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Nobel Peace Prize goes to OPCW, citing Syrian conflict
October 11, 2013 8:19 AM   Subscribe

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, with the Norwegian Nobel Committee saying, "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 OPCW -- which has a similar role of inspection and advocacy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, one of the recipients of the 2005 Peace Prize -- was founded in 1997 in the Hague to oversee the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 and to advocate for the elimination of chemical weapons around the world.

The first Director-General of the OPCW, Brazilian diplomat José Maurício Bustani, was removed from office in 2002 over his attempts to bring Iraq into the OPCW and allow inspections of Iraq's chemical weapons regime. The Bush Administration felt that any such inspections would be too lenient and dispatched John Bolton to the Hague to call an emergency session calling for Bustani's removal. The removal (48-3, with 43 abstentions) was later ruled to be improper by the International Labour Organization (itself a Peace Prize recipient in 1969), but Bustani was not reinstated.

Malala Yousafzai (previously) was widely seen to be the front-runner for the prize this year, with Ladbrokes putting 5/3 odds on the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for women's education. This is the second year in a row the committee has awarded the Peace Prize to an organization rather than an individual (the 2012 prize went to the European Union), which marks the first time the Peace Prize has been awarded to organizations rather than individuals in consecutive years.
posted by Etrigan (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I'm really happy for Mr. OPCW and all, but Malala was the clear choice here. This smells a lot like picking Qatar to host the World Cup for some reason, but that's just the cynic in me.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well that's better than giving it to Putin.
posted by Jahaza at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dear Nobel Peace Prize Committee:

Pete Seeger ain't getting any younger. Just sayin'.

Love,
Capt. Renault.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:28 AM on October 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


It seems like a worthy organization and all, but why is it that the Peace Prize is always so current? Like all of the other awards are in recognition of a lifetime of work, but the Peace prize is always ripped from the headlines. Is that by design?
posted by Think_Long at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really happy for Mr. OPCW and all, but Malala was the clear choice here.

Something tells me she'll be collecting one later in her life. I wouldn't worry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:33 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The announcement puzzled me a bit because I wasn't aware of the OPCW having any actual agency in the Syria inspections - the UN told them to go and dismantle, so that's what they're doing. Doing the job in the middle of a raging civil war is above and beyond, certainly, but maybe wait until they've actually succeeded in that?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:34 AM on October 11, 2013


Henry Kissinger must be feeling ripped off right now.
posted by philip-random at 8:36 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Better than last year:
NPR's Michele Kelemen tells Morning Edition that in recent years, the trend has been for the Peace Prize to "spotlight and help organizations." Last year, for instance, it went to the European Union for its six decades of contributions toward "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."
Also this year, the $1.2 million in award money will go to an agency that actually needs the funds, at least according to NPR coverage this morning (I can't find a link to that text, or any other source, but I believe the coverage said they went to the UN to ask for additional funding to keep operating recently).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:36 AM on October 11, 2013


Malala seemed more sensible (or, others)_ . Like Obama, this is a bad choice. We're how many days from the last use of chemical weapons in Syria? Not that they aren't doing a good thing, but maybe we should see some results first?
posted by Mezentian at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2013


Henry Kissinger must be feeling ripped off right now.

I predict someone will type "Good" very soon.
posted by Mezentian at 8:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Nobel Peace Prize seems to generate more conflict than the winners reduce.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems like a worthy organization and all, but why is it that the Peace Prize is always so current? Like all of the other awards are in recognition of a lifetime of work, but the Peace prize is always ripped from the headlines. Is that by design?

The scientific awards are more for a particular thing than a lifetime of work, but they tend to be delayed from the actual discovery to make sure that it's a real one. Originally, they were much more ripped from the headlines as well, but some of the early medicine/physiology awards were for discoveries that have since been thoroughly disproven, so the committees are less willing to enshrine a possible flash in the pan.

