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 160.

    The NRK has awarded the prize to the OPCW, who showed it's roll just couple of months before for removal of Syria's Chemical arsenal. The Malala Yousafzai had started a campaign years ago with her life's cost, which made her more brave and more active in her minor age. She should be awarded the Prize. I Object on the results.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Nobody deserves this farce of an award from a committee that has long since lost all credibility. And comments saying thanks to Putin and the Pope for averting any potential disaster? Oh so naive, they are simply figureheads of the military industrial complex.

    Putin boasted "Russian oligarchs" own Chelsea FC. Funny, considering the British Rothschilds have owned Russia for centuries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    @150. You are so right. It would also recognise his wonderful work in suppressing homosexuals & other deviants, political dissidents, ethic minorities and many other terrible people in Russia. We need somebody like Putin here....

    More seriously, I think the Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to the man in the street. He effectively prevented western strikes on Syria.

  • Comment number 157.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I agree with 144. orientrich
    A little premature.
    If the OPCW, in addition to addressing the Syria CW, can succeed in getting those still to ratify the Convention then that would surely secure the Peace Prize.
    The OPCW decision on destruction of Syrias CW included sentance strongly urging States to ratify Convention

  • Comment number 155.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I lost any respect for this prize when it was given to a head of state whose soldiers have killed people by the thousands and who is responsible for umpteen human rights violations, for some empty promises he made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I think this rather devalues the award as the OPCW is only doing the job it was set up to do. In my opinion the award should go to someone that has either taken a stance that they were under no obligation to, or to someone who has actually brokered a broader peace through bold and humanitarian actions or negotiations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    should have gone to obama

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Surely the award should go to Putin for coming up with the idea.

    I dont understand the logic of this award.

    This award is going downhill in my view. The award to Obama was pretty stupid and now this is just as bad.

    I think the award should go to the Tory rebels, who heroically rejected the Syria military action which began a chain of events that prevented America going in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    This should go to Putin - the people dealing with the chemicals are just employees doing a paid job - they have done nothing outside of their remit so to award them with this prize is a joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    To: 127.Petter: "A wise choice, certainly. It is much better than giving it to someone who sells mass weapons to cold-blood killers(like the cold-blood Russian President Putin etc)" ................................................ who actually negatiated that peace. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I don't disagree with this award because presence of: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Syria is bound to make rebels think twice before they carry out their western-sponsored, criminal activities.
    But mostly, I reckon the Committee just couldn't bring themselves to give the prize to Vladimir Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    141. Daniel Sorry, but until Islam is a forgotten religion there will be no peace. The peace prize should be offered to someone who makes that a reality.

    Thankfully most of us don't have the time of day to waste on a meaningless back slappers "peace prize" which can be awarded to mass murderers like Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The Prize should also be shared with Putin and the Pope too.

    Thanks to them that madness was avoided, at least for now.

  • Comment number 145.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Whilts the work they do is essential, I can't help but feel this is a prize that should be given next year when the outcome of their work in Syria is finally realised.
    Personally I'd have liked to have seen Denis Mukwege win the award for the work he has done with Rape victims, certainly fantastic work considering the attempt on his life because of this good cause.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.


    It should have gone to Malala but that would have offended the islamist which the Nobel commitee is too cowardly to do.


    OPCW is working where the danger is to get immediate results and save lives NOW.

    Malala's battle with the Mulahs has only just stated, there is plenty of time for her to get the Peace Prize when she triumphs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Let's hope Mia Farrow sends her congratulations. She was scathing about "British bystanders" when the US was pressing for a bombing campaign.

  • Comment number 141.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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