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 100.

    How sad. So you can now get a Nobel Peace Prize for doing your job. I suppose it is one up on getting for not doing your job, as achieved by Obama.
    Chelsea Manning should have won this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    All the nominations were doubtful and nothing to do with world PEACE. Just political nominations, nothing than more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    When will they come after the UK, Israel and the US for use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium.. and our massive stock piles of these weapons

    When will they address the constant geoengineering that is going on all over the western world now which was classed as an exotic weapon? HR2977 Space preservation Act

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    A bit like giving it to Obama - given on the promise of what might be rather than on past results. I hope these monitors are more successful than the epic fail Obama became.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Worries me when people are rewarded like this for simply doing their job - albeit a good one. Perhaps at 77 I'm simply old fashioned...I can recall family members killed in WW1 & WW11 when they fought because it was expected of them. They didn't count on a reward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    A quite a few of my colleagues have done UN peacekeeping work which we got paid for as servicemen. When do we get our peace prizes to go with the beret?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Poor poor Malala

    Mind you they did award Mr Obama the peace prize when funny enough he was the one foaming at the mouth for full scale military war in Syria

    And then they have the nerve to award a company assigned to destroying stockpiles of weapons, basically a company DOING ITS JOB. There is nothing peaceful about that, they will be getting paid very generously


  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The Chemical weapons watchdog achieved a stupendous task by overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. Despite all the onerous barriers, the organization has worked steadfastedly in its continuing efforts to make the world a safer place. One should put the events in proper context. Syria's stock of chemical weapons has allegedly been supplied by Russia. Russia needed to be convinced!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    When Syria is returned to the place it was before the troubles started and 'peace' reigns again then hand out the gongs. Until then there is a long way to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    They're doing a good job.
    And if it had been left to the champions of world morality (self appointed) we'd be reading about UK/US troop mortality and ever-so-dreadfully regrettable collatereal damage to schools etc. instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Putin made Syria agree to this not OPCW. And anyway, if your one sole job description is the Prohibition of chemical weapons, Should it really be anything other than the norm when you actually manage to do your job satisfactorily? Lets hope that Syria dont hold back some, otherwise the peace price will become a sham. they should have given it to Malala Yousafzai. A true peace prize winner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Slightly premature...just like the Nobel Peace Prize given to Obama

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Putin white soviet leader, Obama Black western leader. Despite the Liberal elite who swoon every time Obama talks it was Putin who averted what could have been the start of war in the middle east and without a doubt the western armies dragged in leading to major loss of life and increased terrorism in western society. The rebels are nothing more than cannibals and terrorists. Good on Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    65.billy goat gruff "......I didn't know Miley Cyrus was up for the award. I assume (and hope against hope) that's who you mean, rather than an innocent girl being shot in the head. She didn't ask to be thrust into the limelight."

    Malala was was put at risk by her Father's agenda and ambition. It was his school and his political campaign that made her a target.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I admire the courage of these people that go into war zones to do this work however they need some other sort of recognition as they are not bringing or facilitating peace they are removing a small amount of the weapons available to either faction.
    The peace is negotiated by the politicians and leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    To Onan the Barbarian
    Don't make me laugh so much saying that Millipied deserved it for stopping us going to war. He did NOTHING other than try to make political credit out of a no-win situation. The guy is an idiot, a fool and most certainly unfit to run a childrens tea party let alone the UK Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Assad must be laughing himself silly. What makes anyone think he's going to hand over ALL of his chemical weapons. The US/UK were looking for a way out of a military strike to due the popular uproar and Assad was smart enough to give it to them. Peace Prize? What a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    77. Poddy100
    These awards are worthless.
    They were providing a service that was asked of them, they did not initiate this process.
    So by the same logic doctors shouldn't get the Nobel prize for medicine, Prof Higgs (paid to research physics) shouldn't collect his prize, soldiers shouldn't get medals etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    There has to be a mistake here - Obama is the Peace Maker

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    @64 blefuscu

    Yes, interesting.
    The BBC and it's Sister publication The Guardian are still not reporting the 'rebels' and the foreign mercenaries by true identity, TERRORISTS.

    Fortunately most of the public now recognises the weazel words and propaganda they see dished up almost daily.
    It doesn't work anymore.


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