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Nobel Peace Prize goes to OPCW

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.


The OPCW, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, is currently helping to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Zara Zaher has the details.

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The winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Oslo by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Mr Jagland says the Prize recognises the organisation’s extensive work, in implementing the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

“During World War One, chemical weapons were used to a considerable degree. During World War Two, chemical means were employed in Hitler’s mass exterminations. Chemical weapons have subsequently been put to use on numerous occasions by both states and terrorists. In 1992-93 a convention was drawn up prohibiting also the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997. Since then the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention. 189 states have acceded to the convention to date.”

The OPCW has 189 member states, sharing the collective goal of preventing chemical weapons from ever again being used.

It aims to continue trying to persuade the small number of countries with chemical weapons to join the Convention, and give them up.

Thorbjorn Jagland says recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the importance of the OPCW.

Daniel Hyslop is from a not-for-profit research organisation, the Institute for Economics and Peace.

He says the OPCW is a surprising, but worthy, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“Not many people thought that the OPCW would be figured as one of the potential winners. I think the recognition of them is important. I think it’s about protecting the norm that chemical weapons can’t be used in conflict. It’s recognition of the fact that the 300 conflicts that happened in Syria earlier this year was one of the most deadly parts of the war which has claimed over 120,000 people. And I think it’s also recognition of the fact that this organisation has been incredibly successful. In 15 years they’ve managed to essentially remove 78 percent of declared stockpiles of chemical weapons.”

A former United Nations disarmament commissioner, Paul Schute, says it’s good timing to award the Peace Prize to the OPCW.

He told CNN it will help to motivate the organisation as it begins its work to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.

“In relation to Syria, they haven’t got into stride yet, so this is I think to hype them up and give them additional respect in the world for what will be a difficult task. They have done things, outside Syria. They’ve been an important force on the landscape. They’ve monitored the destruction of declared chemical weapons in a number of countries, and they’re still monitoring Russian and American chemical destruction, which has taken much longer than one had hoped. And they’re doing industrial registration and monitoring to keep a watch out. So they are a benign organisation. It’s good that the world has got the OPCW. But it’s real test is now going to come.”

First awarded in 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize was created by the 19th century Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

There were 259 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 – with 50 of these being organizations.

The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, says it was difficult choosing a winner, but in the end it was unanimous.

“We have to look at the facts, and the facts are have the opportunity now to do away with a whole range, a whole category, of chemical weapons. And this has been one of the most prominent issues, I would say, in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize – namely the need for controlling nuclear weapons, and doing away with weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons and chemical weapons. So this is a long line in what we have been doing for years.”

The Nobel Peace award carries prize money of just over a million dollars.