In 2021, the committee highlighted press freedom by awarding embattled journalists Dmitry Muratov from Russia and Maria Ressa from the Philippines, while in 2020 it celebrated the World Food Programme. In light of current events, 2022 could once again be about politics.
Here are some of the nominees chosen by the Oslo Peace Research Institute, whose shortlists in the past have included 2019 winner Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and 2018 winners humanitarians Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad.
Russian and Belarusian opposition
Two likely possibilities could be the most prominent opposition figures in Russia and its close ally Belarus: Alexei Navalny and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
Navalny, who has been on a series of shortlists over the years, currently spends much of his time in solitary confinement in a high-security Russian penal colony 250 km east of Moscow while he is tried for a series of crimes against the state.
His anti-corruption organization shed light on the wrongdoings of Vladimir Putin’s regime for years and culminated in his poisoning at the hands of Russian security forces. After recovering in Germany, however, he returned to the country in January 2021 and was immediately imprisoned.
From his cell, he managed to repeatedly condemn the war in Ukraine and Putin’s “criminal mobilization because of which tens of thousands of people will die in the trenches”.
After her husband was jailed just two days after he announced in 2020 that he would run for president, Tikhanovskaya became the leader of the opposition in Belarus against longtime strongman and close Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko.
Her victory in August 2020 was widely described as rigged, but subsequent protests were crushed and Tikhanovskaya and her two children fled the country in fear for their safety. But in the years since she became the face of a movement challenging Lukashenko’s regime, Tikhanovskaya has continued to present herself as the rightful leader of Belarus.
The doomed 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong drew global attention, as did China’s brutal treatment of the Uyghur minority in the far west of the country, which was addressed in a long-delayed United Nations report released in August.
The committee could send a message by awarding the prize to activists like Nathan Law and Agnes Chow from Hong Kong or Ilham Tohti, an imprisoned Uighur scholar.
Law, who was granted political asylum in Britain last year, is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent activists in exile. He co-founded the pro-democracy party Demosisto in 2016 and was briefly elected as the city’s deputy before being disqualified for failing to take the oath properly.
He fled the country before the passage of the draconian national security law in 2020 which banned most protests and nabbed many of his fellow activists, including Chow.
She rose to prominence as a spokesperson for the 2012 student protests at the age of 15 and later participated in most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movements, including the Demosisto party. She was eventually arrested and imprisoned for 10 months for her role in the 2019 protests and was released in June 2021. She remains in Hong Kong.
Tohti, an economics professor, has been imprisoned for life since 2014 for advocating separatism. In 2006, he created a website to draw attention to the discrimination faced by Uighurs, as well as to provide a platform for exchange between Uighurs and Han Chinese, China’s largest ethnic group. . He was arrested in January 2014 and convicted in September after a two-day trial.
The selection of Harsh Mander, an activist for interfaith harmony in India, would highlight the growing religious polarization in the country which many believe has been fueled by the right-wing Hindu nationalist government.
Starting in 2017, Mander, 67, led activists, writers, lawyers and artists in his Karwan-e-Mohabbat, or caravan of love, across India to visit families affected by communal bloodshed.
Mander has been highly critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies, which Mander says deepen religious divides in the country and discriminate against Muslims.
In an age of heightened rivalry between world powers and competing narratives of world events, there is a desire for international institutions capable of presenting impartial opinions, which makes the International Court of Justice, or “World Court, 77-year-old,” an attractive candidate.
“Although they have no binding force, the Court’s advisory opinions nevertheless carry great legal weight and moral authority,” the Court noted of itself, and it has been an instrument of diplomacy preventative to keep the peace.
Established in 1945 after World War II, the ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations responsible for settling legal disputes between countries and providing advisory opinions on questions of law referred by other United Nations bodies.
On March 16, the court ordered Russia to completely halt its military operations in Ukraine. The decision is seen as mostly symbolic, as the court has no viable means of enforcing its decision.
If the committee decides to go down the activism route, two organizations that work on human rights and peaceful responses to conflict that might catch its attention are the San Francisco-based Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a Belgrade-based organization.
HRDAG aims to bring the rigor of scientific analysis to human rights, with conflict investigations, while CANVAS educates activists on nonviolent resistance to autocratic regimes and the promotion of human rights and democracy.
Although HRDAG and CANVAS are not directly related, they were formed during a similar period of activism around the turn of the millennium. Both organizations have worked on similar causes.
They did important work during the Arab Spring, with CANVAS initially advising anti-government protesters in Syria before a violent government response to the protests helped turn it into a civil war.
HRDAG would become particularly well known at the start of the war, where it was one of the few organizations attempting to quantify the war’s huge toll in Syrian lives.
Robyn Dixon and Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia; Theodora Yu in Hong Kong; Lily Kuo in Taipei, Taiwan; Gerry Shih and Niha Masih in New Delhi; and Maite Fernández Simon and Adam Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.