Henrik Urdal, PRIO Director. Indigo Trigg-Hauger / PRIO
Henrik Urdal, PRIO Director. Indigo Trigg-Hauger / PRIO

The Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Henrik Urdal, announced his shortlist today for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize, with election observers topping the list.

The 2024 shortlist comprises of:

  1. OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
  2. International Court of Justice
  3. UNRWA and Philippe Lazzarini
  4. Article 36 and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
  5. UNESCO and the Council of Europe

"Democracy is on the ballot this year as more than half the world’s population live in a country heading to the polls, albeit not exclusively in democracies," said Henrik Urdal. “Research shows that democratic states are more peaceful and stable. As elections are a cornerstone of democracy, election observers play a pivotal role in shaping perceptions about the legitimacy of electoral processes. A Nobel Peace Prize awarded to election observers sends a strong message about the importance of free and fair elections, and their role in peace and stability.”

Each year, PRIO's Director presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most worthy potential laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director's view on potential and worthy Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely recognized and has been offered since 2002. Henrik Urdal presents his seventh list here since taking up the position of director in 2017. Urdal has no association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

2024 is set to be a historical election year. Record numbers of people across the world are heading to the ballot box. Against this backdrop, democracy is under pressure in Europe and globally, due to the rise of illiberal movements and authoritarian regimes. More of the world’s people are living in autocracies today than only a decade ago, and the number of countries democratizing is falling, according to democracy research from V-Dem. Upholding the pillars of democracy is more important than ever before.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) within the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observes elections throughout its 57 participating states. It also provides technical assistance to improve the legislative and administrative framework for elections in specific countries. ODIHR’s work to ensure that elections are free and fair would make it a timely recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Other notable candidates worthy of the prize based on their contribution to strengthening democracy through elections include The Carter Centre who has observed 115 elections in over 40 countries, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who fights voter suppression in the United States.

International Court of Justice

Mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts between states are particularly important to maintain and support peace in an increasingly polarized world. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) promotes peace through international law, akin to promoting peace congresses, another achievement highlighted in Alfred Nobel's will. The ICJ would be a worthy recipient of the 2024 Peace Prize should the Nobel Committee wish to recognize the importance of multilateral collaboration for peaceful relations.

The ICJ was established in 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations to settle legal disputes between states and advise on legal questions within the UN. With all 193 UN Member States party to the ICJ Statute, the Court has become a globally accepted multilateral mechanism for dispute resolution. While a Nobel Peace Prize to the ICJ would largely be seen as uncontroversial, the Court acted boldly in January this year ordering Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip. In addition, it acted early in March 2022 by ordering Russia to 'immediately suspend the military operations' in Ukraine.

Other deserving candidates for a prize focused on peace through international law are the International Criminal Court, or regional bodies such as the European Court for Human Rights or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

UNRWA and Philippe Lazzarini

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1949 to provide aid, education and protection for Palestine refugees until a political solution was found. Today, its staff of over 30,000 people serve nearly 6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and neighbouring countries. Nearly the entire Gazan population depends on UNRWA for basic assistance, including water and food.

The UN agency now faces a massive funding crisis following allegations by Israel that 12 participants of the 7 October attacks were Hamas militants, employed by UNRWA. Sixteen donor countries have so far since suspended funding. UNRWA has systematically denied employment of militant operatives, and terminates the appointment of individuals accused of having ties to militant groups. It routinely, including in this most recent case, launches investigations into the individuals accused.

UNRWA’s operation is absolutely fundamental to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. A Nobel Peace Prize to the agency and its Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini would send a strong message about its role in supporting the lives of millions of Palestinian women, men and children.

Article 36 and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

The race to develop artificial intelligence has surged forward in recent years. While emerging technology promises incredible benefits for humanity, research, development and regulation is needed for safe innovation. In particular, international safeguarding is needed around the ability of weapons systems to operate autonomously without human control.

One positive step forward in creating legal frameworks around AI and warfare has been UN General Assembly Resolution 78/241, which was approved in December 2023 calling for the “international community to address the challenges and concerns raised by autonomous weapons systems,” and for the UN Secretary General to suggest ways to address those problems.

Several organizations are working to control the race to develop autonomous weapons systems, and advocate for rules to ensure the safe use of the technology. This includes Article 36, a UK-based non-profit organisation whose purpose is to reduce harm from weapons, and the civil society Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of organizations working to ensure human control in the use of force. Both advocacy groups are campaigning for a new international treaty covering a broad scope of sensor-based weapons systems.

Both groups are worthy candidates of a Nobel Peace Prize focused on maintaining peace and security through safeguarding emerging technologies. Such a prize would be in keeping with Alfred Nobel’s concern with abolishing or reducing standing armies.

UNESCO and the Council of Europe

Educational institutions are integral to the development of tolerant, inclusive and democratic societies. One particularly important area is the way that history is being taught. Emphasizing multiple and diverse perspectives in history teaching is crucial for developing an understanding and acceptance of other groups and societies than our own, and contributing to counter false and chauvinist narratives.

The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has been a pioneer in developing and promoting ‘multiperspectivity’ in history teaching. UNESCO emphasizes the importance of understanding history in a global context as well as developing regional, complimentary perspectives. By providing guidance and support to history textbook authors, and working to establish universal norms for history teaching, UNESCO promotes education as a tool for peaceful development.

Similarly, the Council of Europe works to support history teaching as a way to support critical thinking and strengthen democratic participation and practice. Emphasizing the importance of building historical knowledge through well-established scientific norms, the Council of Europe supports a number of scientific initiatives as well as political processes.

A Nobel Peace Prize for the promotion of peace through history education would resonate well with Alfred Nobel’s call for ‘fraternity between nations’.

More information