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 180.

    Why is everyone saying that Putin should get the award? He only fought tooth-and-nail to stop military action because that would jeopardise their military port at Tartus, which Assad's government had begun expanding to allow Russia to station vessels armed with nuclear weapons. He is only looking out for Russia, not for peace!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Could they not find a more deserving individual, rather than an internationally assembled group just doing their job! I can think of many more worthy potential recipients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    ref #164

    To bad that the islamic leaders of today have no respect for other religions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    How on earth can someone win a Chemicals weapons prohibition prize when they have been used? Surely sccess for them would be preventing their use? Am I missing something ? It seems like rewarding failure to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Maybe the BBC will now drop the 'Malala must win it' attitude when in reality she has been used by the UK as a piece of propaganda to say look at what these nasty people do to children.
    What about the drone attacks by the US that kill an maim children everyday, we don't here the BBC saying look at what these nasty US people are doing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Well I've got to say it... I wouldn't like their job! Especially as they are working down the road from heart eating chemical bombers from hell who dismember innocent men, women and children in the name of their God!

    Mind you, I wouldn't want to be associated with anything that the Obaminator had been awarded!

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Excuse me asking, but which precise Islam will do the prevailing? Are you the Sunni type, which knows for a fact that all Shiites are infidels doomed to the lowermost pit of hell, or a Shiite, who knows for a fact that all Sunnis are infidels. I think you'll find that Napoleon's words are correct. God (or Allah) is on the side of the army with the most artillery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    This is really ridiculous, to say the least. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has chosen members with twisted minds and very bad judgement ... or has gone senile. Peace prizes are given to believers in peace: Not to terrorists (Yasser Arafat), not to Presidents who haven't started their work (Obama) and not to bureaucrats and engineers (OPCW) that simply follow orders and do a technical job. Next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @155.Islam Will Prevail
    "I'm sick to the back teeth of this kind of thing, we are constantly supressed and victimised in this country"

    Go to Saudi Arabia then, you will feel COMPLETELY at home there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    The Nobel Committee have lost all credibility, not that they had much left after awarding the pize to Obama for not doing anything apart from geting elected and ripping Bob the Builder's catchphrase off. What about Malala Yousafzai? She put her life on the line and achieved great things and she's only 16!

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    No doubt the OPCW has been doing a commendable job getting rid of chemical weapons scientifically but I feel in the case of Syria CW, the Nobel for Peace has been rushed up when the work has just commenced.
    I did not like many delegates harping on the use of chemical weapons by Syria when in fact it was the machination of Al Qaeda goons in cahoots with opposition and neighbouring Sunni countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Judging by the news that the rebels supported by Cameron and Obama are now proven to be engaging in crimes against humanity, Obama should be stripped of his peace prize and it should go to the one person who has got a resolution without the threat of direct violence. That person is president Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I have just seen who makes up the Nobel Award judges. It is a joke.

    It is basically 5 MPs of Norway who all have their own vested interest.. What a stupid award. Why does it have so much prestige? I thought it would be decide by global figures accross the world.

    Who cares what 5 MPs in Norway think? I wont care about this award anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    This award should have gone to Malala, not only is she fighting for education for girls, in her speech to the United Nations - amazing for a girl of only 16 years of age - she is fighting for peace throughout the world. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Syria is not worthy of the Nobel Peace Award, they are just doing a job, and probably paid to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Completely disagree with this being awarded to OPCW, they were not involved in the decision and agreement process,,,although I do appreciate there efforts in assisting with the process, they do not deserve a gold medal for it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Oh, that's good then. I've just rated your comment down. Consider yourself further supressed and victimised - stop whining!

    155.Islam Will Prevail
    so my comment parodying comment 141 was removed, but his vile and massively racist comment remains.
    Islamophobia at its finest!!!
    I'm sick to the back teeth of this kind of thing, we are constantly supressed and victimised in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    155.Islam Will Prevail
    we are constantly supressed and victimised in this country.


    Would you have all men model their behaviour on that of Mohamed as recorded in Koran?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    @ 146

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

    You only have to look at the list of previous winners to realize that this prize is nonsense.

    Do you really think Putin would want to receive such a flimsy award and be placed into the same low league as some of the previous winners?

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Indeed the whole award process has lost credibility; next it will be Bush and Blair for their gallant work during their time in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    No Peace has been achieved in Syria and won't be when they have finished. This makes a mockery of the Prize.


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