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Nobel Peace Prize Goes To Chemical-Weapons Watchdog

  • RFE/RL

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been named as the winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Announcing the decision in Oslo on October 11, Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said the OPCW was awarded "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons."

Supported by the United Nations, The Hague-based nongovernmental organization oversees the global Chemical Weapons Convention, which marked its 20th anniversary this year.

The nonpartisan group also provides information and analysis on chemical weapons.

The UN team that collected evidence of a chemical-weapons attack that took place in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21, 2013, was made up of experts from the OPCW.

The chemical-weapons watchdog is currently overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and production facilities.

Under a Russian-U.S. deal struck in September, Syria's entire chemicals-weapons program is due to be eliminated by mid-2014.

REACTION: Award For Watchdog Met With Disbelief

Jagland said the Syrian crisis had highlighted the group's role in controlling the proliferation of chemical weapons.

But he said the committee had "had the organization on its table as one of its main candidates" for several years.

He said that by presenting the award to the OPCW, the committee was "seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons."

"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," Jagland added. "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."

Jagland said the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the group also served as "a message to all who have not ratified" the global Chemical Weapons Convention "and those who have not honored their obligations to the convention."

He urged the United States and Russia to "speed up their work" to destroy their chemical-weapons arsenals.

"Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons," he said. "This applies especially to the United States and Russia."

The $1.25 million Nobel Peace Prize is to be formally presented in Oslo on December 10.

Speculation on who would be chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee had also included Russian or Belarusian human rights activists; a Congolese doctor, Denis Mukwege, known for his support for women’s rights; to imprisoned U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who leaked thousands of classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks; and to 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago in a bid to silence her campaign for education for girls.

On October 10 Yousafzai was awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights from the European Parliament. She is the youngest person to ever be awarded the honor.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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