The Nobel Peace Prize committee is known not only for picking the prize winners, but for creating surprise and shock. This year, the committee picked the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the coveted award. Those who heard the Nobel committee official announce the award with grim seriousness must have experienced a sense of déjà vu and a feeling of letdown.
What is the point of bestowing such a coveted prize on an international agency for a work it is supposed to be doing, is doing well, and will anyway do well with or without the award? There is no doubt that the OPCW is doing an immensely valuable and successful job and will continue to do so, irrespective of the prize, but the prize could have been used to honour individual contributions. The Nobel committe chairman, Thorbjørn Jagland, said the prize recognises the organisation’s wider efforts, and is meant to encourage other nations to sign up to the chemical weapons prohibition treaty. There is no doubt that the prize will help bring into international spotlight the great work of OPCW, but it will be naïve to believe that those haven’t signed up to the chemical weapons prohibition treaty will feel forced or obliged to fall in line after the announcement of the prize.
The OPCW, which has 500 staff, is the 25th institution among the 94 winners in the prize’s history, and the second in succession after the controversial choice of the EU in 2012. When news of its win leaked there was skepticism. Some experts in the Middle East warned it was premature to honour the OPCW just a matter of weeks into its mission to assess and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
This year’s choice is as drab and lackluster as last year’s. In 2012, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting peace, democracy and human rights over six decades, a morale boost for the bloc as it struggled to resolve its economic crisis. It’s true that the EU has transformed most of Europe from a continent of wars to a continent of peace, and its exemplary efforts needed to be recognized, but without the award the European body would have contributed as beautifully to the cause. In 2009, US President Barack Obama was awarded the prize for his seminal contributions for peace, but he failed to live up to the award. Especially on the issue of Palestine, Obama was hamstrung by Israeli intransigence and couldn’t move forward.
Malala supporters were unhappy that she wasn’t awarded the prize. ‘Very disappointed Malala didn’t win the Nobel peace prize. Nobody in the world right now is a more powerfully eloquent advocate for peace,’ was one common reaction in the social networking sites•