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.
Nobel Peace Prize 2022: PRIO Director's Shortlist
- Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya & Alexei Navalny
- International Court of Justice
- Harsh Mander & Karwan-e-Mohabbat
- Ilham Tohti, Agnes Chow & Nathan Law
- HRDAG & CANVAS
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya & Alexei Navalny
Democratic backsliding and nationalistic governments are increasingly viewed as major threats to peace and stability in Europe. Non-violent pro-democracy mass mobilizations and protest movements can play an important role in overturning despotic regimes. In the summer of 2020, protesters poured onto the streets of Minsk to protest the announcement of allegedly rigged election results that propelled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to a sixth five-year term in office. The protests were met with brutal repression, including reports of wide-spread torture of detained protesters. This cycle of protest and harsh crackdowns continued into 2021.
In the midst of this clash, opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has played a leading role in non-violently challenging Lukashenko and the Belarusian authorities, calling both for fair elections and an end to violence against those demonstrating against the abuses of the current regime. Launching her presidential candidacy after her husband, activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, was arrested just days after declaring his own intention to run, Tsikhanouskaya became the candidate of a united opposition, and has subsequently spearheaded the Coordination Council, an initiative aimed at securing a democratic and peaceful transition of power in Belarus. Both for her concrete role in campaigning for democracy in Belarus and as a figurehead of the pro-democracy movement in Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya would be a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 should be shared with Russian pro-democracy figure Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and opposition leader who has played a central role in the non-violent struggle for democracy in Russia. In 2011, Navalny established the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which investigates high-ranking government officials suspected of corruption and serves as a platform for opposition groups to organize rallies throughout Russia. The Anti-Corruption Foundation remains an important standard bearer, not only for the importance of regime accountability, but for the ongoing struggle for peaceful change of government in authoritarian countries. Navalny, an open challenger to Putin and the current government, has himself been arrested multiple times on dubious charges and is currently serving a jail sentence in a high-security penal colony in Russia.
Both Tsikhanouskaya and Navalny are vocal critics of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A shared Nobel Peace Prize between them would be seen as a clear protest of the Russian aggression and the assistance by Belarus, and as support of democratic and non-violent alternatives to Lukashenko and Putin.
International Court of Justice
Mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts between states are particularly important to maintain and support in an increasingly polarized world. Should the Nobel Committee wish to recognize the importance of multilateral collaboration for peaceful relations, a worthy recipient of the 2022 Peace Prize would be the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for promoting peace through international law.
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. The Court, which is one of the six principal organs of the UN, consists of a panel of elected judges that collectively reflect a diversity of countries, regions and legal systems. 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the submission of the first case to the Court, by the United Kingdom against Albania concerning incidents in the Corfu Channel (1947). Seventy-five years on, the Court has received 183 case entries. With all 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 ICJ would largely be seen as uncontroversial, on March 16 the court ordered Russia to "immediately suspend the military operations" in Ukraine. The Nobel Committee could emphasize this ruling as an attempt to stop the illegal war. Other potential candidates for a prize focused on peace through international law are the International Criminal Court (ICC) formed 20 years ago in 2002, or regional bodies like the European Court for Human Rights or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Harsh Mander & Karwan-e-Mohabbat
Religious extremism helps justify discrimination and violence, and stokes tensions between groups that can result in armed conflict. Making a significant contribution to fighting religious extremism and promoting interreligious dialogue is therefore a compelling rationale for being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. A worthy recipient of such a prize is Harsh Mander, along with the campaign he launched in 2017, Karwan-e-Mohabbat ("Caravan of Love"). Embodied by the figure of Mahatma Gandhi, India has a proud tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism. 75 years after India gained its independence, this tradition is under strain. Under Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist administration, the situation for Muslims in India has become increasingly difficult and the country has seen numerous incidents of religiously motivated violence. Responding to this violence, author, activist and director of the Center for Equity Studies in New Delhi, Harsh Mander, launched Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a campaign supporting and showing solidarity with the victims of hate crimes. Mander is an important voice for religious tolerance and dialogue, and his campaign an important rallying point for those who oppose interreligious conflict and violence. Other worthy candidates for a prize focused on combating religious extremism and intolerance in India are Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha, the co-founders of Alt News, a fact-checking site making significant contributions to debunking misinformation aimed at vilifying Muslims in India.
Ilham Tohti, Agnes Chow & Nathan Law
As China continues to assert itself as a rising superpower in an emerging multipolar world, it continues to be important to highlight pro-democracy efforts and human rights breaches in China and its claimed territories. We continue to see reports of human rights abuses perpetrated against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, including internment camps, forced sterilization, political indoctrination, and disappearances. Although foreign press has made a real contribution in bringing the issue to light, activists within China have also been making an invaluable effort to raise awareness and campaign for an end to the repression of the Uyghur population. One such activist is scholar Ilham Tohti, who was jailed for life in 2014 on charges of promoting separatism. Before his arrest, he worked to spread knowledge for and about Uyghurs, and to foster dialogue. While Tohti has not been heard from directly for several years, his work and legacy is still a powerful symbol and motivator for Uyghurs and those who advocate for them. A Nobel Peace Prize for a Chinese activist campaigning against the repression of the Uyghurs in China would help to further highlight the ongoing plight of this oppressed ethnic minority and send a signal to the Chinese authorities that the international community is watching. Awarding a Peace Prize to pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong would also be an apt gesture given the rapid erosion of the region's semi-autonomous status. Following the adoption of the Hong Kong national security law in 2020, 2021 saw the mass arrest of opposition lawmakers and activists, further erosion of Hong Kong's multi-party legislature, and attacks on what little remains of independent media. Worthy candidates would be Agnes Chow Ting and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, both prominent members of the former pro-democracy organization Demosistō and its forerunner Scholarism, and leading figures in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Law has been in exile in the UK since the enactment of the national security law in 2020, while Chow has faced imprisonment for her political activity. A Peace Prize for Chow and Law would be a much needed pushback against the Chinese authorities' efforts to quell the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong.
HRDAG & CANVAS
As a peace researcher, I am convinced of the value research and knowledge can have for promoting peace. A Nobel Peace Prize for organizations working to mobilize research and education in the service of preventing violence and conflict would highlight the importance of truth-seeking and factfulness in the face of the propagation of divisive disinformation and harmful myths. Two such organizations that would be worthy recipients of a Nobel Peace Prize are the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). Based in San Francisco, HRDAG systematically documents and analyses data on human rights abuses. Founded by Patrick Ball, the organization aims to promote accountability for human rights violations through rigorous, non-partisan science.
Based in Belgrade and co-founded by Srđa Popović and Slobodan Đinović, CANVAS does invaluable work educating activists around the world in nonviolent forms of protest and resistance. In this way, it equips groups that might otherwise resort to violence with the tools to pursue a nonviolent path in their struggles for democracy and against oppressive regimes.