Nobel Peace Prize: PRIO Director's Shortlist

The Nobel Peace Prize is arguably the most prestigious prize in the world. It is awarded annually by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to persons or organizations for their efforts and actions for the promotion of peace. Although the committee itself is independent, the prize unavoidably has a political impact and as such is often met with controversy, both regarding the individual laureates and the committee’s interpretation of Alfred Nobel’s will.

Based on their professional assessments, PRIO Directors have made it a tradition to offer their personal shortlists for the Peace Prize. Current director Henrik Urdal presents here his fifth list since taking up the position of director in 2017.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the January 31 deadline. Anyone can be nominated (and history has indeed presented us with a few rather dubious nominees, including Hitler), but the right to nominate is reserved for 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. Urdal abstains from using his right to nominate given his active role in commenting on the prize. He has no association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The laureate will be announced in October.

For questions, requests for further information or interviews, please contact the Director's Adviser or the Director.

Kristian Berg Harpviken's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Speculations

  1. Angela Merkel
  2. Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez
  3. Dmitry Muratov and the Novaya Gazeta
  4. Article 9 Association
  5. Jeanne Nacatche Banyere, Jeannette Kahindo Bindu and Dr. Denis Mukwege

Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Merkel is placed on top of Harpviken’s list this year for her remarkable response to this year’s refugee crisis. In a time when many have dodged responsibility, Merkel has shown true leadership and risen above politics, taking a humane approach in a difficult situation. Merkel may perhaps not qualify as an altruistic Mother Theresa, and her stance has toughened in recent weeks, but a collective European response to the current situation and handling of migrants and refugees in the future, is unthinkable without Merkel at the helm. Jochen Bittner, political editor at Die Zeit, placed Merkel’s initiative in historical context when writing “In the past few weeks, I have been tempted to say something once unthinkable for my generation: I’m proud to be German”. (A group of German Members of Parliamant has indeed nominated Merkel this year, not for her refugee response, but for her role in brokering a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine.)

Seeing as the refugee crisis has been one of the major situations in international politics this year, there are also others staking a claim. Harpviken listed the Italy-based Erithrean priest Mussie Zerai in his speculations of late January this year, and another candidate could be the UNHCR, which also won in 1954 and 1981.

Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez

After 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia, a lasting peace agreement has never been closer. In recent months, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla have thrashed out vital components of the peace treaty, and set a date for its finalization. President Juan Manuel Santos, noted for his tough line on FARC from his time as Minister of Defence, and FARC leader Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez have both appeared content and confident during the last rounds of talks in Havana. For the involved parties to set aside decade-long grievances in a conflict where both sides have committed atrocities is a grand achievement. While there is still some way to go, they have agreed on premises for the future political participation of the FARC movement, as well as a transitional justice system to be set up and for the guerrillas to lay down their weapons – for good. Both parties have been willing to tackle the difficult issues, and the Colombian peace process is increasingly looking irreversible. While both Santos and Timochenko are controversial figures, and each have their share of responsibility for past violence, the Colombian peace process should be a likely candidate for the Peace Prize, follows in a aline of other Nobel Prizes through history, and would definitely be in Nobel’s spirit.

Peace processes are underway elsewhere, such as Myanmar and the Philippines, and other candidates in the same category cannot be ruled out. Another possibility, however, is the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 – although barely a peace deal in a conventional sense – where one could imagine a prize shared between Federica Mogherini (High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs) and Mohammad Javad Zarif (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran).

Dmitry Muratov and the Novaya Gazeta

The space for independent media continues to be shrinking in Russia, with the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and its editor Dmitry Muratov impressively holding on to the principles of journalism, despite severe costs. Independent reporting and free media is widely seen to positively contribute to peace, holding governments and others accountable. In spite of this, no Nobel Prize has ever been awarded to the media. With Russia’s state security apparatus severely restricting the space for public expression, drawing attention to its few remaining independent media would send a strong signal. Dmitry Muratov was one of the founders of the Novaya Gazeta in 1993, and he remains its driving editorial force. The paper, which launched at the initiative of Mikhail Gorbachev (who devoted part of his Nobel Peace Prize money for the purpose), has since experienced the killings of several of its journalists. Its website has been exposed to numerous cyberattacks, and more recently, to police ransacking and threats of closure.