The Peace Prize is specifically aspirational as well as retrospective -- the point of it is as much to say, "Hey, this thing that this person or group was fighting against is still kinda fucked up, so let's try to unfuck it, mkay?" as it is to say "Hey, this person or group made the world better."
posted by Etrigan at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the Twitter account for the Malala Fund:
“Congratulations @OPCW on winning the #Nobelpeaceprize and your wonderful work for humanity. Honoured to have been nominated @Nobelprize_org”
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It should be noted that the Peace Prize is typically awarded "to those who have 'done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.' "

While I am disappointed that Malala Yousafzai didn't receive it, she probably didn't meet the above criteria. But neither did a lot of former laureates.

What bothers me as well is that while the work that the OPCW is good, I'm pretty sure that its members and workers are paid for their efforts. Personally, I think that people or organizations who get paid for work that could be nominated should be disqualified.

But it probably makes most sense to change the criteria - extend the definition of "Peace" to include peace between people, societies and cultures, and peace within oneself.

At first I was going to say that we should get rid of the award altogether - that we're 6 billion plus people, with a ton of them doing equally amazing things that don't get a wink of acknowledgement. But just like the Olympics, we should keep it, as an idealistic target that could inspire children and adults alike to make a difference in the world.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:40 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no objection to the Peace Prize being used as encouragement and support, except when it's given to murderous politicians a la the majority of politicians who have received the award.
posted by MetalFingerz at 8:42 AM on October 11, 2013


From the Twitter account for the Malala Fun(d):

Given the Sad Nature of Modern Times I suspect One Direction will be presenting her with a trophy for awesome at the next MTV Music Awards. Which she will not attend.

Whether that is because she is smart OR they are too cheap to fly her I am not sure.
posted by Mezentian at 8:42 AM on October 11, 2013


Lebanon's Daily Star:
BEIRUT: A Syrian official says awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the global chemical watchdog underscores "the credibility" of the Damascus government and its intentions to destroy its toxic arsenal.

Fayez Sayegh, a lawmaker and member of President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath party, says the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should work to rid the entire Middle East - including Israel - of weapons of mass destruction.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2013


The Nobel Peace Prize has always been a political prize. And every fucking year, people flip out when they fail to understand this and expect the prize to be like the other Nobel prizes.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, this is entirely the Nobel Committee trying to tip the world against Assad + Putin in the Syrian conflict. Nothing more, nothing less.

Always important to see the Peace Prize as less of an achievement and more of a blessing (or support, or endorsement, if you will); it's always about the Committee trying to bring attention to groups it thinks will work towards peace and need the most help, monetarily or in terms of positive coverage.
posted by the cydonian at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2013


While I agree with EC that Malala no doubt has the Nobel Peace Prize coming to her in the future, this still feels like a terrible farce to me. And a slap in the face of young women Doing Good.
posted by Kitteh at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2013


Yes, this is entirely the Nobel Committee trying to tip the world against Assad + Putin in the Syrian conflict. Nothing more, nothing less.

Huh? This seems to thread the needle actually, backing peace without backing Assad and Putin.
posted by Jahaza at 8:59 AM on October 11, 2013


A classmate works at OPCW now. Very excited for him and proud of the work his organization does!

Great news.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on October 11, 2013


Kissinger should never have been allowed to talk about his Nobel Peace Prize without his co-recipient (the North Vietnamese negotiator dude, whatsisname) in the same room. Only fair.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:36 AM on October 11, 2013


people flip out

If this is us flipping out, you should see us when we lose our shit.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2013


Malala was the clear choice here

Good for her she didn't receive it, to be saddled with that monkey for the rest of her life, while still a teenager, would have been difficult to exceed. Careful what you wish for.

