Nobel Peace Prize 2013: PRIO Director's Speculations

The nomination deadline for this year's Nobel Peace Prize has long passed, and PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken continues the tradition of speculating on who will be bestowed the honour this year. While the PRIO director may be well placed to do this, his speculations do not confirm nor endorse any candidate. He has chosen not to nominate anyone himself. PRIO does not have any formal links to the Nobel Institute and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo; consequently, the speculations do not reflect their opinion or choice.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its assessment on valid nominations that they receive by 1 February each year. A number of people around the world, including all members of parliaments, have the right to nominate. The members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee can also nominate candidates in their first meeting following the deadline.  On 4 March, the Nobel institute announced that they have received a record number of 259 (valid) nominations, 50 of which are organizations. The winner will be announced on Friday 11 October at 11:00.

Toward the end of the page you will also find a list of nominees for this year's prize.

Kristian Berg Harpviken's shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize 2013

  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina and Lilya Shibanova
  • Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot
  • Claudia Paz y Paz
  • Denis Mukwege

Harpviken's favourite for this year's prize is Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old girl from Swat Valley, Pakistan who stood up against Taliban's ban on education for girls and became a global symbol of children's right to education and security. Second on Harpviken's list are three Russian women, Lyudmila Alexeyeva (Helsinki Group), Svetlana Gannushkina (Memorial) and Lilya Shibanova (Golos); all front persons of Russian organizations working for the promotion of human rights, democracy and reconciliation. Harpviken maintains that the theme of religious dialogue stands a chance for this year's prize, and third on his list figures Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot, who have worked for peace and reconiciliation in Northern Uganda through the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), The fourth favorite is Claudia Paz y Paz, attorney general in Guatemala, for leading the charge for genocide against country’s former president, General Ríos Montt. The last candidate on the shortlist is the Congolese physician and gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, the man behind the Panzi Hospital, a leading figure in the fight against sexual violence worldwide, committed to the treatment of women victims.

About the favourites

Malala Yousafzai

Conflict and oppression affects children severely. It not only puts children at physical risk, but in many cases also violates their basic right to education, by attacking schools and people, destroying and hindering access to buildings and materials, and forcing families to flee. This was acknowledged also by last year's Peace Prize winner, the European Union, who chose to dedicate the prize funds to education for children in conflict areas. Moreover, education is a fundamental right, closely associated with democracy, and contributes importantly to peace.

When the Taliban violently took over the Swat Valley in Pakistan in 2008-09, they banned education for girls (along with among other things music and television). As early as in September 2008, the then 11 years old Malala Yousafzai spoke in public at a local press club in front of reporters from the region on "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?". As the Taliban tore down girls' schools and fighting took place between the military and the Taliban, Malala blogged semi-anonymously (under pseudonym, but the word increasingly spread) for the first half of 2009 about her life and education for BBC Urdu Services by passing hand-written notes to a reporter who had them published. She featured in a New York Times Documentary and took part in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's 'Open Minds' Project; she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize and awarded Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize in December 2011. For her visibility and clear stand, the Taliban issued multiple death threats to both Malala and her father, and in October 2012 she was hit by a bullet through her head and neck. After extensive treatment in Pakistan she was brought to the United Kingdom, where she still stays and will undergo further operations. The assassination attempt and her recovery process have been followed by media from around the world and Malala not only has become a symbol of girls' and children's right to education and security, but also of the fight against extremism and oppression. She is reportedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 by MPs from multiple countries including France, Canada and Norway. Harpviken finds that a prize to Malala would not only be timely and fitting with a line of awards to champions of human rights and democracy, but also set both children and education on the peace and conflict agenda.

