The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based at the Hague in the Netherlands, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Official announcements were made one hour after the result was leaked by Norweigan public broadcaster NRK.
The OPCW was widely expected to win the prize after its global work was drawn attention to by its involvement in Syria. Over 1,400 people died following a sarin gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus this August, prompting involvement by the organisation, who is charged with ridding the country of its sizeable stockpile. The body has been overseeing the international elimination of chemical weapons since 1997, when it was created in order to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons convention. Experts arrived in Syria in September with a view to completing their work by mid-2014.
A statement accompanying announcement of the OPCW as Nobel Peace Prize winner added: “Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.” The $1.25 million prize is expected to widen the OPCW's remit and put further pressure on countries, like Russia and the USA, who did not observe an April 2012 deadline to destroy their chemical weapons.
Out of the 259 nominees for this year’s prize, the OPCW was a strong favourite alongside Pakistani schoolgirl and gender rights activist Malala Yousafzai and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, known for his pioneering work with rape victims since 1999. It had been previously suggested that awarding Yousafzai the prize could have put her in more danger.
Past winners have included Barack Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, the 14th Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa. Last year, the European Union won the prize "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".