Friday, April 18, 2014

OPCW wins 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

The organization responsible for fighting chemical weapons received international recognition for its efforts

Since the beginning of the Nobel Peace Prize, it has been the source of much controversy. Given the political nature of this award, much debate has encircled the respected recipients of this prestigious prize.

Peace — A chemical watchdog receives accolades for its achievements. Photo credit: Google Images

Peace — A chemical watchdog receives accolades for its achievements. Photo credit: Google Images

This time around, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been on the receiving end of this highly regarded reward in recognition of its impressive work ridding the world of chemical weapons.

According to the official OPCW website, from the time of its founding in 1997, the OPCW has achieved a remarkable feat of signing 190 countries to its cause, making sure that chemical weapons do not scourge humankind.

I completely agree with the committee’s choice to reward this quiet and hardworking organization.

Yet something happened Wednesday, Aug. 21 that shook the world with a startling truth: Some countries do not believe in contracts.

Syria’s use of chemical weapons on the civilians of Ghouta made it perfectly clear that even with contracts and conventions, those who decide to do evil will do evil.

As I watched the news unfold in front of me, I was reminded that there are forces in this world that stop at nothing to inflict harm and pain upon those who are helpless. I, along with the world, recognized that, although the olive branch can be powerful, those who impose their will upon others will pay no heed to it.

According to Associate Dean Ronald Miller of the Helms School of Government, the OPCW’s recognition with the Nobel Peace Prize may be premature.

“While I respect the role of the OPCW in helping to enforce the provisions of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, I think the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to their organization was driven by current events rather than a notable body of work,” Miller said. “The public perception is that they won the award due to their nascent and ongoing activities in Syria, and if that’s not the case, it’s valid to ask the Nobel committee what the OPCW has done this year, other than the work they’ve been doing quietly and without much fanfare for the past 16 years, that warrants such recognition.”

No doubt the OPCW has been at the forefront of enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997. Even as Syria reluctantly agrees to the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons, the OPCW workers are dismantling hazardous weapons in the midst of a war zone.

Nonetheless, we must not be too quick in rewarding the OPCW’s efforts. The job has not yet been completed, and the Syrian civil war’s tempo is changing day by day.

“Regarding their monitoring activities in Syria, their work is just beginning and is incomplete, and their success is uncertain due to the security situation presented by the combatants in the Syrian civil war,” Miller said. “If this is the basis for their Nobel Peace Prize award, I’d say it’s premature since their ultimate success is still to be determined.”

According to Julian Borger of The Guardian, it seems the bestowment of this prize was a nod toward the OPCW’s current mission.

“The OPCW’s Syrian mission has just begun, and the Nobel committee’s decision was meant in part as a gesture of support for what will be the most dangerous mission in the agency’s history – dismantling some of the world’s most lethal, non-nuclear weapons, while wearing full body armor and trying to avoid being shot in the middle of a war zone,” Borger said.

Though the OPCW is right in being recognized for its accomplishments, I hope we are not too hasty in celebrating a mission not yet accomplished. I will raise a toast to their endeavors when the task at hand has been completed.

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