Nobel Peace Prize 2018: PRIO Director's Shortlist

Based on independent assessments, PRIO Directors have offered their personal shortlists for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2002. Current Director is Henrik Urdal.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee  bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 31 January deadline.  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. The five committee members have until their first meeting after the deadline to add nominations of their own. 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, as per usual, 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 the Director's Adviser or the Director directly.


Henrik Urdal's 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Shortlist

  1. World Food Programme
  2. Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nadia Murad & Tarana Burke
  3. SOS Méditerranée, Doctors Without Borders & International Rescue Committee
  4. Oby Ezekwesili & The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
  5. Reporters Without Borders 


World Food Programme

Hunger is once more one of the big humanitarian challenges of our time, with various hunger crises emerging in the wake of armed conflicts. The World Food Programme is the leading humanitarian organization tackling the hunger issue worldwide. Whether food insecurity follows due to armed conflicts such as in Syria and Yemen (where over 18 million people are food insecure, and around 8 million depend on the WFP for survival each month, according to the organization’s own statistics) or displacement and ethnic tensions such as in Kenya and Myanmar (Somali and South-Sudanese refugees, and the Rohingya population, respectively), the WFP is ever-present.

While the evidence for an impact of food insecurity on violent conflict remains tenuous, it is well established that armed conflict severely affects food security. Indeed, the final report of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals rightfully identifies armed conflict as the main reason for failures to meet the MDG target of increased food security. Hence, while reducing food insecurity might not be the most important peacebuilding measure on its own, conflict prevention and food security remain intrinsically linked.

A Nobel Peace Prize to the WFP would highlight the crucial work the organization is doing for populations fleeing from conflict, while also ensuring continued commitment from its funders to keep up their endeavours to make sure victims of conflict, displacement and natural disasters are fed and cared for. Hopefully this will also pave the way for further conflict prevention measures. Hunger crises might not get the headlines that wars and armed conflicts do, but they are just as – if not more – deadly. 

In a situation with increasing concerns over global polarization, a peace prize to the World Food program would also clearly signal the need for a strengthened commitment to multilateral solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. Finally, the topic of new technology and innovation in the humanitarian field could be an interesting Peace Prize theme. The WFP is clearly at the forefront here, exemplified through its Building Blocks programme utilising blockchain technology, as well as other innovative means of providing relief and aid.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nadia Murad & Tarana Burke

Another strong theme for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize should be sexual abuse and violence. 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1820, which explicitly recognizes the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and a war crime. At the same time, the #MeToo campaign has revealed the ubiquity of sexual abuse and violence which had been quelled and hidden previously, putting the issue front and centre in many countries.

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both been leading figures in bringing attention to sexual violence in armed conflict. Although their experiences and practices differ greatly, there can be no doubt about the potency of their global advocacy work against sexual violence in conflict. Denis Mukwege has provided treatment for thousands of women and is a world-renowned expert on repairing the physical damage from rape and sexual violence. Through the work done at his Panzi Hospital in Bakuvu, Democratic Republic of Congo, he has been instrumental in drawing the world’s attention to these kinds of crimes. In addition to Mukwege, who has featured on both mine and my predecessor’s shortlists earlier, the work of Nadia Murad as an international advocate against sexual violence in conflict deserves recognition. Murad, one of the thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted and held by the Islamic State as slaves, has worked relentlessly to bring attention to victims of sexual violence in wars. While there is increased focus and criminal prosecution of sexual violence in armed conflicts, we see that groups use it in new and systematic ways. Therefore, highlighting Murad’s case, and her fight for prosecution of Islamic State members, takes on a new dimension of importance.

Rising up against the pervasiveness and social stigma of sexual violence and abuse, the #MeToo campaign went viral in the fall of 2017. Initiated already in 2006 by US civil rights activist and community organizer Tarana Burke, the campaign has succeeded in putting sexual violence in its many forms on the agenda globally. Recognizing the work of Burke in the form of a Nobel Peace Prize emphasizes the major threat to human security posed by sexual violence everywhere, also in non-conflict countries. 

[For the sake of transparency, it should be noted that PRIO researchers have collaborated with Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for a research project on female empowerment.]

