PRIO Director's Nobel Peace Prize Speculations 2010

As tradition has it, PRIO provides a list of possible and confirmed nominations for the Nobel peace Prize and, perhaps more importantly, the PRIO Director speculates about who will receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. While the PRIO Director may be well placed to do this, his speculation does not confirm or endorse nominations. Nor does it reflect the opinion of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. PRIO does not have any formal links to the Nobel Institute.

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 before their first meeting following the deadline. The winner is ususally announced on the second Friday in October at 11:00 am (Norwegian time), i.e. 8 October this year.

On 10 March, the Nobel Institute announced that a record 237 candidates have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010, 38 of which are organisations.

[For updated lists of potential and confirmed Nobel nominations 2010, see below or click here.]

Kristian Berg Harpviken's favourites for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize:

  • Sima Samar
  • Democratic Voice of Burma
  • Special Court for Sierra Leone

Kristian Berg Harpviken believes that the 2010 peace prize is most likely to be awarded to a candidate who has made a significant contribution to the prevention, amelioration or resolution of armed conflict, in line with the spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will. A prize could go to somebody who has played a central role in resolving a particular conflict, but Harpviken thinks it is more likely that this year’s prize will highlight a particular thematic. He suggests women and security, independent reporting and transitional justice as three possible foci. Furthermore, Harpviken thinks that the committee, just as in awarding the 2009 prize to Barack Obama, will seek to use the prize to give weight to actors and initiatives that they see as particularly important at this time. Unlike 2009, however, the recipient of this year’s prize is probably not going to be somebody who is a household name around the globe. PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken finds it particularly important that the prize is awarded to a person or organization advocating peaceful ways of overcoming armed conflict.

Sima Samar is Harpviken's first choice for 2010. Samar is a female Afghan human rights advocate who also figured on Harpviken list for last year’s prize. She is as a key candidate on the theme of ‘women, peace and security’, which is high on the global agenda as UN Security Council Resolution 1325 marks its 10th anniversary. A second strong candidate is the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a diaspora-based news agency. The case for a peace prize to independent reporting is strong, and the DVB, with its innovative approaches to reporting under tight state controls, may be the first to win a prize in this category. A third favourite of Harpviken is the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), which represents the trend of setting up conflict-specific tribunals in the aftermath of armed conflict. Rooted in international law, a traditional field in the prize’s history, recent years have seen considerable innovation in transitional justice, and the SCSL is recognized both for its effectiveness and its local impact.

About the favourites

Sima Samar is a strong candidate within the area of ‘women, peace and security’. She is an Afghan human rights activist who throughout her career has had a strong focus on women’s rights. Currently, Samar leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). She served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan from 2005 to 2009. Samar is a medical doctor by training, and has also been heavily engaged in humanitarian welfare work, establishing Shuhada, an organization that focuses on health care, particularly to female Afghans. In 2002, Samar was appointed as a Minister of Women’s Affairs in Hamid Karzai’s transitional administration. She has been under frequent attacks from both conservative religious leaders and from Islamist radicals, and she is a prominent voice for the rights of women. Samar was nominated for the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2008. In Afghanistan, the AIHRC has played an important role in monitoring human rights abuses, including bringing attention to the issue of civilian casualties. Yet, the commission’s effectiveness has been hampered by a cautious president who relies on deals with many of the country’s former warlords, by representatives of the international community who are equally cautious, and most importantly, by the amnesty on pre-2001 war crimes that was tabled by the country’s parliament in 2005. While controversial in many political quarters, Samar does invite respect by being a principled and outspoken proponent of human rights and the need for a true reconciliatory process. As 2010 has been introduced by a call for seeking political accommodation with the Taliban, we shall expect Samar to engage in a debate about the implications of this for human rights in general, and for women’s rights in particular. Other potential candidates within the domain of women, peace and security are Asma Jahangir, the Pakistani human rights activist who is also the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Denis Mukwege, the doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo who works with victims of sexualised violence; and Leymah Gbowee, who was instrumental in organizing Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which by moral force secured that the Liberian peace talks moved forward, and in securing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s electoral victory.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) was set up in 1992, when it started to broadcast on shortwave radio from stations outside the Burma. From 2005, it has also ran regular satellite TV programs. The channel is based in exile, with its headquarters in Oslo, Norway, but its news reporting from Burma is based on a large network of reporters inside the country. It is this ability to contribute regular reporting from a tightly controlled regime that distinguishes the DVB. Reporters in Burma have been good at adapting new technology that allows them to tape and film various events, and to transmit the material. The risks are considerable, and several reporters were detained during the demonstrations in the fall of 2007. DVB is interesting in that it provides high quality independent reporting based on a combination of in-country reporters with editorial and other functions in the diaspora. In 2010, the film ‘Burma VJ’, which is based on the videos taken by DVB-reporters during the 2007 protests, was nominated for an Oscar in the category of documentaries. Other possible candidates within the category of independent reporting are Malahat Nasibova, a journalist and human rights activist operating in the Nakchivan enclave of Azerbaijan, and recipient of the 2009 Rafto Prize (which has on four previous occasions – the prizes to Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-jung and Shirin Ebadi - been given to candidates that would later be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Another strong candidate is the International Crisis Group (ICG), which combines an R2P activist agenda with solid case-specific background analysis that aims to set the agenda and affect policy decisions.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was initiated by President Kabbah of Sierra Leone in 2000 and was set up in 2002 in agreement between the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone. The importance of transitional justice for war-torn societies to recover has been increasingly recognized over the past couple of decades, and the field has been characterized by innovation and institution-building. The SCSL sits within Sierra Leone’s judiciary (though outside of the system structure), yet is still a domestic-international hybrid, in that it is set up to call upon the privileges of immunity otherwise given only to international courts. Its mandate is to try those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law and the laws of Sierra Leone committed in Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996 (even though the civil war started in 1991). In total, 13 indictments have been issued and 5 war criminals convicted. At present, the case against former Liberian president Charles Taylor is in the defence phase; a case which was moved from Freetown to The Hague due to the risk of instability and unrest in the region. The SCSL has been praised for its relative effectiveness, lack of serious delays and problems, and especially for its local outreach work. As such, it is a model of best practice within international law. The court will be closed down in 2010, as its mandate is seen to be fulfilled. Other potential candidates within the field of international law and transitional justice are Richard Goldstone, leader of the UNHRC investigation of human rights and humanitarian law violations in the 2008-09 Gaza war; and the Special Tribunal for Cambodia.

