The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), one of the most effective instruments for international arms control, sends an important message to those who have insisted that unilateral military action is the best means to eliminate and prevent the use of these deadly agents. Although a case can be made that it is more appropriate for the Peace Prize to go to individuals struggling for justice rather than to international organizations, this is not a bad choice.
After all, the OPCW does not just deserve such recognition for having overseen the elimination of 80 percent of the world’s chemical arsenals over the past two decades. It deserves the honor for having challenged the illegal and ineffective U.S. policy that going to war against alleged chemical-weapons-possessing countries is the only means of dealing with these dangerous weapons.
The OPCW enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which has been ratified by all but seven of the world’s countries. The OPCW inspects laboratories, factories, and arsenals, and oversees the destruction of chemical weapons. The organization’s first and most successful director general, elected in 1997, was the Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, praised in the Guardian newspaper as a “workaholic” who has “done more in the past five years to promote world peace than anyone.” Under his strong leadership, the number of signatories of the treaty grew from 87 to 145 nations, the fastest growth rate of any international organization in recent decades. During this same period, OPCW inspectors oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapons facilities. Bustani was re-elected unanimously in May 2000 for a five-year term and was complimented by Secretary of State Colin Powell for his “very impressive” work.