Nobel Peace Prize 2017: PRIO Director's Shortlist

Based on independent assessments, PRIO Directors have offered their personal shortlists for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2002. The current list is Henrik Urdal's first as PRIO Director, having taken up the position this summer.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 31 January deadline. The five committee members have until their first meeting after the deadline to add nominations of their own. Anyone can be nominated (and history indeed shows a few rather dubious nominees, including Hitler), but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts. As such, the Director of PRIO holds the right to nominate, but refrains, given his active role as a commentator. He has no form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Read more here.

The laureate will be announced on 6 October, as per usual routine on the Friday of the first full week of October.

Following the shortlist, you will also find a list of known nominations.

For questions, requests for further information or interviews,
please contact Henrik Urdal or his Adviser Halvor Berggrav directly.


Henrik Urdal's 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Shortlist

  1. Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini
  2. UNHCR and High Commissioner Filippo Grandi
  3. Cumhuriyet and Can Dündar 
  4. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  5. The White Helmets and Raed al Saleh

Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini

The Iran Nuclear Deal, formally the 'Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action' (JCPOA), is a landmark agreement resolving a 12 year long international conundrum. This was the first (and thus far only) time that a country subject to Chapter VII of the UN Charter has seen its case resolved by diplomacy (rather than as compelled by armed force or by full implementation of Chapter VII demands). Reached in 2015 between Iran and the E3 (Britain, France, Germany) + 3 (China, Russia, United States), the arduous negotiations leading up to the agreement took place over a period of twenty months. The JCPOA provided the impetus for the first sustained interaction at the ministerial level between two states that have not enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1979 – Iran and the USA. 

The bulk of the credit for the successful outcome must go to the two organizers of the negotiations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Mogherini’s achievement was not only a breakthrough for this specific case, but also represents the first major conflict successfully mediated by the EU since the ministerial position of High Representative was created in 2009. As symbolic of their role in organizing the negotiations that concluded with JCPOA, the agreement was jointly announced by Mogherini and Zarif in Vienna on 14 July 2015.

The peaceful and successful resolution of the Iran nuclear dispute – the Trump administration confirmed earlier this year that Iran is complying with the framework – would be a worthy and notable winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

UNHCR and High Commissioner Filippo Grandi

Few issues have dominated the political agenda in Europe like the so-called European refugee crisis in recent years. Yet it is not a new problem, nor is it restricted to the European context. According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN Refugee Agency), we are witnessing unprecedented levels of displacement, and a near doubling in less than 20 years. Over 65 million people are now forcibly displaced worldwide. Over 22 million of these are refugees, and 10 million are stateless.

The global community has struggled to come up with a coherent way of dealing with the issue whenever large groups of refugees are on the move. European states have responded by tightening access, and the current US administration has drastically reduced the US refugee program and introduced a travel ban for citizens of certain countries.

In this situation, the Office of the UNHCR has shown its capacity and integrity in standing up for refugees’ rights and needs time and time again. They are working tirelessly to mend the consequences of war in major conflict theatres like Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Filippo Grandi, who has decades of experience of working with refugees including as the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has recently been speaking out for the Rohingyas in the Rakhine province in Myanmar, urging the de-facto head of state in Myanmar, Aung-San Suu Kyi, to act on the situation. 

Refugees need a voice in the world, and there are no better suited to provide it than Filippo Grandi and the office of the UNHCR. Although the office has already received two Nobel Peace Prizes (in 1954 and again in 1981), it should be considered a strong and viable candidate once more. 

Cumhuriyet and Can Dündar 

A living embodiment of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on the freedom of the press in Turkey, former Cumhuriyet editor and columnist Can Dündar has faced charges of disclosing state secrets and aiding a terrorist group. Found guilty and sentenced along with his colleague Erdem Gül, Dündar later moved to Germany in self-imposed exile. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded him the International Press Freedom Award in 2016.

Dündar and the newspaper where he served as a columnist and later editor-in-chief, Cumhuriyet, are disheartening examples of how far freedom of the press has declined in Turkey. One of Turkey’s oldest newspapers and a steadfast secular and republican-leaning publication, Cumhuriyet, has been renowned for its impartial reporting and fearlessness in criticizing the authorities – underscored by it being awarded the 2015 Freedom of the Press Prize by Reporters without Borders in 2015 for its stand against mounting government pressure. This September, no fewer than 17 of Cumhuriyet’s employees stand trial for various charges of being complicit in terrorism. The acts for which they are indicted amount to no more than doing their jobs as journalists by pursuing independent and critical reporting.

A Nobel Peace Prize to Can Dündar and Cumhuriyet would be a welcome boost for press freedom and civil society in a country where such liberties are becoming rarer and rarer. It would also underline the unacceptable dismantling of Turkey’s secular democracy by the Erdogan regime. 

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

ECOWAS also featured on the previous director's shortlist, on the basis of their success in combining diplomatic efforts with the prospective use of armed force, with the securing of the political transition in Gambia as a recent and tangible demonstration – hailed as a victory for African democracy.  The organisation also exemplifies how increased political and economic interaction contributes to ensuring long term regional stability. After the end of the Cold War, there has been ever more emphasis on regional organizations in resolving conflict and keeping peace. Particularly in peacekeeping, ECOWAS has long experience, starting with its operation to restore stability in Liberia, ECOMOG, from 1990 to 1998. The organization has been at the forefront of the increasingly assertive use of force to restore peace, often referred to as peace enforcement. The outright threat of a military intervention in the 2017 Gambia transition fits that trend. Concerns have been raised as to whether Gambia also represents a different trend, namely impunity for past misdeeds, a concern countered by the UN. The Gambian situation was a particular one, with former President Yahya Jammeh refusing to leave office after having lost to Adama Barrow in the elections. ECOWAS action was backed by a UN Security Council resolution. After the success, calls are heard for similar action to be taken by the African Union to safeguard transitions elsewhere on the continent, such as in Burundi, South Sudan or Zimbabwe. 

