In defence of the Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This is the second year running that an organisation, rather than an individual, has won the £780,000 prize. Last year the prize went to the European Union.


The Nobel Committee explained the prize to have been awarded in recognition of the OPCW’s “extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons.” The OPCW has been in the spotlight this year for the work it has carried out following the use of chemical weapons in the on-going Syrian conflict.

But do people really care who is awarded the prize?

It would seem that they do. A lot of people have taken issue with the fact that the prize has, once again, been awarded to an institution rather than an individual. This is a fairly common occurrence; the OPCW is the twenty-fifth organisation to be awarded the prize in its 112 year history. It is unclear why so many people wish to see an individual win the prize; perhaps it is simply the yearning to put a human face on the struggle to end conflict worldwide.

Anyway, should it even matter whether the prize is awarded to an institution or an individual? Surely the most important thing is that whoever is awarded the prize is a deserving recipient. As Alfred Nobel stated in his will, the recipient of the Peace Prize “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

An organisation is generally going to be able to fulfil the above criteria better than an individual. Whilst the work that has been conducted by Malala Yousafzai and Denis Mukwege (both tipped to be likely winners) is of phenomenal importance and should be commended, strictly speaking it does not fit into the criteria laid out above.

The work of the OPCW explicitly seeks to abolish weapons stocks. Furthermore, it is a body that is backed by 189 nations representing 98% of the world’s population, and, by extension, works to improve the global situation for all.

The prize is not an acknowledgment that the recipient has achieved all of its goals with regards to achieving world peace; it is recognition for the work that has been carried out thus far. The OPCW has destroyed 80% of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles since its formation in 1997 – surely this deserves some recognition. In awarding the Peace Prize to the OPCW, the Nobel Committee has helped to keep the battle to end chemical warfare in the public eye.


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August 2022
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