The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a group that, according to Christopher Dickey at The Daily Beast, has been working since 1997 to eliminate chemical weapons worldwide and is currently "at the heart of efforts to find and destroy Syria’s arsenal of sarin, VX, and other ghastly toxins."
The Nobel Committee's announcement recounted the atrocities that have been committed by chemical weapons warfare, from their deployment in World War I to "Hitler’s mass exterminations" to their present use in Syria.
While the use of chemical weapons was prohibited by the Geneva Convention in 1925, said the announcement, it wasn't until 1992-93 that "a convention was drawn up prohibiting also the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997. Since then the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention."
"Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will," the Nobel Committee added, and The Guardian's Julian Borger said that the work of the OPCW "(i)n terms of disarmament ... is one of the world's biggest achievements."
Borger reported that since 1997, the OPCW "has overseen the elimination of over 80% of the world's declared chemical weapons stocks," including all of chemical weapons in India and South Korea, almost all of Libya's supply, 90 percent of the United States' supply, and two-thirds of Russia's supply.
The issue of chemical weapons warfare has received substantial international attention this year after a chemical weapons were used in Syria in August. According to Kjetil Malkenes Hovland and Naftali Bendavid at the Wall Street Journal, the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad "is suspected of having used chemical weapons in the attack, which killed more than 1,400 people."
While the attack prompted President Obama to discuss military action against Syria, the U.S. and Russia agreed last month "that the OPCW would adopt an unusually rapid schedule for eliminating the Syrian arsenal." Hovland and Bendavid called "the destruction of Syria's arsenal amid a bloody civil war" the "highest-profile task" in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon's existence.
Much of the attention leading up to the award of the Peace Prize was focused on Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan shot by the Taliban last year for supporting girls' education, who was the favorite to win the prize, said Elizabeth Palmer at CBSNews. But Max Fisher argued at the Washington Post that the award to the OPCW might in some ways be a better choice.
The work the OPCW has done to eliminate chemical weapons, Fisher wrote, is "dull and uninteresting and has made the world a significantly and demonstrably better place. It is currently facing enormous challenges in Syria, where it's trying desperately to dismantle vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. This mission is not sexy and it doesn't make people cry on daytime TV, but it's important, has the immediate potential to save large numbers of lives, and could really use the world's support."