The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the OPCW works to rid the world of chemical weapons, and is currently overseeing the destruction of Syria’s arsenal. The organization’s director-general, Ahmet Üzümcü, said today: “The decision by the Nobel Committee to bestow this year’s Peace Prize on the OPCW is a great honour for our organization. Events in Syria have been a tragic reminder that there remains much work yet to be done.”
The OPCW has a low public profile, but both it and the convention that created it, the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, are often cited as a success story in international relations.
Earlier this year, Leiv Sydnes, at the University of Bergen in Norway, wrote in Nature: “Analyses from the past five years will show that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has done an outstanding job. About 78% of the declared chemical-weapons stockpile has been destroyed, and this is expected to rise to 99% by 2017.”
But Sydnes warned that the convention that gave rise to the OPCW is in need of updating, not least with a code of conduct for chemists to force them to “reflect on the gravity of their work, increasing their levels of responsibility and awareness”.
Today though is one of celebration for an organization that, as Üzümcü says, “has shouldered an onerous but noble task — to act as the guardian of the global ban on chemical weapons”.