Chemical watchdog wins Peace Prize
- Published: 11 Oct 2013 at 17.45
- Online news:
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize after August's deadly gas attack in Syria sparked international condemnation.
The intergovernmental watchdog, which has 189 member states, has implemented the Chemical Weapons Convention since it came into force in 1997, and bans their development, production, stockpiling and use.
"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," the Nobel Committee said in Oslo, where it awarded the 8-million-krona ($1.2 million) prize.
"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 OPCW, based in The Hague, is working in Syria to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons and make all production facilities and equipment in the war-torn country unusable by Nov 1.
The group moved in after the UN Security Council resolved last month to rid the country of such weapons after a gas attack near Damascus that the nited States said killed more than 1,400 people, including children.
Sarin, the gas used in that attack, works by lowering the human body’s ability to regulate nerve impulses, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Victims suffer convulsions, lose control of their body and become comatose if exposed to a large enough amount.
The Nobel Prize, along with literature, physics, medicine and chemistry honors, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. Past peace laureates include the European Union, which won last year, as well as US President Barack Obama, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa.
Inspectors from the OPCW verified on Oct 6 that Syria had destroyed missile warheads and production equipment, according to an official from the joint OPCW-UN mission who asked not to be identified.
"These developments present a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process," Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW director general, said in a statement this week.
The history of preventing the use of chemical weapons goes back to 1675, when France and Germany signed an agreement to end the use of poison bullets, according to the OPCW.
The weapons became less strategically important for the US and Soviet Union in the 1970s as the two nations developed their nuclear arsenals, according to Ralf Trapp, a disarmament consultant and former scientific adviser at the OPCW.
That led to the inauguration of the convention in 1993, under which most countries committed to destroying their stockpiles. It later came into force in 1997.
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took on the Taliban, and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege had been among the other top contenders for this year’s peace prize.