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 240.

    Nebel Peace prize is always controversial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    @231.Benjamin "This Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to our Prime Minister; David Cameron, who fought so hard to bring peace to Syria - this was the catalyst to the US putting on their reverse gear! (Sic)."

    Hurrah for Dave. His calling for a vote to support intervention by British Forces was a stroke of genius.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    While I understand people have their views on fair coverage, wall to wall comments on how "biased" the BBC are is getting pretty ridiculous now. I like to look at the comment section for debate on the topic at hand, but all I see these days is blanket cynicism of absolutely anything the BBC publish, regardless of its content. Can we not be just a little more constructive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Nobel Committee should be retired definitely. New people with objective criteria should take a NC chairs. Politics got Nobel Prize again, although the Malala deserved the prize, but it seems that modern world doesn't care too much for education making the privilege of it. Ruling minority doesn't like educated people thinking by their brain because they cannot manipulate them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    224. Kevin Gerard
    But what about his arming the Syrian government? Or suppressing free speech?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Syrian chemical weapons inspectors DO NOT deserve the peace prize any more than obama does. They find whatever USA tells them to find. They are a total disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Disappointed by this result. The Nobel committee seem to be scared of upsetting the Arabs and supporting the West Establishment

    Syria is unfinished business. We don't who actually used chemical weapons or what will be the ultimate fate of the war. The OPCW could have had their prize in a later year after the war.

    Malala should have had the prize for standing up to Barbarians

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    There is no need to put a more pressure on Malala by awarding her the Nobel Peace Award. The Taliban want the poor girl dead already, why wind the nutters up even more?
    The OPCW is more deserving considering dangerous work they are doing destroying chemical weapons in Syria.

  • Comment number 232.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    This Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to our Prime Minister; David Cameron, who fought so hard to bring peace to Syria - this was the catalyst to the US putting on their reverse gear! (Sic).

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Well intentioned (the road to hell etc.) but12 months down the line might have been a better time too make such a judgement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    There's still room for things to go pear shaped. This prize should be given in ten years not whilst wheels are still in gear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    The Eastern Bloc always made out that the Nobel peace prizes were a shill to grant legitimacy to Western imperialism in the manner of its founder, an arms baron. With awards to NSA, Guantanamo and drone president Obama, to the EU, and a group that carries out UN agreements without touching US stockpiles - no award for Manning, Snowden, Assange - it is hard not to say that the politburo were right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Cold-blood Russian President Putin must be thrilled. And now he will even do more repression in Russia more than ever. Forget about LGBT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    You could of give to the till girl/boy at Asda they also do a good job and get paid Its supose to go to some one who has heled /helping to change lives ???????

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    215.Andrew Kelly
    >>206.CURTAINS 2012 Raped women forced to "marry" their rapist or suffer death for adultery!

    That section is from Deuteronomy 22:28-29, so christianity requires you to stone the woman too! #religion=evil


    Christ prevented the stoning of the "woman taken in adultery".

    Get your facts right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    As usual, purely political decision. Putin should have got it for brokering the deal and preventing a catastrophic war. Whatever your views on Chechnya or anywhere else it would be recognition of an individual's effort to achieve peace or prevent war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    214.macfluff "@155 - Admittedly, I don't know what 141 actually said, however, I actually find your comment offensive, you often come across as very anti-British and "Islam Will Prevail" is pretty inflammatory in itself."

    I'm glad that you can see that "Islam Will Prevail" is a deliberately inflammatory and inappropriate user name. Unfortunately the Mods don't seem to agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    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.

    Funny, from what i remember the french wanted intervention in Syria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    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.

    -Reasonable Point However remember in 2015 it was only Tory and Lib Dem MP's who needed convincing.

    As for UKIP they want to Double the Size of the Defence Budget with 75,000 more soldiers so you can take their statements with a very large pinch of salt


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