SOS Méditerranée, Doctors Without Borders & International Rescue Committee

Despite declining public attention, the migration crisis in the Mediterranean region is still very much a reality. While there are currently fewer sea crossings to Southern Europe than during the peak in 2015-2016, the death rate is higher, estimated by the UNHCR to be one death per 18 people making the crossing in the first half of 2018. This is a drastic increase compared to the same period the year before, when the death rate was one in 42. A UN report attributes the higher death rate to there being fewer search and rescue vessels operating in the area. The decline in refugees crossing the sea is first and foremost a result of migrants being prevented from leaving Africa for Europe by the Libyan coastguard. As a result, migrants are being held back in Libyan camps under harsh conditions.   

A prize for mending the human suffering of the migration crisis should go to the SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), co-operating to run the Aquarius, one of the few ships still running rescue operations in the Mediterranean. While SOS Méditerranée operate the ship, MSF provides the medical assistance. In a crisis that has no end in sight, SOS Méditerranée and MSF are consistently providing aid to migrants in need. MSF has also been one of the most outspoken advocates for migrant rights, reporting relentlessly on the dangerous conditions in the Mediterranean and highlighting the desperate need for more assistance. The organization also serves new migrants at arrival in Europe by providing health care and psychological support.

On the ground in Libya, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) deserves recognition for their work to provide emergency health care and reproductive services to an increasingly vulnerable and growing migrant population, including those in detention centers. Their possibility to provide health care assistance has been drastically reduced lately, however, as a result of the worsening situation in Tripoli, Misrata, and Sirte, where detention centers had to be evacuated. The IRC also works with migrants in Greek camps, providing much-needed mental health care.

A three-part prize to these organizations would highlight the need for continued engagement in the ongoing crisis and recognize the long-term humanitarian assistance provided.

Oby Ezekwesili & The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

Corruption is a main driver of social upheavals around the globe, underpinning recent major developments like the Arab Spring. Corruption also thrives during and after war, and many conflict-affected countries are among the most corrupt in the world. Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education in Nigeria and Vice President for Africa in the World Bank and one of the founders of Transparency International, has been an international champion in the fight against corruption. Ezekwesili was also the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals and the Chairperson of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), leading the first ever national implementation of the global EITI standards.

Ezekwesili and EITI are worthy candidates because of their efforts in making the world more transparent and less corrupt. The link between armed conflict and high-value natural resources is strong: EITI was established in 2003 as a direct response to the mounting evidence showing that poor governance of natural resources may lead to an economic ‘resource curse’ and increased conflict. Increased transparency over extraction processes and financial results has led to a more sober and nuanced debate about the extractive industries and their output, and has the potential to help defuse conflicts and reducing tensions before they even happen. EITI’s efforts to create multi-stakeholder groups in which civil society is involved is a model case for inclusiveness in such a politically and economically important issue.

Anti-corruption and transparency champions have not traditionally been considered as obvious candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, natural resources, transparency, corruption and conflict are intrinsically linked. This important work by individuals and organizations like Ezekwesili and EITI is deserving of attention, and a Nobel Peace Prize to the field of anti-corruption and transparency would be a welcome boost now that key actors such as the U.S. have abandoned the EITI by the wayside.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Independent reporting and press freedom have not yet been the focus of the Nobel Peace Prize. Reporters all over the world are putting their own health and safety at risk to provide information from the most devastating conflicts and repressing regimes. A prize emphasizing the importance of providing reliable information from the conflict theaters of the world, would be a prize for holding conflict actors accountable. It would also acknowledge the importance of independent information gathering for enabling governments to make good decisions in crises and conflicts. Misinformation in wars is abound, and increasing concerns over ‘fake news’ only make the need for reliable quality reporting stronger.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is an international watchdog group based in France whose goal is to preserve media freedom and freedom of expression by protecting journalists and highlighting injustices and threats toward them. The organization has recently spoken out against the sentencing of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo following their reporting of atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar. A win for RSF would be well-deserved and represent the work of journalists everywhere who dedicate their lives to report on such important cases.

Other worthy candidates in this category are Can Dündar and the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which were both on the 2017 PRIO shortlist. Dündar was the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet until mid-2016, when he was forced to go into exile. One of Turkey’s oldest newspapers and a steadfast secular and republican-leaning publication, Cumhuriyet has been renowned for its independent reporting and fearlessness in criticizing the authorities – underscored by it being awarded the 2015 Freedom of the Press Prize by RSF for its stand against mounting government pressure.


