Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Leading Nobel Peace Prize 2019: 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. The prize is political by nature and, as such, 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 third list since taking up the position of director in 2017.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee  bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 31 January 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. Read more here.

The laureate will be announced, as per usual, on the Friday of the first full week of October.

Following the shortlist, you will also find a list of known nominations. 

Henrik Urdal’s 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Shortlist

  1. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia
  2. Reporters Without Borders
  3. The Arctic Council
  4. The International Land Coalition
  5. UNHCR and High Commissioner Filippo Grandi

Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

As one of his first major actions after taking office in April 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took steps to formally end the conflict with Eritrea, handing over the disputed border city of Badme and signing a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship” on 9 July 2018 with his Eritrean counterpart Isaias Afwerki. In a similarly bold move, Abiy has engaged in dialogue with the many armed, regional Ethiopian opposition groups, succeeding in persuading the Oromo Liberation Front to commit to peaceful participation in the political process.

Progressive reforms following his rise to power include constitutional and security sector reforms, lifting the state of emergency, pardoning political prisoners, and establishing a ministry for peace. Himself of mixed Oromo and Amhara heritage, his mother being an Orthodox Christian and his father a Muslim, Abiy appointed a cabinet demonstrating a rare sensitivity to political inclusion. The president and half of the ministers are women, including a female minister of defense, and all major ethnic and religious groups are represented.

Ethiopia is amongst the countries ranked near the bottom of the Human Development Index, and Abiy’s ambitious program for economic and social reform arguably represents a broader, long-term conflict prevention agenda. Similarly, his initiatives to boost economic collaboration and trade in the region, including agreements securing Ethiopian access to ports in neighboring Djibouti, Sudan, Somaliland, and Kenya, bring hope for a more stable and prosperous development for the whole of the Horn of Africa.

Despite having initiated democratic reforms, Abiy Ahmed has yet to bring about free and fair elections in Ethiopia. In what is still effectively a one-party state, the country ranks below 150 on the V-Dem Liberal Democracy index. While there is precedent for the award of Nobel prizes for contributions to peace processes still underway, the absence of a committed and concrete plan for free and fair elections remains the most serious hurdle to a 2019 peace prize for Abiy.

A possible co-winner could be Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki, in acknowledgement of the peace agreement finally resolving the Eritrean-Ethiopian War.

Reporters Without Borders

Independent reporting and press freedom have not yet been the focus of the Nobel Peace Prize. Reporters all over the world are putting their own safety at risk to provide information from the most devastating conflicts and repressive regimes. A prize emphasizing the importance of providing reliable information from theaters of conflict around the world would be a prize for holding those engaged in conflict accountable.

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Article first published here

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