only once in 1961 to former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammerskjold after he was killed in a plane crash in Africa. The rules were amended in 1974 to prohibit it.

Myth 7: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights, and democracy only after they have proven successful.

More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments in a process despite the risk of failure.

Myth 8: The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian government.
Members of the Norwegian government and parliament are barred from the committee. Under the terms of the 1895 will of the prize's creator, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the five members of the Peace Prize committee are appointed by the parliament but are independent and do not answer to lawmakers.

Myth 9: The Nobel peace prize is awarded in Stockholm, Sweden.

It is awarded in the Norwegian capital of Oslo as stipulated in Nobel's will. The other five Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm.

Myth 10: A prize is awarded every year, and someone famous always gets it.

Wrong. The committee can award no prize, or give it to some little-known individual or group.

Maybe that's where you come in.