Nominations for the 2018 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, and the listings are far from certain. 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 regardless of objective standing (the nominations of Hitler and Stalin being cases in point). The committee may also add names to the list, themselves, before their first meeting after the deadline. The committee base their final selection on specifications in Alfred Nobel's will, their interpretation of which is disputed by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch. The NPPW usually keep their own list of nominations deemed qualified according to their reading of the will.

  • Edward Snowden has been nominated by Norwegian MP Petter Eide
  • The White Helmets are nominated by Norwegian MP Arne Nævra
  • The Committee Against Torture represented by
  • Olga Sadovskaja,
  • Novaja Gazeta represented by
  • Elena Milasjina, and
  • Svetlana Gannusjkina have been jointly nominated by Norwegian MP Petter Eide
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been nominated by Norwegian MP Lars Haltbrekken
  • The European Court of Human Rights has been nominated by Norwegian MP Petter Eide
  • Denis Mukwege and 
  • Yanar Mohammed have been nominated by Norwegian MP Karin Andersen
  • The Iraqi-kurdish Peshmerga forces have been nominated by Norwegian MP Himanshu Gulati for helping defeating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
  • Joshua Wong Chi-fung,
  • Nathan Law Kwun-chung and
  • Alex Chow Yong-kang, front persons for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, have been nominated by Marco Rubio and a bipartisan group of US congressmen.
  • The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights has been nominated by Norwegian MP Bjørnar Moxnes
  • The Humanitarian Law Centre and
  • Nataša Kandić has been nominated by US Senator Roger Wicker and US Representative Eliot Engel.
  • Dr. Daisaku Ikeda is nominated by 1976 Nobel laureate Betty Williams (confirmed by Williams).
  • Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has most likely been nominated by Indonesian MP.
  • George Soros has most likely been nominated by Hungarian group of academics and clergy.
  • Yussouf Shaheen is allegedly nominated by Pakistani nominators, but no actual nomination or names of nominators have been reported in media or submitted to PRIO.
  • The Giulio Andreotti Institute and Secret Archives and
  • Patrizia Chilelli, Director of the Giulio Andreotti Institute and Secret Archives are confirmed nominations by an American Professor of Philosophy. We are unable to verify the existence of an institution by this name, but there does exist an Andreotti Archive at the Sturzo Institute.
  • Peacebuilding organisation Search for Common Ground is nominated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
  • Jaha Mapenzi Dukureh, Gambian anti-FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) activist, is nominated by Norwegian MP Jette Christensen (Labour Party).
  • Ilham Tohti, Uighur intellectual and activist, currently serving life imprisonment in China, is nominated by Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Bulgarian politican and Member of the European Parliament.
  • Enzo Cursio, Italian journalist is nominated for his work for peace, human rights and disarmament, by Nobel laureate of 1976, Mairead C. Maguire.
  • Soheil Farah of Lebanon, and 
  • Yuri Yakovets of Russia, are reportedly nominated for their work for a sustainable and peaceful global future, by a group of Russian academics including Professor Alexei Gromyko at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • Archbishop Louis Raphaël I Sako, head of the Iraqi Chaldean Church community, is reportedly nominated.
  • The Arctic Council is nominated by a group of international academics including Lassi Heininen, Professor of Arctic politics at University of Lapland (FI).
  • The Article 9 Association is nominated by Professor Shin Nomoto of Keio University.
  • The Copts of Egypt are apparently nominated as a religious group. ( state that no more than three people may share the prize, according to the statutes, but note how it may be questioned whether the 2015 Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet satisifed this requirement.)
  • Kids Earth Fund is nominated by Professor Hajime Arai from Japan.
  • The Global Community of Human Rights Defenders is nominated by UK Parliamentarians and representatives of French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Dr. Zafra Lerman, President of the Malta Conferences Foundation, is nominated by multiple, inlcuding US Professor (Em.) of History Glennon Graham.
Do you have additional (confirmed) nominations to add to the list? Let us know! And just to be clear: if you mean to actually nominate someone, we are not the correct addressee.

The nomination of President Donald J. Trump was reported to us earlier and consequently figured on the above list for some time until it was revealed that the nomination was forged. See e.g. this NY Times article for more info on the issue. He has since been nominated by a group of US Congress reps (for the 2019 Prize, as the nomination was made after the deadline).