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.

Henrik Urdal's 2023 Nobel Peace Prize Shortlist

  1. Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj
  2. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach
  3. International Court of Justice
  4. Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar's National Unity Consultative Council
  5. Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj

Oppressive regimes in Iran and Afghanistan have drastically reversed women's rights in the past year, from executing Iranian youths for protesting gender inequality, to banning Afghan women attending university. Research shows that more gender-equal societies are more peaceful. If the Nobel Committee would like to shine a spotlight on the non-violent struggle for human rights as a contribution to peace, Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj are highly deserving nominees to share the prize, based on their tireless efforts to improve women's rights in Iran and Afghanistan.

Narges Mohammadi is a leading Iranian human rights activist and journalist who has campaigned for women's rights and the abolition of the death penalty. She has spent multiple periods in prison in Iran and is currently serving a long prison sentence for charges including spreading 'propaganda against the state'. Her imprisonment has been internationally denounced. Mohammadi is deputy head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which is led by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi. She was also elected President of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Peace in Iran.

Mahbouba Seraj is a prominent Afghan journalist and women's rights activist. After 26 years in exile, she returned to Afghanistan in 2003, and is now based in Kabul. She is a champion of children's health, education, fighting corruption and empowering survivors of domestic abuse. She is also the founder of the nonprofit Afghan Women's Network and the Organization for Research in Peace and Solidarity, and has pushed for women's participation in the Peace Jirga and the High Peace Council.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach

Discrimination and injustice against indigenous peoples stokes tensions between communities that can lead to violence and armed conflict. The non-violent struggle to protect and strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples is a laudable rationale for being awarded the Peace Prize. Two worthy campaigners for the rights of indigenous peoples are Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach**. This would also be an environmental prize for conservation action and the fight against climate change.** Philippine-born indigenous rights activist Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has worked for many years to advance the rights of indigenous peoples across the world. She served as the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Tauli-Corpuz founded and heads Tebtebba, the Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education. She has also worked extensively with tropical forest conservation and against destructive development projects, climate change, social justice issues and the advancement of indigenous peoples' and women's rights.

Similarly, the Ecuadorian indigenous leader Juan Carlos Jintiach has played a key role in elevating the voices of indigenous peoples. He is a democratically elected leader of COICA (the federation representing Indigenous organizations in the Amazon Basin) and an active member of multiple indigenous rights groups. He served as the co-chair of the global indigenous caucus in the international indigenous forum on climate change within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Jintiach has worked to connect the concerns of communities on the ground with global policy arenas, and has served as a consensus-building voice among these actors.

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 2023 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 UN 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 and early on 16 March 2022 by ordering Russia to 'immediately suspend the military operations' in Ukraine. The Nobel Committee could emphasize this ruling as an attempt to stop an illegal war of aggression.

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

Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar's National Unity Consultative Council

Since the coup d'état on 1 February 2021, Myanmar's military has reportedly killed over 2,800 people and detained more than 17,400. The UN has stated that the military brutality against the population amounts to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes. For their efforts to inclusively work for peace and democracy, and to end the violence by the security forces, Myanmar's representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) would be worthy recipients of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun denounced the military coup soon after it occurred, calling on states not to recognize or legitimize the junta. Since then, he has represented the people of Myanmar in the UN on behalf of the National Unity Government that was formed by elected members of parliament, representatives of various ethnic groups and civil society leaders. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has used his position to convey the voices of the Myanmar people to the international community.

The NUCC aims to end all forms of dictatorship and to build a federal democratic union in Myanmar that fully guarantees democracy, national equality and self-determination. It is an inclusive body with representatives from elected members of parliament, political parties, civil society organizations, officials from the civil disobedience movement and strike organizations, and ethnic resistance organizations.

Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Research and knowledge can play an important role in promoting peace. A Nobel Peace Prize for organizations working to mobilize research and education in the service of preventing conflict would highlight the importance of truth-seeking and facts in the face of the propagation of divisive disinformation.

One such organization that would be a worthy recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize is the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Based in the United States, 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.

Other worthy candidates for a prize focused on documenting human rights violations include the research agency Forensic Architecture, and the investigative journalism groups Bellingcat and Lighthouse Reports.

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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