Push superpowers

It may have been the mandate that the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) got from the international community to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons in civil-war-ravaged Syria that prompted the Nobel committee to award this year’s peace prize to it.

The OPCW is a low-profile UN body based in the Hague and it has not attracted much attention in the last 16 years of its existence. Names like that of Pakistani school girl Malala Yusufsai, who has campaigned for education, had been mentioned as probable winners of the prize. There has been some criticism of the decision to award the prize to the OPCW on the ground that the organisation is only doing what it is expected to do. But it is better than giving the award to one who did not do what was  expected to be done, like the European Union which got it last year, or someone who was only expected to do something in future, like Obama the year before that, or someone who has worked against peace, like Henry Kissinger.

The Nobel committee has said that the award was conferred on the OPCD because of its extensive  work to eliminate chemical weapons. It is the custodian of the international convention on chemical weapons which was signed in 1993. As the watchdog it has conducted inspections in 86 countries and is considered to have eliminated 80 per cent the chemical weapons once stored on the world. The main challenge is elimination of the weapons in the hands of two superpowers, the US and Russia, both of whom have missed the deadline of April 2012 and asked for more time. The Nobel committee has noted this with regret in its citation. The international community will have to ensure that the OPCD is allowed to do its job in the case of the two countries.

The immediate task for the OPCD is to undertake without fear or favour the work assigned to it in Syria. Its success in that country is important for peace in West Asia. Syria has agreed to sign the chemical weapons treaty but four other countries are yet to do so. Chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction which are as dangerous as nuclear weapons. Their elimination is an important requirement to ensure the health and lives of people and peace in the world.

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