Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize

11.10.2013 15:34

The Nobel Committee said it was in
honour of the OPCW's "extensive work
to eliminate chemical weapons".
The OPCW, based in The Hague, was
established to enforce the 1997 Chemical
Weapons Convention.
OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu
said the award was a "great honour" and
would spur it on in its work.
He said the deployment of chemical
weapons in Syria had been a "tragic
reminder that there remains much work
to be done".
The OPCW recently sent inspectors to
oversee the dismantling of Syria's
stockpile of chemical weapons.
It is the first time OPCW inspectors have
worked in an active war zone.
The watchdog picks up a gold medal and
8m Swedish kronor ($1.25m;
£780,000) as winner of the most
coveted of the Nobel honours.
Announcing the award in Oslo,
Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman
Thorbjoern Jagland said it wanted to
recognise the OPCW's "extensive work".
"The conventions and the work of the
OPCW have defined the use of chemical
weapons as a taboo under international
law," he said.
"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."
The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu said the
organisation had been working "with
quiet determination to rid the world of
these heinous weapons", away from the
spotlight, for the past 16 years.
He said the Syria mission was the first
time the OPCW had worked to such a
short timeframe and in an ongoing
conflict, and that it was "conscious of
the enormous trust" placed on it by the
international community.
Praising the commitment of his staff and
the support of member states, he said
the Nobel Peace Prize would "spur us to
untiring effort, even stronger
commitment and greater dedication" to
bring about a world free of chemical
The head of the OPCW inspection team in
Syria, Ake Sellstrom, said: "This is a
powerful pat on the back that will
strengthen the organisation's work in
The OPCW is made up of 189 member
states and the principal role of its 500-
strong staff is to monitor and destroy all
existing chemical weapons.
It draws on a network of some of the
best laboratories and scientists in the
world to help it in its work, the BBC's
science correspondent Pallab Ghosh
The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention
has contributed to the destruction of
nearly 80% of the world's chemical
weapons stockpile.
Syria is expected to sign the treaty in the
coming days.
French President Francois Hollande said
the Nobel prize was a "vindication" of
the international efforts in Syria and
pledged continued support for the
OPCW's work there and elsewhere.
Notable omission
There were a record 259 nominees for
this year's Peace Prize, but the list
remains a secret.
Pakistani schoolgirl campaigner Malala
Yousafzai and gynaecologist Denis
Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of
Congo had been tipped as favourites to
take the award.
Others who had been listed as
contenders were Chelsea Manning
(formerly Bradley Manning), the US
soldier convicted of giving classified
documents to Wikileaks and Maggie
Gobran, an Egyptian computer scientist
who abandoned her academic career to
become a Coptic Christian nun and
founded the charity Stephen's Children.
But an hour before Friday's
announcement, NRK reported the award
would go to the OPCW.
The European Union won the prize in
2012 in recognition of its contribution to
peace and reconciliation, democracy and
human rights in Europe.
Previous Nobel Peace Prize laureates
include anti-apartheid hero Nelson
Mandela, US President Barack Obama,
the Dalai Lama and Burmese opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel Committee has in the past
publicly regretted never awarding the
prize to Mahatma Gandhi, the pacifist
leader of the Indian nationalist movement
against British rule, even though he was
nominated five times.