There are other leading media outlets in Russia that could merit similar attention, including the Echo of Moscow radio station and the TV station Dozhd, but Harpviken believes Novaya Gazeta – alongside Muratov – is the more likely candidate.

Article 9 Association

Institutions matter and constitutional principles matter, particularly when rooted in popular support. Article 9 of Japan’s constitution says that the state will abstain from ‘the right of belligerency’, and that it will ‘forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.’ A large part of the population sees this non-aggression commitment as the main cause Japan has stayed out of war for the last 70 years. In a region characterized by deep tensions, there are concerns that last year’s reinterpretation of Article 9 by the Abe government and the subsequent ‘Peace and Security Preservation Legislation’, passed in September this year, are precursors of armed confrontation. From previously limiting Japan’s military to self-defence, the new interpretation and bills allow for collective self-defence and full military cooperation in international operations. Additionally, Abe has announced an amendment of the constitutional article itself to take place in 2016. With a clear ruling bloc majority in both parliamentary chambers, the bills passed easily. There is strong opposition in the Japanese public, however, and a number of entities are working for the preservation of the clause as it is and reverting to the previous interpretation. One of them, which Harpviken sees as the most likely candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize, is the Article 9 Association, set up by a group of nine senior academics and cultural personalities, including Kenzaburo Oe, a former Nobel laureate in literature. The same cause could also bring attention to other initiatives, including Nihon Hidankyo: The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers, and Ms. Naomi Takasu, who has been spearheading a civil society campaign to bring international attention to the threatened constitutional clause. Those working for the preservation of article 9 see international recognition – such as the Nobel Peace Prize – as important for what they perceive to be a basic national value. We may have come to think of wars between states as virtually extinct after the end of the Cold War, but events in Ukraine and simmering tensions in East Asia remind us they may reappear. A return to a principle often hailed in earlier periods of the Peace Prize would be well timed.

Jeanne Nacatche Banyere, Jeannette Kahindo Bindu and Dr. Denis Mukwege

With armed conflict and war, sexual violence very often follows, both during and after actual battle action. Three individuals with a long-standing engagement against sexual violence are Mama Jeanne, Mama Jeannette and Dr. Mukwege from DR Congo. Through their church network, the two women have been involved since the early 2000s, leading the work of seeking out survivors of sexual violence all across the country, providing support and ensuring that they receive treatment and help. Gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, on the other hand, set up the Panzi Hospital in Bakuvu, dedicated to providing treatment to these women; has personally treated thousands of women and is today a leading expert on repairing the physical damage from rape and sexual violence. By awarding the trio’s local, grassroots and on-the-ground actions with a Nobel Prize, the Nobel committee has a chance to strengthen the visibility of sexual violence as a global problem.

There are a number of other possible candidates on the same topic, including Zainab Bangura, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Colombia’s civil society group the Butterflies’.

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

About the Shortlist

Each year, PRIO’s Director presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Director offers his opinion on the most worthy potential laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director’s view on the most worthy potential Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely covered by international media, and it has been offered since 2002.

While PRIO’s Director is undoubtedly a relevant commentator on the issue, his shortlist neither confirms nor formally endorses any candidate, and is not in any way based on privileged access to the decision-making of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Neither the Director, nor the Institute he leads, have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The Nobel Committee selects each year's laureate from a list of valid nominations received by 1st February that year. Anyone can be nominated, but only individuals holding certain positions, as laid out in the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, are eligible to nominate candidates. As the director of a peace research institute, the Director of PRIO holds one such position, and is therefore eligible to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, it is an accepted convention at PRIO that the Director refrain from making nominations given his active role as a commentator on the Peace Prize.

The PRIO Director’s shortlist generates considerable international interest. The debate about what peace is, and how our understandings of what contributes to peace changes over time, is at the core of the institute’s mission (see former Director Kristian Berg Harpviken's ‘Why Speculate on the Nobel Peace Prize’ blog post). This also includes opinions on possible laureates, and assessment of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize and the committee’s work on the interpretation of those (for more on the latter, you may also have a look at In the PRIO Director’s opinion, this can only serve to further strengthen the world’s most prestigious prize.

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