Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize


The OPCW had helped chemical weapons become "taboo", Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said

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The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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.


The OPCW has been working to rid the world of chemical weapons for the past 16 years. For the most part, this task has been laborious and unheralded.

A staff of about 500, working from its headquarters at The Hague, is charged with making sure that the 189 signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention are abiding by its terms.

But it is only in recent weeks, following the use of chemical weapons in Syria, that the OPCW has become a household name.

It is facing its biggest challenge ever - to verify and destroy Syria's entire chemical weapons programme by the middle of next year. The Nobel committee clearly feels it needs all the support it can get.

It is not uncommon for organisations to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It has happened 24 times since 1901. Non-proliferation has been an occasional theme, with campaigners for nuclear disarmament and against land mines among those recognised.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the award, saying the OPCW had "greatly strengthened the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation".


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 Nobel Committee also criticised Russia and the US for failing to meet an April 2012 deadline to destroy their chemical weapons arsenals.

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 weapons".

The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu in The Hague, 11 Oct The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu said the prize would spur the organisation's efforts

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 Syria."

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 says.

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.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the "Nobel Committee has rightly recognised [the OPCW's] bravery and resolve".

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU President Herman Van Rompuy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all congratulated the OPCW.

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.

Malala praised the work of the OPCW after the announcement and thanked those who had offered her encouragement.

"I would like to congratulate them on this much-deserved global recognition," she said in a statement.

"I would also like to thank the people and media in Pakistan, and those from all over the world, for their support, kindness and prayers. I will continue to fight for the education for every child, and I hope people will continue to support me in my cause."


  • Born out of the Chemical Weapons Convention signed by nations in 1993
  • Convention entered into force in 1997, allowing OPCW to start its work
  • Within 10 years, inspectors had destroyed 25,000 tonnes of weapons
  • By 2013, about 80% of world's declared stockpile had been destroyed
  • Thousands of tonnes remain in the possession of the US and Russia

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I think it's a good choice, I just wish they would be allowed to do their work in rich countries like the USA and Israel as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    OPCW failed to prevent the chemical weapons attack.
    Now after Russia's efforts deal has been struck to destroy the CW.
    Theprize goes to Sergai Larvov and Putin because they averted the war. Their diplomatic efforts for peace are appreciable

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I feel like awarding the organisation responsible for removing chemical weapons, which failed to do so in Syria until after world leaders intervened and after hundreds of people suffered greatly, just isn't right.

    Yes they do great work, but at the same time they have failed remarkably.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I think the British people who forced their MPs and PM to abandon the idea of military strike on Syria should get the Nobel Prize for Peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    It's sad that the peace prize has become so obvious in it's politial motivations. It's especially bad considering the science awards go to genuinely deserving people, but the way the peace prize is awarded will undermine the entire concept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Good! In this case Russia and Putin are setting the standards. IF Obama and Cameron had it their way we would already be involved in an escalating World War.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    42. kevin
    "she has truly suffered for her cause"

    No, she suffered, then her "cause" came later. She was just a victim, and not doing anything particularly towards peace until after she was shot. She's a brave girl, I grant you, and I wish her well, but she doesn't deserve the Peace Prize. Not yet anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Not giving it to Malala may not be a bad thing, because it would make her even more of a target to those who would still like to make an example of the poor girl.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @30. Peter Sym. Peter, I hate to disillusion you, but Muslims are not a race. They come from every race imaginable. Islam is a religious/political system and always has been. It is legitimate and frequently desirable to criticize religions and political systems, in the West at least. If not, we end up with totalitarian messes where all criticism and all progress are forbidden. Islam is not immune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    This year's Peac Prize should have gone to Vladimir Putin who manages to avert a tragic war. The UN chemical weapon inspectors was only possible after veto from China and Russia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @ 28 ................ asbestos removal, surely they have saved 100's of thousands of people lives over many many years, yes its a job, yes they are putting they're lives at risk, noble peace prize in the post maybe

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    BBC – Despite your best efforts in making out Malala Yousafzai will win the Nobel peace Prize She has not.

    While all must agree She is a brave girl can you now stop the daily updates on this and celebrate the weapons inspectors in Syria? , and indeed give them the same wall to wall coverage as you did to Malala.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    30. Peter_Sym
    #24 The difference is that the OPCW have actually won the Nobel Peace prize whereas the latest claims about rebel atrocities in Syria are unproven.
    The claims against the Syrian government are still unproven, that didn't stop the beeb from running the allegation as a headline story for the best part of a week with numerous comment sections.
    The stance they take leaves them open

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Well, given the Nobel Peace Prize's history- just consider: the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner almost took the world to war over allegations (not proof) the current Govt of Syria had used the weapons, it can only be a matter of time before the OPCW screws up royally and causes a war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    WHAT A SHAME !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Yet another politically motivated Peace Prize. Goes along with the Obama award and many others beforehand. Unfortunately, this award is becoming increasingly discredited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Good work they've done. Let's hope other countries like UK, US, Israel, Russia etc etc follow suit and destroy their chemical stockpiles. You don't have to be told, you know, just use your common sense !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    oh come on...thats biased...
    why recently all awards are aimed at something in spotlight...
    what if the stalemate would have continued b/w Syria and US?

    To me Maggie or Dennis are the real contenders.sorry no place for Malala.other day in the bbc she sound less confident or not that material.its just ppl arnd her trying to make out something...why am i saying, its hers if not OPCW in the race...

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I have to admit that I and all around me are disappointed that Malala Yousafzai did not win - she has truly suffered for her cause, whilst the UN monitors are being paid to do a job of work - it is as if this Nobel Prize is little different to an Oscar, in the sense that those who are already being paid are rewarded a second time around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Establishment awards given out to establishment bodies. Nothing new here. What about Israels chemical weapons? when are you going to go and remove those OPCW?


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