Alternative directions

There are also topics other than the three discussed above that could be both likely and worthwhile recipients of the 2010 prize. Two themes of particular interest are human rights and peace research.

Human rights is a staple throughout the past 50 years of the Prize. A prize to Sima Samar, as suggested above, would bring attention to her human rights efforts. Russia and its near neighbours have a number of candidates, one of which is Memorial, founded in 1992 by Andrei Sakharov, an organisation which combines a human rights monitoring role with bringing attention to historical injustice. The fact that Torbjørn Jagland combines his role as head of the Nobel Committee with being the Secretary General of the Council Europe, of which Russia is a member, may make this an unattractive choice. A Chinese dissident is perhaps a somewhat more attractive choice. Possible candidates are Liu Xiaobo or Hu Jia (another Chinese dissident, Gao Zhisheng, also a possible candidate for the Prize, disappeared on 4 February 2009, resurfaced for a short while, and then disappeared again in April 2010).

One could also contemplate a prize to peace research. Here, one strong name is Gene Sharp,known for his scholarly writings on and advocacy of non-violence. Sharps set up the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) in 1983 as a platform for his engagement to both theorize and teach non-violence. A Nobel Peace Prize to Gene Sharp would not only be a recognition of the role of peace research and the importance of knowledge for policy innovation, but also serve as a strong handshake to scholars and advocates of non-violence. 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.

Rather than focus on the parts in Nobel’s will about the substantial basis for awarding the prize, Chairman of the committee Thorbjørn Jagland emphasised the temporal aspect of having ‘done most for peace in the past year’, in the opening of his 2009 presentation speech. At the same time, Jagland said that ‘Obama has understood the Norwegian Nobel Committee perfectly’, in referring to the award as ‘a call to action’. PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken believes that the committee's strong insistence on actuality in 2009 – which is in line with Nobel's will – obliges them to a similar emphasis in 2010. As such, the committee should link the prize strongly to current events, while also aiming for a direct contribution to the laureate’s efforts. If given to an individual, the committee would be inclined to follow the trend of rectifying geographical and gender imbalances of the Nobel Peace Prize, and award it to a non-Western and/or woman. This does not serve in favour of US candidates. Like they have frequently done in recent years, the committee could also wish to expand on the fields of activity for which the prize is awarded, as it would if a candidate within independent reporting (or peace research) were to be successful.


Because nominations are officially kept a secret, the list below is based on information leaked to the press/world wide web and could possibly be based on rumours and hearsay. It is by no means complete or assured, but represents the best possible list given the information present at the time of writing. For further information on the nomination process, click here.

