The decision to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has mostly been praised by the Swiss press. But some writers have questioned the role of the prize committee itself and what the award means for chemical weapons disarmament.
On Friday it was announced that the OPCW had been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts” to rid the world of chemical weapons arsenals.
The Norwegian Nobel committee said that recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons had been put to use, had underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. OPCW inspectors are currently on a risky United Nations-backed disarmament mission based in Damascus to verify and destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents amid a raging civil war.
For the Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), the honour for the OPCW “came at exactly the right time, as the The Hague-based organisation needs as much support as it can get in the next months in order to carry out its difficult mission in Syria”.
But it pointed out that the award had highlighted the fact that the goal of complete chemical weapon disarmament by 2012 had not been achieved. Big powers Russia and the United States were singled out, but also small arsenals in Libya and Iraq which need to be dismantled to keep them out of terrorists’ hands.
More public pressure was needed to ensure the last six countries which haven’t signed up to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the OPCW enforces, join it, added the paper.
Le Temps, of Geneva, said that the prize was “to ensure that the emphasis remains on Syria” and said that the OPCW’s current mission, accorded to it by the United Nations Security Council on September 27 in a resolution, was “the most ambitious and the most dangerous”.
This mission resolution marked, perhaps not the historic breakthrough feted by some, but at least a move towards a possible UN resolution on the Syrian conflict itself, the writer said. “But it still needs the OPCW mission to succeed, for hope to become something more concrete,” she continued, adding that this was what Nobel committee had in mind when it awarded the prize.
The Tages-Anzeiger newspaper had praise for the committee for a “whole series of reasonable choices”, including the other Nobel prizes. Juries, said the commentator, often go for shock choices, with unknowns or people that would not necessarily be the best suited winning.
He also turned his attention to another Nobel nominee, the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala, an advocate for girls' education and the target of a Taliban assassination attempt. It was better to have chosen the OPCW, he said, because although Malala was undoubtedly courageous, the award would not have helped her or her return to her homeland.
But the tabloid Blick was less happy that Malala had not received anything. The committee had managed to surprise everyone with its choice of the OPCW and its work was important, it said. But why did the prize almost always go to a government body, such as the European Union in 2012 or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007? This was praise for doing their duty, the paper said.
The writer feared that this year’s prize was also not sustainable. “Because the chemical weapons inspectors don’t need support and money from Oslo, but from the world’s powers,” he concluded.
swissinfo.ch and agencies