13.10.2013 Efforts to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction undoubtedly fall within the scope of the will of Alfred Nobel, whose commitment to disarmament is well established. Nobel was himself a chemist and before embracing the peace cause, held the view that his dynamite would become so powerful that states would no longer resort to war. He was of course quite wrong in that regard, and for that reason alone we have no doubt that the later Nobel would have approved of an international machinery to eliminate chemical weapons.
The award can be seen as honouring one positive outcome of the tragic Syrian war and the recent crisis in which military strikes were threatened by the USA. We hope it is a sign that the international community has finally learned the painful lesson of Iraq: better inspections under the auspices of a competent UN body than rough justice at the hands of a self-appointed sheriff.
The OPCW has conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 countries. According to its statistics, 57,740 tonnes, or 81.1%, of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical agents have been verifiably destroyed. These figures remind us that peace is not just a matter of fine words and good intentions, but is indeed the fruit of enormous hard work. And Syria reminds us that the work is not completed. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is correct to point out that some states have not yet ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and that some – notably the largest possessors – have not yet fully carried out their obligations. This Prize will add to the pressure for them to do so.
It should be borne in mind however that the OPCW is the servant of the member states. The key issue in ridding the world of weapons and militarism is political will. To generate that, there is little alternative to the task of educating for peace and of mobilizing civil society worldwide, in order to put pressure on the decision-makers.
This argument applies even more so to biological weapons, for which there is a prohibition convention but no verification provisions; and to nuclear weapons, for which the struggle to achieve a full prohibition by treaty still remains to be achieved. Meanwhile the world continues to ‘walk in the valley of the shadow of death’, as Psalm 23 puts it.
Finally, IPB welcomes this award as a sign that perhaps the Committee is now taking more seriously the critique that in past years it has often not respected Nobel’s intentions. Future awards will indicate whether this is in fact the case.
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The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910), and over the years 13 of our officers have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 300 member organisations in 70 countries, and individual members, form a global network bringing together expertise and campaigning experience in a common cause. IPB has UN Consultative Status since 1977 and is the Secretariat for the NGO Committee for Disarmament (Geneva). Our main programme centres on Disarmament for Sustainable Development, of which the Global Day of Action on Military Spending is a key part.
- Global Day of Action on Military Spending – http://gdams.org
- Making Peace photo-exhibitioncurated by Ashley Woods of REAL Exhibition Development (already displayed during our Nobel-centenary year in Geneva, 2010) : http://www.makingpeace.org – Now on show in Utrecht 5 May – 21 September, and Stockholm (Nobel Museum) 15 June – 17 November, 2013. Others being planned.
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