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And the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner is....

Illustration for article titled And the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner is....

The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2013 Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for their ongoing role in the recent Syria crisis.


In a press release, the Nobel Committee says:

The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law. Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.

Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.


While I don't think I can deny that helping disarm the Syrian government of their chemical weapons is incredibly important (especially since the alternative may well have been direct intervention by the US military), I think many of us were hoping Malala Yousafzai would win the award for her advocacy for the fundamental right to education for young women around the world. Another hot favourite was Dr. Denis Mukwege of the DR Congo, who has helped bring life-saving medical and psychological care to over 30,000 rape survivors in the conflict zone.

I'm a bit disappointed, because I always prefer to see awards like the Peace Prize go to people instead of organisations, since it is much harder for a single person to make a global difference in regards to peacekeeping. Sociologically speaking, the more we give organisations credit for the work of people, the more we tend to discount the capacity for individual actors to make a difference. As a result, individuals become confined by the structure of the institutions they work within, and lose the ability to subvert or contradict "conventional wisdom" (what Max Weber called the "Iron Cage"). Not to take anything away from the OPCW, of course, but something that springs to mind for me nonetheless.

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