A worthy choice


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize announced yesterday, by virtue of the steady and effective achievement of the mandate it has to eliminate them and the speedy response it made to last month’s agreement by Syria to destroy its stockpile. This is a fine example of how to accomplish essential tasks at global level when the necessary will is there.

Established under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which came into effect in 1997 to eliminate them, the OPCW is an inter-governmental organisation which currently has 190 member-states. There are six non-members - Angola, Egypt, South Sudan, North Korea, Burma and Israel - the last two of which have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. Syria agreed to join as part of its decision to relinquish chemical weapons. So this brings the OPCW tantalisingly close to achieving universality, an indispensable condition of its success. The Nobel Prize will hopefully help galvanise the international community to reach that point.

The eight states which have so far declared stockpiles of chemical weapons are getting rid of them according to various schedules of destruction. Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia, the United States and now Syria are joined in this endeavour. The OPCW now declares that 81.1 per cent of declared weapons have been destroyed and aims to complete that process by its next review conference in 2018. The main antagonists of the Cold War, the US and Russia, are most behind their deadlines. Overall, it is an extraordinary record achieved by consensus and in association with the United Nations, of which it is not formally an agency.

Other weapons of mass destruction - biological, radiological and nuclear - remain even if chemical ones are eliminated, and are subject to other regimes of control. This award should help concentrate international attention on these too and encourage them to emulate the good record established on chemical weapons.