THE HAGUE - Praised as one of the best choices in the award's history, the global chemical weapons watchdog charged with overseeing destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile has won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, in a reminder to nations with big stocks, such as the US and Russia, to get rid of their own reserves.
"We now have the opportunity to get rid of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction," said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, Reuters reported on Friday, October 11.
That would be a great event in history if we could achieve that.
Announcing the result on Friday, the Nobel Committee said that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been honored for its "extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons".
The OPCW, a relatively small organization with a modest budget, dispatched its experts after a sarin gas attack killed more than 1,400 people in August.
It is the first time OPCW inspectors have worked in an active war zone. Members of the Hague-based OPCW team came under sniper fire on August 26.
Their deployment, supported by the United Nations, helped avert a US strike against President Bashar al-Assad.
"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," Jagland 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."
The United States and Russia had committed to destroying their arsenals by 2012 but have as yet failed to do so.
"It has always been our position, that quintessentially we work for peace. Not just for peace, we work to strengthen humanitarian norms," Malik Ellahi, political adviser to the OPCW director general, told Reuters.
"Chemical weapons are horrible things and they must never be used and that contributes not just to disarmament, but to strengthening the humanity within us."
Receiving the prestigious award, the OPCW said it would help them through the process of destroying chemical weapons can be hazardous and is costly
I am sure...(the prize) will give encouragement to our staff to demonstrate more what they could do in terms of contributions to global peace and security, OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu told Norway's NRK television.
He said 80 percent of stockpiles under the oversight of the OPCW, excluding Syria, had already been disposed of.
"Still, 20 percent will have to be destroyed," he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, praising the OPCW team, said this week the chemicals would be 'dangerous to handle, dangerous to transport and dangerous to destroy".
"This is one of the best choices made by the Nobel Laureate committee in its history," senior lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Vyacheslav Nikonov, said on state television.
"They didn't want to make a mistake this time because there have been too many."
The Hague-based OPCW was set up in 1997 to implement a 1992 global Chemical Weapons Convention to banish chemical arms and most recently helped destroy stockpiles in Iraq and Libya.
It has about 500 staff and an annual budget under $100 million.
The $1.25 million prize will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.
Friday's award marks a return to the classical disarmament roots of the prize after some recent awards, such as to the European Union last year and US President Barack Obama in 2009.
Those awards led to criticism that the committee was out of line with the spirit of the prize, founded by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.
His 1895 will says the prize should go to one of three causes - "fraternity between nations", the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.