Chemical Weapon Watchdog Group Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
October 12, 2013

Chemical Weapon Watchdog Group Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the group overseeing the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal.

According to BBC News, the Nobel Committee said the honor was presented to the organization because of its “extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons.”

OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu called the award a "great honor" and said it would spur on his team’s efforts, while also noting the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “tragic reminder” their work was far from over.

The OPCW was initially created to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, but it wasn’t until they traveled to Syria ten days prior to the announcement the group had ever entered an active combat zone. As the winner of the coveted honor, they will be presented with a gold medal and an eight million Swedish kronor ($1.25 million) award.

“While world leaders and former Nobel laureates praised the group's selection, some in Syria lamented that the prize would do nothing to end the bloodshed, most of which is being inflicted with conventional weapons,” Associated Press (AP) reporters Karl Ritter and Bassem Mroue said.

“After focusing on such themes as human rights and European unity in recent years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee this time returned to the core purpose of the 112-year-old Nobel Peace Prize – disarming the world,” they added.

However, according to what committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told CNN’s Ben Brumfield and Laura Smith-Spark, OPCW did not win the Nobel Prize solely for their efforts in Syria.

Rather, Jagland said, it was presented with the honor as a result of “its long-standing efforts to eliminate chemical weapons and that we are now about to reach the goal and do away with a whole category of weapons of mass destruction. That would be a great event in history, if we can achieve that.”

The decision was not without controversy, however, as many had predicted the peace prize would be presented to 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai – the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head and continues to receive death threats from the Taliban for advocating education for young women.

Jagland told the AP Yousafzai was an “outstanding woman” with a “bright future,” and that she would probably be a nominee in the near future. However, Ritter and Mroue said, “The peace prize committee has a tradition of not just honoring past achievements, but encouraging causes or movements that are still unfolding.”

Hundreds of Syrian residents were killed as a result of an August 21 chemical weapons attack and that incident nearly resulted in a military strike from the US. In order to avoid that conflict, President Bashar Assad acknowledged his chemical weapons arsenal and quickly agreed to allow OPCW inspectors into his country, the AP said.

On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the organization on their achievement, stating, “Since that horrific attack, the OPCW has taken extraordinary steps and worked with unprecedented speed to address this blatant violation of international norms that shocked the conscience of people around the world.”