Other possible candidates working on education is UNESCO, the educational, scientific and cultural organization of the UN which among other things concentrate on children's right to education, education in conflict settings and education as a bridgeway to peace. Another possibility is Betty Reardon, whose lifelong career in peace studies has been devoted to the development of peace education, broadly defined.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina and Lilya Shibanova

Despite the firm reactions of the Russian security apparatus and the slight slow-down in visible demonstrations against the Putin regime, the Russian protesters and dissidents continue their protest and fight for a state that is fair, democratic and in observance of civil rights. The formidable, female, three-generation trio consisting of Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina and Lilya Shibanova forms a good and deserving combination for a peace prize in acknowledgment of rights, democracy and reconciliation. Alexeyeva co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976, taking its name from the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, an organization which in turn inspired other 'Helsinki' named organizations. She has been a staunch dissident and defender of Human Rights throughout her life and is still involved in organizing protests. Gannushkina is a founding member of the Russian organization Memorial, which - alongside Gannushkina - has figured on Harpviken's list earlier years. While Gannushkina especially has worked for the rights of Chechens, Memorial as such represents an innovative and important complement to conventional legal processes in their focus on coming to terms with history as a key to present day rights, democracy and reconciliation. Shibanova is the head of the only full scale government-independent election monitoring organization in Russia, Golos, founded in 2000. Especially given the present climate, Golos plays a key role in promoting democratic values and electoral rights of Russian citizens. In the recent elections, they systematically documented election frauds, using new technology. The critical role of elections in democracy, the propensity for elections in tense settings to invite political violence, and the importance of civil society monitoring are important reasons for including Shibanova.

Other possible candidates under this rubric include human rights activists Ales Bialitski (Belarus) and Ragip Zarakolu (Turkey).

Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot

The third favourite for 2013 is a prize to Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot, for her work to rebuild peace in war-ridden Northern Uganda. A prize to Sister Mary could be shared with the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), possibly also Archbishop John Baptist Odama, who was active in the mediation with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Sister Mary was the first woman to join ARLPI, which stand out among religious peacebuilding initiatives by involving women alongside men. With her willingness to reach out to those who once were responsible for killing large part of her own family, Sister Mary has formed a tall – and challenging – ideal for reconciliation. She argues that there is no alternative to reconciling with the perpetrators, and has herself engaged in negotiations with LRA commanders. The organization she works with, ARLPI, has moved well beyond interfaith dialogue, and contributed significantly to constrain violence in Northern Uganda. A Nobel peace prize to a woman engaged in faith-based peacebuilding, a local peacebuilder, would make an important point.

Another possible winning team is Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Sultan of Sokoto, Mohamed Sa'ad Abubakar, for their work on interfaith dialogue. The two Nigerians have spoken out against the misuse of religion in legitimating conflict and have taken issue with the view that religion is the root of the conflict. A third is Ghazi bin Muhammad, professor in the Philosophy of Islamic Faith at Jordan University and member of the Jordanian Royal family. Prince Ghazi was the initiator of the 2005 Amman Message and the 2007 initiative known as 'A Common Word'. There are an additional number of other candidates in the same area, including St. Egidio, a Catholic order which combines humanitarian work and peace mediation.

Claudia Paz y Paz

Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, attorney general in Guatemala, had been responsible for the trial against former President, General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the first time when a former head of state has been charged with genocide by national courts. The importance of transitional justice for war-torn societies to recover has been increasingly recognized over the past couple of decades, with special courts, various legal innovations, and a deep controversy over more reconciliatory avenues to reintegrate perpetrators in society. The Montt case, however, is important in that regular courts have formed the main platform for persecution in a high-profile case, with assistance from the UN-sponsored International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. The case against Montt, however, has been mired in controversy, and the 10 May verdict was effectively cancelled by the Constitutional Court just ten days later, on procedural grounds. There will be a new trial, but how and when remains unclear, and there is considerable uncertainty regarding the appointment to several key posts in the judicial system in 2014, including that of attorney general.

Another candidate in the same category is Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor for the tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and since 2009 the head of International Crisis Group (which also plays a unique role as a source of independent reporting and policy advice). There is also Richard Goldstone, amongst other things, the head of the UNHCR investigation of human rights and humanitarian law violations in the 2008-09 Gaza war. Within the closely related area of transitional courts, the Special Tribunal for Cambodia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are possible candidates, despite a mixed track record.

Denis Mukwege

For over a decade, gynaecologist Denis Mukwege has been treating and operating on survivors of sexual violence. In 1999 he founded the Panzi Hospital in Bakuvu in DR Congo with a primary purpose of taking care of victims of violence. Originally built for 120 patients, the hospital today treats over 400 patients per month and sadly the need for the hospital is as high as ever. Apart from having treated thousands of women and being considered one of the globally leading experts on repairing the physical damage from rape and sexual violence, Mukwege is somewhat of a grassroots hero in DR Congo and one of the world's most visible advocates of combatting sexual violence. He draws the world's attention to the brutality and consequences of these kinds of crimes and has been recipient of several awards for his work. The Director finds that both the person Mukwege and the cause for which he fights would be acknowledged by awarding him this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Another potential candidate within the broader category of violence against women is Irom Sharmila, the Indian social activist and defender of women's rights, who has been on a hunger strike since 2000.

