Bookmakers taking bets for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize are giving the lowest odds to the Greek islanders who have opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The award will be announced Friday in Oslo, Norway, and as usual the Norwegian Nobel Committee isn’t dropping any hints about its choice for 2016.
The betting site Unibet gave the lowest odds Thursday to Greek islanders while another betting site, Paddy Power, had the White Helmets rescue group in Syria in first place, followed by the islanders.
Others with low odds included Pope Francis, the architects of Colombia’s peace deal and Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege, who treats victims of sexual violence in that nation’s civil war.
Last year the committee surprised the world by picking the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebel commander Timochenko were considered hot favorites by many until Sunday, when Colombian voters narrowly rejected their peace deal in a referendum. A Colombia award now seems like a less likely, though it can’t be ruled out.
Another possibility could be a prize linked to last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change, which on Wednesday was ratified by enough countries to enter into force next month. The committee has made the link between climate and peace before, by giving the 2007 award to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former U.S. vice president Al Gore.
A challenge for a prize honoring the Paris Agreement would be identifying the architects of a deal negotiated by more than 190 countries. The committee could play it safe by awarding outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who made climate change a priority as soon as he took the job, or the U.N. secretariat for climate change.
The committee could also devote the prize to the deal on Iran’s contested nuclear program or the world’s refugee crisis. Options would be many: German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis or grassroots refugee activists like Russia’s Svetlana Gannushkina or the Rev. Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest helping asylum-seekers in Italy.
A campaign for the Greek islanders to receive the award focuses on Lesbos locals Emilia (Militsa) Kamvisi, an 85-year-old grandmother and second-generation refugee whose parents fled Turkey in the 1920s, and fisherman Stratis Valiamos, 40, who like many fishermen has rescued refugees from sinking boats.
The committee has dedicated the prize to efforts to help refugees several times before, including with two awards to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in 1954 and 1981.
A refugee prize could also be a way for the committee to reference the Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year. Some say a better way to do that would be to award the volunteer first responders in Syria known as the White Helmets.
Last month the group was honored among the winners of the Right Livelihood Award, a human rights prize sometimes referred to as the “alternative Nobel.”
It’s also a distinct possibility that the committee, like so many times before, selects a winner who isn’t in the limelight. Except for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani children’s rights activist who shared the prize in 2014, the Nobel committee’s choices in the past five years have surprised most observers.