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, he started the award (arguably) to appease his own sense of responsibility for how his invention was misused (French dynamiters in the 1890s were the first modern terrorists see The Dynamite Club). Applying the award to chemical weapons is one of the most poignant in the history of the award (unfortunate it needed to be done).
posted by stbalbach at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2013


Foreign Policy Wonk / NFL receiver Daunte Stallworth: "Chemical weapons in #Syria haven't been extricated yet. I'm glad #OPCW is handling that, but Malala should have won the Nobel Peace Prize."
posted by BobbyVan at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Malala was the clear choice here


Only if you think of it as a good person prize rather than a peace prize. She was a victim of war and an excellent education advocate but she isn't really a peace activist and hasn't really done anything to prevent war (at least yet).
posted by srboisvert at 11:15 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would much rather have seen Malala get it. I don't want to slander or slight the OPCW in any way, and I'm seriously glad they do what they do. The OPCW people on the ground in Syria are at risk of being shot, being kidnapped, being executed... while they're in country. Malala, on the other hand, is under an ongoing and entirely credible death threat, and will be for the rest of her life.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:29 AM on October 11, 2013


The "I think Malala should get it" folks really ought to unpack the various subtexts and hidden messages a Nobel Peace Prize for Malala would be sending to Pakistan, and how she could be used as a puppet or symbol for the West (we are always right, aren't we?) in our fight against Muslim countries.

I think she's a hero, but I don't think she deserves to be used by the rest of us in our determination to feel superior and sanctimonious. Support her work in other ways, but don't make her an icon and appropriate her identity.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:49 AM on October 11, 2013


Wow, there it is. Malala is a "hero" but let's not make too big of a fuss over her because

1) it might make us in the West feel good about supporting women's empowerment,
2) it might embarrass some people in a Muslim country who ought not be embarrassed, and
3) it might upset the preferred narrative that the West is at war with Islam.

Let's "unpack the various subtexts" of that third point. Isn't supporting peaceful, liberal reformers within Muslim countries an honorable way not to be in a "fight" against them? Is it so important that the West not "feel superior and sanctimonious" that it mustn't do anything that might in any way justify such pride? The implications of this line of thinking are perverse indeed...
posted by BobbyVan at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]




she isn't really a peace activist

Except the Taliban appear to be taking her quite seriously, and many other Pakistanis as well. Please name any other single woman(!) under the age of 20 that influences the behavior of the Taliban outside of bombing the shit out of them. She is 16(!), has faced almost certain death, and appears to be willing to do it again.

western stooge

Because the Taliban had a glowing and positive PR image before she came along.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:31 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite little fact is that Malala is a socialist. (Trotskyist, to be sure, but still... a socialist nonetheless).
Message from Malala

Comrade Javed Iqbal, a Pakistani comrade from Birmingham in the UK, intervened to read out a message that had been sent from Malala Yousafzai, the young sympathiser of the Marxist Tendency famous for her part in the struggle for the right to education for girls in Pakistan. She had taken part in the national Marxist Summer School in July of last year in Swat. She was tragically shot in the head in a barbaric attack by fundamentalists, and made headlines worldwide. She is now thankfully recovering in the UK.

The message she sent reads as follows:

“First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

“I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”

This was also one of the several moving moments of the congress. A close friend of Malala was also present at the congress, who was on the bus when the girls were attacked. She spoke, making some comments and reading out a poem. This young female comrade is an example of the calibre of comrades that belong to the IMT in Pakistan. In fact, throughout the congress comrades intervened from areas, where gang fighting, killings, bomb blasts, drone attacks, and generalised warfare is taking place. Listening to them makes one’s blood boil, as it graphically brings home the immense contradictions and injustices in this class ridden society.
posted by symbioid at 6:37 PM on October 11, 2013


#thisisnotthewesternstoogeyouarelookingfor
posted by symbioid at 6:38 PM on October 11, 2013


Except the Taliban appear to be taking her quite seriously, and many other Pakistanis as well. Please name any other single woman(!) under the age of 20 that influences the behavior of the Taliban outside of bombing the shit out of them. She is 16(!), has faced almost certain death, and appears to be willing to do it again.

I think the point is that she is an activist for education and gender equality. Inasmuch as she's trying to aid an oppressed class through said activism, I'm not sure that matters.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:44 PM on October 11, 2013


> Trotskyist, to be sure, but still...

Is that still Considered Harmful?
posted by jfuller at 5:28 AM on October 12, 2013




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