Special Briefing: OZY Picks Its Own Nobel Prizewinners
Activists young and old are promoting peace in their communities. Their oft-untold stories deserve a wider audience.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because heroes are everywhere.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize today for his effort to mend fences with neighboring Eritrea. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who won progressive hearts for her impassioned crusade against climate change, seemed the likely favorite. But here at OZY, we’re looking beyond the high-profile Nobel laureates and nominees who have attracted global attention — and presenting you with our own picks for the world-famous prize.
Why does it matter? From the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong to the arid deserts of Western Sahara, like-minded activists both young and old are promoting peace in their communities and countries in significant ways. That’s why their oft-untold stories deserve a much wider audience.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
Hitting the streets. Like any 22-year-old, Agnes Chow Ting loves to let loose at karaoke bars. But unlike others her age, she hasn’t been able to unwind in a long time: With her native city of Hong Kong in neverending turmoil, she’s got little time for herself. Along with fellow Demosistō co-founders Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, the veteran activist has been a driving force of a protest movement that’s rattled one of the world’s leading financial hubs. But that responsibility also means she’s expected to help keep the peace in street-level showdowns between police and protesters that seem to get more violent each week.
The “Gandhi of Western Sahara.” To Sahrawis, the formerly nomadic peoples native to the disputed region of Western Sahara, Aminatou Haidar is a tireless advocate for peaceful resistance who brings international attention to their much-forgotten plight. To the Moroccan government in Rabat, she’s a separatist who continues to defy what the kingdom calls its “southern provinces.” Either way, the 53-year-old now seems to be the only voice of restraint, pitted against a new generation of pro-independence activists who she fears are too eager to launch a full-scale war as tensions boil along the world’s longest militarized border.
Fighting (modern) fascism. Eleftheria Elfie Tompatzoglou represents the family of Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek anti-fascist rapper who was murdered by a member of the local neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The verdict in one of Europe’s biggest trials against fascism since 1945, expected next year, depends on Tompatzoglou’s ability to prove Fyssas’s murder was premeditated. And while facing attacks on the street by Golden Dawn, her quest for justice could send a powerful message to the organization that their time attacking vulnerable migrants might finally be up.
Technical specs. Human-led demining in former conflict zones is painstaking and dangerous, especially in a place like Cambodia, where decades of violence left behind millions of land mines. But Richard Yim, 25, has a robotic solution called Jevit. Expected to cost about $50,000, the machine can clear one mine in under five minutes, depending on depth — and only takes one person to operate — while other deminers can take 25 minutes or more. It’s also a personal mission for Cambodian-born Yim, who lost an aunt to an errant land mine when he was 8 years old.
WHAT TO READ
How to Defend Nicaragua’s Political Prisoners in a Rigged System, by Jake Kincaid on OZY
“Montenegro quickly attained fame unusual for lawyers. People regularly stop him in the street, or honk and cheer as they drive by. His popular defiance reflects a country that’s been in crisis for more than a year.”
Controversy Stalks Nobel Peace, Literature Prizes, by Mark Lewis in the Associated Press
“‘The literature and peace prizes are more accessible to ordinary people than the prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry … Some of the members enjoy the controversy that brings.’”
WHAT TO WATCH
Nobel Peace Prize 2019: Who is Abiy Ahmed?
“Still, the details [of the peace deal] remain unclear.”
Watch on DW News on YouTube:
Ethiopia Reacts to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize
“This is a country which has gone through some horrific times.”
Watch on France 24 on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Unlikely contenders. For anyone who thinks the Nobel Committee — with its high-minded values focused on improving humanity — is too serious, satirical science magazine Annals of Improbable Research has a refreshing alternative. Each September inside Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, the organization recognizes what it believes are humorous, yet fully worthwhile scientific advancements. For instance, this year’s Anatomy Ig Nobel went to two French researchers for their study of the “thermal symmetry of the human scrotum.”