Ahmet Üzümcü commends practical, verifiable results of chemical disarmament. Says that partnerships with science, industry and civil society are key. Urges states outside the Chemical Weapons Convention to join. Announces that Prize money will be used to fund annual OPCW awards.
Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü this afternoon accepted the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“This is the first time that the Peace Prize has been awarded to an organisation that is actively engaged in disarmament as a practical and ongoing reality,” Ambassador Üzümcü said in his acceptance speech [PDF – 47 KB]. “For sixteen years now, the OPCW has been overseeing the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Our task is to consign chemical weapons to history forever.”
Ambassador Üzümcü said that, with 190 States now party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), “we are hastening the vision of a world free of chemical weapons to reality.” Recalling that chemical weapons had been used with “brutal regularity” “from Ieper in Belgium to Sardasht in Iran, from Halabja in Iraq to Ghouta in Syria,” he also paid homage to all victims.
The Director-General commended the “singular achievement” represented by conclusion of the CWC and the creation of the OPCW as its “arbiter and guardian.” “For the first time in the history of multilateral diplomacy, we were able to show that consensus-based decision-making can yield practical, effective and, above all, verifiable results in disarmament.”
The Director-General said that the OPCW had been “able to cross, and link, the wide space in disarmament between passion and practicality, between sentiment and action, between noble ambition and concrete achievements.”
Ambassador Üzümcü said that the “hard-won success” of the CWC made the recent chemical attacks in Syria all the more tragic, since “no Member State has experienced an attack with chemical weapons.” Referring to the OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria, he acknowledged the unprecedented challenge of overseeing the “destruction of such a major chemical weapons stockpile in the midst of a civil war, and in such compressed timeframes.” He also commended the “dedication and personal courage” of staff members.
The Director-General called on those six countries still outside the CWC to join it “without delay or conditions.” “Universal adherence to the Convention would be the most enduring investment in its integrity – and the best guarantee of its reach. We cannot allow the tragedy that befell the people of Ghouta to be repeated.”
Ambassador Üzümcü described as “key” the OPCW’s “active partnerships” with science and industry, given that “materials and technologies [used for chemical weapons] also have beneficial commercial and industrial applications.” They have been critical for drawing the line “between what helps us, and what harms us” and opening “a new sort of dialogue that makes the impact of scientific discoveries better understood.” “Our aim is to contribute to efforts towards fostering a culture of responsible science.”
The Director-General noted that the OPCW was striving to create “a two-tiered structure for supporting advances in chemistry: one that accommodates a collective early-warning system for scientific discoveries that could be misused, and a global repository for knowledge, expertise and technologies that should benefit all nations.”
He said that “new habits of dialogue and cooperation between scientists and policy-makers, between industry and academia, and between civil society and government officials” had emerged. In support of these, he announced that “the prize money awarded by the Nobel Committee will be used to fund annual OPCW awards. These awards will recognise outstanding contributions to advancing the goals of the Convention.”
Ambassador Üzümcü said the OPCW would remain “an organisation that anticipates future challenges, and an organisation that adapts its resources and expertise to be able to respond to them.” This would include harnessing social media for the OPCW’s monitoring, verification and investigation activities, as well as for awareness-raising “to instil the highest ethical standards in our future scientists and researchers.”
The Director-General stressed the importance of a “pragmatic” approach for achieving disarmament goals, as well as “governments having the political courage to take tough decisions for the benefit of the community of nations.” Referring to the Convention, he described the OPCW as “the force for making its goals a reality.”
Looking beyond chemical disarmament, the Director-General said “the Chemical Weapons Convention has given us a legacy that no future disarmament effort can afford to ignore.” He cited verification, broad stakeholder engagement, trust-based consensus and a commitment to science in the service of peace and security as the main elements of this legacy.
“It is this legacy that we must set as the keystone in an ever-widening arch of disarmament. Only by building such an arch will we be able to bridge our security and our prosperity.”
“Destiny has ruled that we rid the world of chemical weapons, and that we achieve this in our lifetime. This is our place in history, and this is the future we are creating. A future for which our children and grandchildren can be truly thankful.”