Alternative Directions

Non-violent resistance is sadly not the most frequent form of opposition reported in the media this last year, with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the current violent demonstrations in Egypt. Yet, the start of the Arab Spring was precisely based on non-violence, and Harpviken believes that this topic is deserving of a peace prize. Gene Sharp is an obvious candidate, his writings being circulated and inspiring activists on Tiananmen in 1989 to present day all over the world where there is oppression and authoritarianism. Other candidates in the same category are the Serbian non-violent organization Otpor! or its follow-up NGO Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) and its leader Srdja Popovic, which has been instrumental in disseminating knowledge of non-violence globally. A final possibility in this category would be to reward the monks in Burma for their 2007 protests which inspired the unfolding opening in the country: a prize to the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA), perhaps shared with Ashin Gambira, one of its founders, who was released by the Burmese government in early 2012.

There are also strong arguments for a prize to peace research. Steven Pinker, the celebrated Harvard psychologist who published The Better Angels of our Nature, has argued firmly that never has the world been more peaceful than it is now. Pinker's strong attempt at myth-busting has been met with widespread recognition. Other potential candidates within peace research are Paul Collier, Oxford University Professor of Economics and one of the world's most influential analysts of the causes and consequences of war; Michael Doyle and Bruce Russett, proponents of the Democratic Peace theory; and the Human Security Report Project (RSRP) and its founder, Andy Mack, who have persistently been arguing and documenting the post-1995 decline of wars, battle-deaths and genocides (but also been criticized for his 2012 claims about a decline in sexual violence). Gene Sharp also sits well in the peace research category with his academic work on non-violence. Likewise, Betty Reardon, discussed above under the vignette of peace education, is a possible candidate in the peace studies category.

Independent reporting and free media is widely seen to positively contribute to peace, holding governments and others accountable. Despite of this, no peace prize has been awarded to the media. The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), set up in exile in Norway over 20 years ago, has had a network of reporters within Burma taping and filming and it is precisely this ability to contribute regular updates from a tightly controlled regime that distinguishes the DVB. With the opening up of Myanmar, the media station opens up offices in Yangon, its return signalling optimism for the transition from authoritarianism to representative democracy that is slowly, but seemingly steadily, unfolding in Myanmar. Another candidate within the category is Echo of Moscow, one of the major independent sources of news and commentary in Russia and several CIS-countries.

There are a number of other topics that would merit a Nobel Peace Prize. One such topic is the fight against corruption and for redistribution of wealth, which has manifested itself in major cities across the world (one possible name would be John Githongo, Kenyan activist). A topic of considerable current relevance is multicultural understanding, which is still high on the Norwegian agenda after the terror attacks in Oslo and Utøya on 22 July 2011, but also an important concern in large parts of the world. Indisputably in line with the core intent expressed in Nobel's will is disarmament, but despite a number of processes and instruments, addressing anything from light arms to nuclear weapons, as well as a genuine risk of war over Iran's nuclear program, it is hard to see any that merits a Nobel Peace Prize at the moment. An emerging theme is food security, given the role of food shortages in triggering recent uprisings in North Africa and elsewhere, a theme that has been recognized in the past, with the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize to Norman Borlaug.

Nominations for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

Below is a list of confirmed and possible nominations based on information leaked to the press/web, possibly based on rumours and hearsay. It is by no means complete or assured, but represents a best possible list given the information present at the time of writing. In some cases it is unclear whether the nominator is indeed eligible for nominating. The full list of nominations is kept secret for 50 years.

