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Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW wins Nobel Peace Prize


Teenage Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege had been among the favourites for this year’s prize

OPCW_logoOslo: The OPCW, an obscure body recently thrust into the spotlight by the Syria crisis, today won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to rid the world of chemical weapons. It is the 12 the such organization in the world, conferred with the esteemed prize.

The UN-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was honoured “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons,” Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said in announcing the surprise choice.

“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 Norwegian jury said in its statement.

The chemical watchdog was not considered among the frontrunners for the prize until the eve of the announcement. Teenage Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege had been among the favourites for this year’s prize.

This marks the second consecutive year an organization has won the prestigious award. Last year’s award went to the European Union. The Hague-based OPCW was founded in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention signed on January 13, 1993.

Until recently operating in relative obscurity, the OPCW has suddenly been catapulted into the global spotlight because of its work supervising the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal and facilities.

This has to be completed by mid-2014 under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution. A team of around 30 OPCW arms experts and UN logistics and security personnel are on the ground in Syria and have started to destroy weapons production facilities.

The OPCW said on Tuesday it was sending a second wave of inspectors to bolster the disarmament mission in the war-ravaged nation. The Rights Livelihood Foundation, a Swedish NGO that recently awarded a prize to chemical weapons expert Paul Walker, hailed the Nobel jury’s decision as “a great choice”.

“It shows that multilateral processes and the technical solutions to rid the world of chemical weapons do exist,” said Ole von Uexkull, the foundation’s director, in a statement.

Reacting over the prestigious prize win, OPCW said that the Nobel Peace Prize win would convince countries to ban chemical weapons.

“I know that the Nobel Peace Prize will help us in fact to promote the universality of the (Chemical Weapons) Convention in the next months. Hopefully we will be able to achieve it soon,” OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, in the organisation’s first reaction to the surprise announcement.

Since the OPCW came into existence 16 years ago, it has destroyed 57,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, the majority of them leftovers from the Cold War held by the United States and Russia.


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