Nobel Peace Prize Q&A: What is the OPCW, this year's winner?
Destruction of Syria's chemical stockpile thrust it into spotlight, but OPCW has inspected 5,000 sites
THE Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
While 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist Malala Yousafzai was the bookies' favourite, the OPCW's win was predicted by the Norwegian broadcaster NRK. But what is the OPCW and is it a suitable winner of the world's most prestigious peace prize:
What is the OPCW's aim?
The organisation implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons. The convention prohibits "the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons". It came into force in 1997 and has been ratified by 189 states.
Is the OPCW part of the United Nations?
No, it isn't. While the organisation is carrying out its destruction of Syria's chemical stockpile on the UN's behalf, it is not a UN body. The two bodies do work hand-in-hand, however, and on 7 September 2000, they signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they were to coordinate their activities. The OPCW is based in the Hague – alongside the UN – and OPCW inspectors use United Nations 'Laissez-Passer' travel documents which give them certain privileges and immunities.
What's its track record?
Well, it's certainly been busy. The OPCW has conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 countries, reports ABC News. It says 100 per cent of the world's declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been inventoried and verified.
How much of the world's stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed?
According to statistics provided by the OPCW, 57,740 tonnes or 81.1 per cent of the world's declared stockpile of chemical weapons has been "verifiably destroyed". An OPCW report released earlier this year said the United States had destroyed about 90 per cent of its stockpile, Russia had destroyed 70 per cent and Libya 51 per cent.
Any skeletons in the closet?
Well, the OPCW's first director José Maurício Bustani was ousted from the job after falling out with the US government in April 2002. A letter written by a group of artists, musicians and writers including Brian Eno and Salman Rushdie urging support for Bustani was subsequently published in The Guardian. It suggested that US efforts to remove Bustani from his job were triggered by his efforts to get Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention in an effort to allow the OPCW access to Iraq's weapons' arsenal. "Jose Bustani appears to have become an obstacle to the American intention to engage in military action in Iraq," the letter said. "We call upon the government to put world peace ahead of the special relationship by defending the OPCW against US unilateralism."