Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize


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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    251.Two out of 10
    8 Minutes ago
    This is another terrible decision. Whilst deserving in their efforts, OPCW has only just begun work a matter of weeks ago


    ZERO out of ten.

    OPCW has been working since arond the time that Malala was born!

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Is the Nobel Prize yet another precious institution which is becoming a bit dumbed down / flavour of the month ?

    Awarding prizes to Obama (who had been in the job only a few months) and to OPCW (brave people but whose work has barely started) smacks more of who is currently in the limelight rather than actual achievement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Irene Scott's comment that Malala should have received the Noble Peace Prize is another one of those DO GOODERS who have nothing to say and should not be heard (read in this case). Wonderful that the OPCW is receiving the Noble Peace Prize whose experts are making our planet a safer place for all peoples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    What a swizz!!! Malala should have got it. The OPCW guys are just doing their job. Sack the people who failed to give Malala the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm disgusted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Putin should have been the winner. He brokered this deal and stood behind it firmly, preventing yet another attack by ever-ready US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    To people saying Putin should have got it, considering the persecution of the LGBT community in general and in peaceful protests, and the female music group's imprisonment (who can't be named as I'm sure it'd get moderated haha), I don't think he was ever going to win, and wouldn't deserve to in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    These people were "doing a job" what is this about, just back slapping me thinks........... They will be giving one to people for losing elections next! Neil what's his face might get something he deserves then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    @212. Paul, I didn't miss the point. Alfred Nobel established the Nobel Prizes and system posthumously as part of his will and the Swedes & Norwegians who were charged with implementing his wishes set up the adjudication & rules. It was never meant to be judged internationally as they feared 'big power' intervention. As far as countries go Norway & Sweden weren't bad choices and remain so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    The problem with the Nobel Peace Prize was giving it to Obama & the EU. Whereas notable winners like Liu Xiaobo, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suui Kyi and Mother Teresa deserved it.
    Simply giving it to the EU because there hasn't been another major European war since its formation was idiotic, along with Obama for the colour of his skin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    This is another terrible decision. Whilst deserving in their efforts, OPCW has only just begun work a matter of weeks ago and has produced no substantial deliverables as yet. There are many other far more deserving people and organisations having been at work for years and already produced results. What happens if OPCW fails in its efforts? Is the award returned? I think not. A sad error.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    242.Bill Walker
    4 Minutes ago
    the Saudi guards usually never bothered to check, as long as they were slipped a bottle of scotch and a couple of porn mags every month.


    What "porn" mags? The Church Times and The Methodist Recorder?

    Would the causeway from Saudia Arabia to Bahrain have been built if alcohol was not on sale in Bahrain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Not gonna lie, but I'm extremely angered by this decision. Surely someone who has campaigned for the right for girls to have an education, and fighting for world peace is more deserving of this award? Why is de-weaponising suddenly more important than human rights causes? This is outrageous!

  • Comment number 248.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    This year's prize should have gone to Putin for standing up against the planned US invasion of Syria. A much more solid performance than Obama's award at a time when increasing US military spending.

    As for Malala being deserving of an award for world peace, that is all media spin. You could equally give it to any other charity organiser for standing up for their own special interest or charity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    This peace prize became totally devalued when it was awarded to President Obama, not because he is a Democrat President of the USA, but because it was awarded on the basis of his potential, not his actual achievements, and now we see he has been rather a lame duck in terms of advancing peace. The Peace Prize Committee needs to do more then this to bring back its integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Why are they awarding to a bunch of people who gets paid to do their jobs???

    -City Bankers get paid 100's of times as much for doing their jobs so do Professional Footballers,neither stand a great deal of chance of being killed while carrying it out.

    Unlike Bankers who are pretty good at wrecking lives the actions of OPCW aim to save them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    "Syria rebels executed civilians, says Human Rights Watch"

    OH really!!! What a surprise!!!

    According to the BBC they were the lovely freedom fighters who could do NO wrong. Imagine if it was the other way around, it'll be all over their site ... Hypocrites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    What is the purpose of the award: i) to commemorate an achievement, or ii) to inspire others to do great things?

    If i), then good choice this year. If ii), not so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    "Islam has no respect for other religions"
    As one who has had colleagues serve in Saudi, among the evil things banned were Christmas trees and cards. Still, the Saudi guards usually never bothered to check, as long as they were slipped a bottle of scotch and a couple of porn mags every month.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    How can an organisation who are 2 weeks into a 2 year project already be worthy of receiving the Nobel Peace award?
    What if they fail?


Page 15 of 27


More Europe stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.