The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – and not, as had been widely believed, Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October for advocating education for girls – won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to eliminate the scourge that has haunted generations from World War I to the battlefields of Syria.
The OPCW had not figured prominently in this year’s Nobel speculation. As for Yousafzai, “She is an outstanding woman and I think she has a bright future and she will probably be a nominee next year or the year after that,” Jagland, the committee chairman, told the Associated Press.
He declined to comment on whether she had been considered for this year’s award.
The OPCW was formed in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons. Based in The Hague, Netherlands, it has largely worked out of the limelight until this year, when the United Nations called on its expertise to help investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
“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. “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.”
Friday’s award comes just days before Syria officially joins as the group’s 190th member state. OPCW inspectors are already on a highly risky U.N.-backed disarmament mission based in Damascus to verify and destroy Syrian President Bashar Assad’s arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents amid a raging civil war. The OPCW’s director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said the award was a recognition of the group’s work for global peace in the past 16 years.
“But [it’s] also an acknowledgement of our staff’s efforts, who are now deployed in Syria, who have been, in fact, making a very brave effort there to fulfill their mandate,” he told the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
There was no immediate report on what the organization would do with the $1.2 million prize.