The Nobel Peace Prize is known for generating controversy and criticism, along with respect, when its winner is announced every year. This year, as it was being awarded in Oslo on Tuesday to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), historians tracking Peace Prize recipients said the winner was “one of the most solid” ever.
The lack of criticism surrounding the choice of the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in October may attest to that. “This is among the most secure of the prizes awarded,” historian Øivind Stenersen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s on solid ground in regards to the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will.”
The OPCW won the prize, according to Nobel committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland, for its work towards ridding the world of chemical weapons. The Rotterdam-based organization had been nominated for the Peace Prize several times before but sprang to attention this year for its involvement in efforts to destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons. The Nobel committee, which rarely if ever reveals its discussions in connection with settling on a winner, clearly felt that OPCW’s time had come.
Disarmament among key criteria
Since Nobel’s will clearly mentions disarmament as among the criteria for the prize, Stenersen finds it hard for critics to bash it as they have many of the other Nobel Peace Prizes to winners like US President Barack Obama, the European Union, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger or former PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Since the OPCW remained little-known to many, “I think there were many who wanted to read up on this organization,” Stenersen said.
The first Nobel Peace Prize awarded for weapons control and disarmament went to Sir Norman Angell in 1933, according to the Nobel committee’s own rundown of prizewinners (external link) over the years. Since then, reported NRK, 18 other prizewinners have fallen into the same category, including, most recently, the former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005.
Even though the Norwegian Nobel Committe had been concerned about the use of chemical weapons for years, the war in Syria and its government’s recent use of chemical weapons against its own people made the issue very current and in the public eye. “What’s important with the OPCW is that it’s now become an instrument to help solve the crisis in Syria with regards to its chemical weapons,” Jagland said. He hopes the prize “can also open up for a wider solution to the crisis in Syria.”
Ivar Libæk, another historian specializing the Peace Prize, also claims that this year’s prize is clearly in line with Alfred Nobel’s will. His partner Asle Sveen, who co-wrote the centennial book about the Peace Prize, agreed, saying that “seen in a historic perspective, this prize sparkles. It’s almost impossible to criticize the prize and it’s been met with widespread praise.”
It was being accepted in the Oslo City Hall early Tuesday afternoon by OPCW chief Ahmet Üzümcü, who has said the organisation not only was “deeply honoured” for winning the Nobel Peace Prize but added that it boosted the morale of OPCW staff now working in Syria.
OPCW officials were to be further honoured at the traditional Nobel banquet at the Grand Hotel Tuesday evening, and be the guests of honour at the annual Nobel Concert on Wednesday.