Confirmed nominations

Although nominators are requested not to publish their proposals, the following list of nominees is confirmed only to the extent that the nominators have apparently chosen to publicise their choice anyway. Self-reporting alone is not sufficient to make it to this list.

  • Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), independent advocacy group. Nominated by anonymous non-US senator [Source and another source].
  • George H. Ryan, retired Illinois governor. Nominated by Francis A. Boyle [Source ].
  • Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana. Nominated by Prof. David Dabydeen [Source].
  • Father Roy Bourgeois and School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). Nominated by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) [Source].
  • Svetlana Gannushkina and Memorial, Eastern European social and human rights movement and coalition. Norw. politician Erna Solberg (Conservative Party) says she will nominate [Source].
  • Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident. Nominated by Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor at Princeton and president of PEN American Center [Source]; and by Check/Slovak members of parliament [Source].
  • Denis Mukwege, Congolese doctor. Nominated by NUPI director Jan Egeland [Personal communication].
  • Mustafa Barghouthi, founder of the political party the Palestinian National Initiative. Nominated by Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire [Source].
  • Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissidents. Nominated by US Congressman Chris Smith [Source].
  • Izzeldin Abuelaish, Palestinian doctor. Nominated by Jean-Marc Delizée, Belgian State Secretary [Source].
  • City Montessori School of Lucknow, India, and its founders, Jagdish Ghandi and Bharti Ghandi. Nominated by Professor A.K. Srivastava, Lucknow University [Personal communication].
  • David Matas, Canadian lawyer and human rights advocate, and David Kilgour, Canadian ex-MP. Nominated by Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Balfour Hakak, for their work on behalf of the Falun Gong movement [Source].
  • Mordechai Vanunu, Israeli nuclear whistleblower. Vanunu has asked the committee to disregard his nomination [Source].
  • Petter Skauen, Norwegian peace and development aid worker, currently special adviser in Norwegian Church Aid. Nominated by nine Norwegian parliament representatives from Østfold county [Source]
  • Foundation Vicente Ferrer and Rural Development Trust. Multiple nominators, click here.
  • Nihon Hidankyo, Japanese organisation representing survivors of A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nominated by the International Peace Bureau [Source].
  • Federico Mayor and UNESCO Culture of Peace. Nominated by the International Peace Bureau VP Ingeborg Breines [Personal communication].
  • Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, or the Grandmothers of May Square. Nominated by Argentinian senator Daniel Filmus[Source].
  • David Ray Griffin and the 911-Truth Movement. Group of nominators, including Professor Berit Ås [Personal communication].
  • Steinar Bryn and Nansen Dialog. Nominated by Norwegian Labour party MP Torstein Rudihagen [Personal Communication].
  • Gunnar Garbo. Nominated by Prof Dr jur, Aksel Syse [Personal communication]

Possible nominations

The following "possible" nominees are not confirmed. Although there is plenty of speculation in some cases, the nominators have not chosen to publicly confirm their nominations

  • Greg Mortenson, US Humanitarian
  • G.P. Koirala, Nepalese President of Congress
  • Abuna Elias Chacour, Catholic Archbishop of Israel
  • Roberto Micheletti, Interim President of Honduras
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk
  • Cheng Yen, Taiwanese Buddhist nun
  • Mehdi Karoubi, Iranian reformist politician
  • Prince Reza Pahlavi, former Crown Prince of Iran
  • Abedelaziz Bouteflika, Algerian president
  • Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
  • Hu Jia, Chinese dissident
  • Oswaldo Payá Sardińas, Cuban political activist and dissident
  • Rebiya Kadeer, Uighur (women's rights) activist
  • Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany
  • Abdoulaye Wade, Senegalese president
  • Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC)
  • International Crisis Group (ICG)
  • Sant' Egidio, Catholic community based in Italy
  • The Internet (Larry Roberts, Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, representatives of and major technological contributors to the Internet)
  • The International Space Station (ISS)
  • Bao Tong, Chinese dissident
  • Bernhard Schaller, Professor of medicine
  • Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister
  • Bono, musician and humanitarian
  • Mary Robinson, Irish Prime Minister
  • Bill Clinton, former US President
  • Helmut Kohl, former German Chancellor

See here for last year's speculations.

Contact details:
Kristian Berg Harpviken, PRIO Director. Contact.
Agnete Schjønsby, Information Director. Contact.
Halvor Berggrav, Adviser to the Director. Contact.

[Updated 8 October 2010]