The Netherlands-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was on Friday awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Formed in April 1997, the OPCW has over 189 member countries and 500 staff. Although it is not a UN agency, the OPCW has worked closely with the UN and western governments in a recent program to identify and destroy the Syrian government’s stock of chemical weapons after an agreement brokered by Russian premier Vladimir Putin convinced Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to hand over his chemical weapons stockpile to international inspectors.
The OPCW beat high-profile nominees including 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a promoter of women’s rights and education who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan; US intelligence leakers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning; and Denis Mukwege, a doctor from DR Congo.
Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, Phil Robertson, reacted to news of the award by calling on Burma to follow al-Assad in ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Chemical weapons pose a grievous rights threat to mankind, so why is Myanmar [Burma] one of the hold-out nations in the world that has still not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)?” he said. “The award of the Nobel Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons once again highlights how far Myanmar is from fulfilling international norms, despite the government’s rhetoric of reform. President Thein Sein should immediately send the CWC to the parliament for ratification, and lawmakers should act quickly to bring Myanmar into line with international action against these abhorrent weapons.”