• World
  • norway

Here Are the Favorites to Win the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize

7 minute read

The recipient of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize is set to be announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday at 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET). 

From 1901 to 2022, the Peace Prize has been awarded 103 times to 140 people. It is one of six awards that were established by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel—also the inventor of dynamite—in 1895. The other awards categories recognize literature, physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and economic sciences.

Last year’s peace prize was awarded to Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, as well as two human rights organizations: the Russian group Memorial and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties.

“It’s difficult to try to forecast what the committee is going to decide on at any given time in any given year,” Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think-tank, tells TIME. “It’s entertaining but it’s very hard to get a good result.”

The winner is ultimately chosen by the five-person Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is appointed by Norway’s Parliament. The committee bases its decision on nominations that were made by Jan. 31 from current and former committee members, national parliaments, governments, past Peace Prize laureates, professors in some disciplines, directors of peace and international affairs research centers, and members of international courts of law.

With all that in mind—and the caveat that past recipients have often been surprising—TIME has looked at odds from the Nicerodds.co.uk betting site as well as the annual shortlist by Henrik Urdal, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Urdal’s shortlist, which is widely studied each year, puts forward names based on merit—but it is not meant to be a list of predictions. He says it serves as a list of themes and candidates for the committee to consider and an indication of “great initiatives” for peace and stability.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Similarly to last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2022, is the favorite at Nicer Odds. The Ukrainian President has as of writing odds of 3.20. Zelensky has been a major player on the world stage, rallying international allies to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

While bookies' odds favor Zelensky, experts are skeptical about his chances. “That’s never going to happen,” Urdal says. “Despite the fact that Zelensky and Ukraine are fighting a just war, and we have every sympathy with their cause, it's going to be extremely difficult, I'd say impossible, for the Nobel Committee to give the prize to a person who is in the middle of an interstate war.”

Read More: Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Urge Allies to Help Ukraine 'Win Fast'

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a 47-year-old Russian lawyer, activist, and opposition leader. He led large street protests against Putin and was leader of the Russia of the Future party—before it was dismantled in 2021—and founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Navalny survived an attempt on his life when he was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020, and he has been imprisoned in a Russian penal colony for fraud and other charges since 2021.

While Navalny is also a favorite among bookmakers, with odds of 8.60, Russian dissidents have claimed the prize for the last two years in a row and experts tell TIME that it's likely the committee will focus on other security issues this year. 

More From TIME

Ilham Tohti

According to bookmakers, Ilham Tohti is another possible recipient of the peace prize, with odds of 8.60. Prior to his imprisonment, Tohti was an economics professor at Beijing’s Minzu University, where he specialized in issues related to China's minority Uyghur community. He established UyghurOnline, a Chinese-language website dedicated to documenting the oppression and discrimination faced by the Muslim minority group. Two years later, authorities shut the site down. Tohti went missing after 2009 riots in Xinjiang between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. Tohti was released shortly after, but the academic and the Uyghur community’s most prominent activist was sentenced to life in prison in January 2014 for inciting separatism.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Like Navalny and Tothi, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has odds of 8.60. Tsikhanouskaya ran for President in 2020 against Alexander Lukashenko, who has held the position since 1994; she put herself forward in place of her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was jailed for 18 years in 2021 on multiple charges including the organization of riots. A leading voice for democracy, Tsikhanouskaya has been vocal about vote tampering and corruption in Belarus, sometimes calling for sanctions. As Lukashenko looked to suppress opposition voices after the 2020 contest, Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania. She was tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison for high treason, inciting social hatred, attempts to seize power, and forming an “extremist” group, among other charges.

International Court of Justice

The ICJ is the main judicial organ of the U.N—it has odds of 9.60 on Nicer Odds, and is third on Urdal’s list. Urdal says the court could be recognized for its role as “the main mechanism for solving conflicts between states.” He adds that such a selection from the committee would point to the ICJ as an institutiton that “should be protected and respected.”

Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj

In his 2023 shortlist, Urdal suggests that Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist and the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, could be a strong contender in conjunction with Afghan journalist and women's right activist Mahbouba Seraj. Mohammadi has odds of 16.0 on Nicer Odds, while Seraj’s financial odds are slightly higher at 18.50, meaning she is less likely to win.

“Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj have been contributing significantly to women's rights in two of the most repressive regimes when it comes to women's position in society,” Urdal says of his top choice. Mohammadi, who has been in jail since 2016, has long advocated to abolish the death penalty in Iran. She was also elected President of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Peace in Iran.

Seraj, who spent 26 years in exile until 2003, is fighting for children’s health, education, and women’s rights in Afghanistan. She is the founder of the Afghan Women's Network and the Organization for Research in Peace and Solidarity. 

Other contenders

Urdal’s shortlist also names Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine-born indigenous rights activist, and Juan Carlos Jintiach, an Ecuadorian indigenous leader. Much like Smith, Urdal believes Indigenous peoples' link to the climate crisis is a theme that could be a priority for the committee this year. (Neither two are among the top-10 favorites listed on Nicer Odds.)

Urdal’s shortlist also includes Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.N. Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar's National Unity Consultative Council together for their roles in advocating for democracy in the southeast Asian country. “Myanmar is now one of the most violent conflicts,” says Urdal, “but it also represents a very unfortunate development where we see military coups being staged in different parts of the world.“

Tun, who is based in New York, denounced the 2021 military coup in Myanmar and has made calls for other countries not to recognize the junta.

Finally, Urdal has listed the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, which won Norway’s prestigious Rafto human rights prize last year. The nonprofit publishes scientific research on human rights violations around the world, from Colombia to Chad to Syria and more. 

Smith, of think-tank SIPRI, says there is a high chance of this year’s laureate being connected to climate solutions. He says Friday’s for the Future, a youth-led global climate movement, would be a strong contender for the prize. (The group is not featured on Nicer Odds.) He says there is a good case for awarding the prize to an indigenous climate activist like Chief Raoni Metukire, a 91-year-old of the Kayapo people, alongside Friday's for the Future.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com