In a world racked by war, the search for a worthy Nobel Peace Prize laureate presents a daunting challenge. Where on the planet can a person or organisation be found to have alleviated the bloodshed and cruelty that have afflicted humankind? Would-be peace brokers in the Middle East failed dramatically this year and last, making it seem unlikely that a diplomat will be named when the prestigious Nobel is announced in Oslo, Norway, today. US Secretary of State John Kerry all but gave up on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks this year as the most entrenched conflict in the region slid into another spasm of deadly destruction in the Gaza Strip. Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran UN diplomat charged with negotiating an end to the nearly four-year-old civil war in Syria, quit in May after a dispiriting spate of fruitless peace conferences, efforts that his replacement, Staffan de Mistura, has not even managed to reconvene. No statesmen of the likes of South Africa's late Nelson Mandela (1993 laureate) or Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) or former US president Jimmy Carter (2002) stood out as inspiring examples of leadership in the year preceding the February 1 deadline for nominations. Nor did any religious leader make a noticeable contribution to world peace, although Pope Francis was nominated this year by the parliament of his native Argentina and has made some bold strides towards returning the Catholic Church to a ministry focused on the plight of the poor. Still, the soft-spoken pontiff , who has eschewed the trappings of the Vatican for a more humble lifestyle and wardrobe, has only been in office for 19 months, and Pope John Paul was not recognised by the Nobel Committee during a nearly 27-year papacy dedicated to the cause of peace. Bold gestures that stir controversy have landed some figures in the annals of peace prize laureates at times, but most of this year's known nominees from the ranks of whistleblowers and protesters have already been passed over. Former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, is serving a 35-year jail term for giving classified documents to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group in a gesture hailed by some as spotlighting suspect government behaviour but denounced by others as treason. National Security Agency leaker and fugitive Edward Snowden likewise divides opinion. The Peace Research Institute Oslo, although not formally connected with the Norwegian Nobel Institute or the Nobel Committee, issues a short list of its perceived contenders each year and for 2014 suggests a Japanese pacifist group and an independent Russian newspaper as front-runners, along with Snowden. Japanese People Who Conserve Article 9 is a civic organisation committed to preserving the pacifism enshrined in Article 9 of Japan's postwar constitution. Novaya Gazeta appears on several organisations' list of peace prize contenders. The newspaper remains independent and highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other known nominees given at least an outside chance include activist and Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for defying attempts to prevent girls from getting an education, and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for putting the issue of climate change back on the international agenda, even in a world widely distracted by war.