Peace Scholar Post: Nikolaj Hagen

by Nikolaj Hagen

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an organization that has tirelessly worked for the elimination of chemical weapons across the world. The Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has worked quietly and effectively to dismantle chemical weapons stocks from around the world. Though bullets and bombs cause more destruction overall, chemical weapons are especially horrific because of how they indiscriminately kill everything in their radius of detonation, combatant and non-combatant, human and animal, adult and child.

While I applaud the work of the OPCW, and I think that their cause is admirable, I don’t think that we should somehow perceive this as a sign of progress in the Syrian conflict. Assad may now not have access to a small fraction of his arsenal, but he still has tanks, planes, and missiles enough to slaughter many times the victims of the chemical weapons attack in his brutal bid to reestablish power. If the Norwegian Nobel Committee intended to bring more attention to the conflict in Syria, I don’t think that the selection can be disparaged all that much. Though to be fair, in selecting the OPCW, the Norwegian Nobel Committee did pass over many other notable and definitely praiseworthy candidates, like Denis Mukwege and Malala Yousafzai. The selection did shine more attention onto the horrors of chemical weapons use in Syria, but it remains to be seen whether or not this renewed interest in the conflict will translate into a concentrated effort by the rest of the international community to end to the violence.

But even if the conflict that brought this organization to the forefront isn’t yet resolved, the Norwegian Nobel Committee did recognize the efforts of such an exemplary organization. The organization that was founded just 16 years ago has contributed to the destruction of 80% of the world’s declared chemical weapons stocks. The organization is a great example to other organizations, governmental and non-governmental, who wish to work towards a more peaceful future. You can speculate whether there were more inspiring stories that could have been brought into the spotlight, but the OPCW has done incredible work and is now receiving well-deserved recognition.

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