x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Group dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons wins Nobel Peace Prize

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons beats out favourites Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban, and the Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege.

An OPCW inspector works in Syria this week. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the this year's Nobel Peace Prize. EPA
An OPCW inspector works in Syria this week. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the this year's Nobel Peace Prize. EPA

OSLO // This year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose members are working to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war.

The Hague-based OPCW was founded in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention signed on January 13, 1993.

It was a surprising choice and marked the second year in a row that the peace prize is awarded to an organisation. Last year, the European Union got the honour.

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.

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, with footage of their work broadcast on Syrian television.

The OPCW said on Tuesday it was sending a second wave of inspectors to bolster the disarmament mission in the war-ravaged nation.

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.

“It’s the slow steady laying down of bricks over the weeks, months and years, people sitting in control rooms watching this stuff going into the chutes,” the OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said recently.

He described the OPCW’s work as characterised by “persistence” and “without any fanfare”.

“It’s the slow grinding work that we hope over time will be more appreciated.”

The OPCW has 189 members representing more than 98 per cent of the world population, with Syria to become a full-fledged member of the convention on Monday.

Israel and Myanmar signed in 1993 but have not yet ratified, according to the OPCW website.

Four states – North Korea, Angola, Egypt, South Sudan – have neither signed nor ratified the convention.

* Agence France-Presse