The White Helmets and Raed al Saleh

The Syrian Civil Defense – better known as the ‘White Helmets’ – and its leader Raed al Saleh could be an ideal Nobel candidate for their work saving lives, ameliorating human suffering, and maintaining a ray of hope in the Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year. A prize to the White Helmets would not be a prize only for humanitarian efforts, it would also draw attention to the remarkable – yet rarely celebrated – resilient forces of societies hit by armed conflict. Equally important, the White Helmets carry the tradition of the non-violent protest movements whose political call for change was caught between President Assad’s military onslaught and the violent response of a wide array of resistance groups, including many adopting extreme worldviews and terror tactics. The commitment and sacrifice of the White Helmets have been widely noted and even documented in a Netflix movie in 2016. This has inspired a campaign for the Nobel Prize but also accusations of being a Western creation operating in sync with extremist groups (most certainly a misrepresentation), their “real” mission being the ousting of Assad rather than the saving of lives by digging survivors out of the rubble of bombed buildings. Composed of regular citizens – mostly young men – the Helmets have increasingly had access to skills training supported by a variety of external donors, offered mainly in Turkey.

Nominations for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

The below list is based on available information in the press, on the web or provided to us directly. It is surely far from exhaustive, as the Nobel Committee each year receives more than 200 nominations. Nominators are asked not to disclose their nominations, and the committee’s proceedings are kept secret for 50 years. Consequently, we cannot guarantee that the committee indeed has received a specific nomination, nor, in some cases, whether the nominator is eligible. As long as the nominator fulfils the criteria, any one person or organization may be nominated (the nominations of Hitler and Stalin being cases in point). The committee may also add names to the list, themselves. They base their final selection on specifications in Alfred Nobel's will. The committee's interpretation of the will is disputed by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch, however, and the NPPW keep their own list of nominations deemed qualified according to their reading of the will.

  • The Giulio Andreotti Institute and Secret Archives has been nominated (confirmed by US nominator).
  • Patricia Chilelli,  Director of the Giulio Andreotti Institute and Secret Archives has been nominated (confirmed by US nominator).
  • Donald J. Trump, President of the USA, is nominated for ‘his peace through strength ideology, and for restarting President Reagan’s SDI-BHB secret weapons system, to neutralize nuclear weapons and make them obsolete’ (confirmed by US nominator).
  • Lions Club International is reportedly nominated.
  • Gavin Ashenden, resigned Reverend of the Church of England. Article figures with headline nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, but the details are unclear. See for instance the Gatestone Institute.
  • The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the nomination of which was initiated by "former Israeli Minister of Health and Deputy General Dr. Ephraim Snekh, Haifa University law professor Moshe Keshet, and attorney Moshe Aloni, boasting the signatures of over 200 surviving Bulgarian Jews" rescued during the second World War.
  • Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman is the object of many a campaign website (on Facebook for instance), but no actual nomination is to be found.
  • Medea Benjamin, co-founder of peace group CODEPINK and human rights group Global Exchange, has been nominated by Nobel Laureate of 1977, Mairead Maguire.
  • Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, is nominated by head of the French think-tank Center of Political and Foreign Affairs (CFPA), Fabien Baussart, according to Russia's state-led news agency Sputnik.
  • The Club of Rome,
  • Herman Daly, and
  • Pope Francis are all proposed for a Nobel Peace Prize for sustainable development efforts, but it is not clear if any qualified nominators have actually done so. Pope Francis appears to be have been nominated by Norwegian MP Knut Arild Hareide, however.
  • Jaqcues Chirac, former President of France, has been nominated by a group of supporters, one of which appears to be an MP and thus a qualified nominator, according to Le Figaro.
  • Edward Snowden has been nominated by a group of Swedish MPs.
  • Marwan Barghouti, Palestinian activist, was reportedly nominated for the 2017 Prize by Nobel Laureate of 1984 Desmond Tutu, IMEU tweeted in June last year.
  • Maiti Nepal, organization working against human trafficking, nominated by US Professor of History Steven Burg.
  • Article 9 Association, Japanese group in favour of Article 9 in the constitution (renouncing war and a standing army), nominated by Japanese MP Konishi Hiroyuki.
  • The White Helmets are nominated (confirmed) by a Swedish MP.
  • ECOWAS is also nominated (confirmed) by a Swedish MP.
  • Dr. Daisaku Ikeda is nominated by 1976 Nobel laureate Betty Williams (confirmed by Williams).
  • Douglas Roche, long-time disarmament campaigner and former MP of the Canadian Parliament (nominated by a group of Canadians including Firdaus Kharas, Erika Simpson).
  • Tong Zeng, chairman of the Chinese Association for Claiming Compensation from Japan (from WWII), and
  • Onodera Toshitaka, Japanese lawyer  representing Chinese victims, are co-nominated acording to China Daily.
  • Zafra Lerman, scientist and human rights activist, and President of the Malta Conferences Foundation (Using science as a bridge to peace in the Middle East) nominated by a member of the US Congress and a second nomination by US Professor Emerita in Anthropology Joan Erdman. 
  • Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh is mentioned in relation to the prize frequently after her country has received the stream of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, but these events took place only recently and we have no information of a nomination in time for the deadline. 
  • Ethan Gutmann, journalist and author, is reportedly nominated for his efforts on behalf of the Falun Dafa movement.

The following nominations are obtained from the Nobel Peace Prize Watch website:

Do you have additional (confirmed) nominations to add to the list? Let us know!