LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE QUIET PROFESSIONALS

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE QUIET PROFESSIONALS

This Friday morning, somebody is going to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and if you’re the betting type, chances are you think that somebody is South Korean President Moon Jae-in, possibly along with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un. Donald Trump is also considered a favorite – even President Moon has said the US President deserves the award for helping kick-start the process that has led to a fragile détente along the 38th parallel.


Awarding the peace prize to any combination of these three men would be controversial to say the least. Granting it to Kim would mean giving one of the planet’s most ruthless despots one of its most coveted prizes. Giving the nod to Trump would imply an endorsement of his controversial America First foreign policy. And while all three leaders can claim some credit for this year’s diplomatic opening, the work remains unfinished. The thaw is tentative and there is a long way to go between here and the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Not that the Nobel committee is above awarding people for unrealized accomplishments: Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin won in 1994 for opening the way to a Middle East peace that never materialized. Another South Korean President – Kim Dae-jung – won in 2000 for an earlier effort at rapprochement between North and South that didn’t last. And who could forget that in 2009 the committee bestowed it on the recently-inaugurated (and somewhat bemused) US president Barack Obama for, well… just being Barack Obama.

Here’s another idea: the Nobel committee could look beyond the headline-grabbing choices in favor of a candidate few people have heard of. That’s also happened before. Think of Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first female judge and a longtime advocate for women and children’s rights, who got the nod in 2003. In that case, the committee was hoping the award would “reduce tensions between the Islamic and Western worlds” and signal support for Iranian reformers. In addition, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Médecins Sans Frontières are among the international organizations awarded the peace prize in recent years to highlight their diligent, largely behind-the-scenes work on some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The refugee crises unfolding in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and parts of South and Central America, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and transnational issues like cybersecurity are creating new challenges to peace. And there are plenty of people and organizations doing their best to help that would benefit from the added political heft and fundraising clout that a Nobel Peace Prize can bring.

Honoring the quiet professionals who work largely outside the limelight on one of these issues would be a strong political statement at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish global politics from reality TV. And it might encourage more young people to learn about and take up the difficult work of making the world a safer, more peaceful place.

 

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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