On Friday the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons received the Nobel Peace Prize for “its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. The OPCW has only been around for 16 years, and it has one-fifth the staff and budget of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world’s principal nuclear watchdog. The Nobel Prize committee’s announcement made clear that the organisation’s recent work in Syria was the real catalyst. Few had heard of the OPCW until the UN tapped it to inspect and shut down chemical weapons in Syria.
The OPCW’s work in Syria deserves lasting support, but given that its work has barely begun, does it deserve the world’s most prestigious prize? The chemical weapons round-up may succeed, but it very well may not. Should the prize honour accomplishment rather than promise?