  • Military Religious Freedom Foundation, US Civil Rights Organization (self-reported)
  • Malala Yousafzai (multiple nominations, among others by Canadian politicians)
  • Archimandrite Gervasios Raptopoulos, Orthodox Greek priest aiding prisoners (according to
  • Susana Trimarco, human trafficking activist (according to
  • George Ryan, Illinois Governor opposing the death penalty (nominated by US Professor of Law, Francis A. Boyle, according to
  • Giulio Andreotti, fmr. Italian PM for his role in developing nuclear neutralizing weapon system (Confirmed by US nominator)
  • UNESCO and its former director, Federico Mayor (Confirmed by Ingeborg Breines, Co-president, International Peace Bureau)
  • Betty Reardon, peace studies scholar with a lifelong focus on peace education (Confirmed by Ingeborg Breines, Co-president, International Peace Bureau)
  • Gunnar Garbo, Norwegian peace activist, journalist, politician and ambassador (Confirmed by Norwegian nominator)
  • Maggie Gobran, founder and head of the Egypt-based charity organization Stephen's Children (nominated by Norwegian MPs)
  • Mordechai Vanunu, Israeli nuclear whistleblower (nominated by Norwegian MP)
  • Lyudmila Alexeyeva (Russia) and Ales Bialitski (Belarus), both Human Rights champions (nominated jointly by Norwegian MPs)
  • Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara) and Rebyia Kadeer (Chinese Uyghur), both Human Rights champions (nominated jointly by Norwegian MPs)
  • Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynaecologist (nominated by Norwegian MP)
  • Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) (confirmed nomination by the International Peace Bureau, and also nominated by Norwegian MPs)
  • Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White], Cuban nonviolent opposition movement (nominated by members of the US Senate and House of Representatives)
  • Tore Nærland, founder of Bike for Peace (nominated by Myanmar MP according to Gateway Gazette)
  • Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo (daughter of previous peace prize nominee Oswaldo Paya) and Movimiento Cristiano Liberación [Christian Liberation Movement], Cuba (nominated by Norwegian MP)
  • Leyla Zana, Kurdish member of the Turkish Parliament, engaged in nonviolent fight for Kurds' rights (nominated by Norwegian MPs)
  • Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly and Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Do, both Vietnamese (nominated by US Congress members)
  • Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, imprisoned US citizen and WikiLeaks source (nominated by, among others, Icelandic MPs)
  • Bill Clinton, fmr. US President (according to Times LIVE)
  • Thein Sein, Myanmar President (according to Times LIVE)
  • Maryam, Zainab and their father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja (nominated by Portuguese MPs)
  • Gene Sharp, non-violence scholar (nominated by American Friends Service Committee)
  • Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia (according to
  • The Bulgarian Orthodox Church (nominated by Bulgarian MP Lachezar Toshev)
  • Yank Barry, US philanthropist and musician (nominated by Filipino politicans)
  • Former United States Senators Richard G. Lugar and Sam Nunn
  • Reverend Kevin Annett (nominated by a group of North American scholars)
  • The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research and Jan Öberg (nominated by Christian Juhl, Danish MP)
  • Richard Falk, Professor and champion of international law (nominated by Professor Ståle Eskeland)
  • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and David Krieger, disarmament advocates (nominated by Professor Bill Wickersham)
  • International Peace Bureau (IPB), Nobel laurate of 1910 and still going strong in the strive for peace (nominated by Jan Öberg)
  • Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons (nominated by Uta Zapf, Chair of the German Bundestag Subcommittee on Arms Control and Disarmamaent)
  • Steinar Bryn and Nansen Dialogue for their work with peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation (nominated by Professor Nils Christie)
  • Inhabitants of Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, South-Korea (nominated by Agneta Norberg, Board Member of the International Peace Bureau)
  • Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, Guatemalan Attorney General taking charge in prosecuting among others former President Rios Montt for crimes against humanity (nominated by Nobel laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchu)
  • Concerned for Working Children, an Indian NGO working for children's rights, UNICEF and Save the Children  (nominated by three Norwegian MPs)
  • Vladimir Putin (unclear whether nominator is qualified and whether it was sent in time for the deadline. Nomination reported by The Independent)
  • Edward Snowden (reportedly nominated in July this year by Swedish Professor of Sociology, Stefan Svalfors, not in time for the 2013 prize. The Nobel Committee may choose to put forth additional candidates at their first meeting after the February deadline, though Snowden's name did not hit the news until May)


Contact points

Portrait Harpviken Kristian Berg Harpviken
 PRIO Director

Portrait Berggrav Halvor Berggrav
 Adviser to the Director