The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, won the Nobel Peace Prize in a surprise announcement on Friday.
It was honoured “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”, Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said.
“Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons,” the jury said in its statement.
The Hague-based OPCW was founded in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention signed on January 13, 1993.
Until recently operating in relative obscurity, the OPCW has suddenly been catapulted into the global spotlight because of its work supervising the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal and facilities.
This has to be completed by mid-2014 under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution.
A team of around 30 OPCW arms experts and UN logistics and security personnel are on the ground in Syria and have started to destroy weapons production facilities, with footage of their work broadcast on Syrian television.
The OPCW said on Tuesday it was sending a second wave of inspectors to bolster the disarmament mission in the war-ravaged nation.
Since the OPCW came into existence 16 years ago, it has destroyed 57,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, the majority leftovers from the Cold War now held by the United States and Russia.
This is the second year in a row that the Peace Prize has been awarded to an organisation, following last year when the European Union took home the honour.
The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a prize sum of eight million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million, 910,000 euros).