The Nobel Peace Prize 2013
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Telephone interview with Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), following the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, 11 October 2013. The interviewer is Nobelprize.org's Adam Smith.
[AS] Hello, Ambassador Üzümcü?
[AU] Yes, speaking.
[AS] Ah, hello, my name's Adam Smith, calling from Nobelprize.org, the official website of the Nobel Prize, in Stockholm.
[AS] And we like to record very brief interviews with new Laureates. May we speak for just two or three minutes?
[AS] Thank you.
[AU] Will you ask questions or you want me to speak …
[AS] I'll ask questions if I may.
[AU] Alright, sure, please do.
[AS] But may I start by offering our congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.
[AU] Thank you very much, thank you Mr. Smith.
[AS] Now, in their announcement, the Nobel Committee states that, through this award, they are "Seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons". How do you think this Nobel Prize will help with your mission?
[AU] In fact the organisation has achieved quite, you know, substantially over the past sixteen years, by verifying the elimination of 80% of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons, possessed by several states parties. Clearly, 20% of those stockpiles remain to be destroyed in the coming years, but also the situation in Syria poses a particular challenge to our organisation, where there is a considerable amount of chemical weapons. I think the Nobel Peace Prize, in fact, will give a new impetus and encouragement, I should say, great incentive to our staff who are working in the secretariat, and who are deployed also in Syria for the past two-three weeks, and this will boost their morale in order to fulfill their mission.
[AS] Thank you. And what message do you think this award is meant to convey to the world?
[AU] I see it as a recognition in fact, of contributions made by our organisation to global peace and security over the past sixteen years of its existence. Clearly, this award, in fact, is a recognition of all those who worked in the OPCW, as well as all those who represented their countries here in The Hague, a credit to the organisation over those years. I think the credit should go to all of them, all well as the states parties, in fact, who were determined to fulfill the objectives of the chemical weapons convention, so I see it as a great acknowledgement of all the success stories over the sixteen years.
[AS] Now the announcement will focus yet more attention on the problem of chemical weapons. How can people around the world who are concerned by this problem help with the OPCW's work?
[AU] I think … clearly we have to raise awareness about the risks, security risks, associated with the handling of dual use chemical materials around the world, and we have done a great deal to this effect, but much remains to be done. We have to raise awareness among scientific communities, academia and all those others who are dealing with the chemistry, because there are serious risks associated with that. And, to my pleasure, we have reached a level of 190 states parties, actually in a few days, Syria will become a party, so with Syria it's going to be 190. Six other countries remain outside of the organisation; we want to get, you know, them on-board, and them joining the organisation as early as possible. But, along with that, we need, in fact, a more, wider I should say, awareness-raising among all relevant communities on the security risks involved in the chemistry.
[AS] Hmm, yes indeed. And then, the announcement mentions not just Syria, but other states that still have stockpiles of chemical weapons, most notably, USA and Russia. So there's still much to do?
[AU] In fact, the United States has reached the level of 90% destruction of its own stockpiles, and in the Russian Federation, they have reached 76% of the destruction, of the level of destruction. So these are, indeed, quite significant achievements. The destruction of chemical weapons is a very costly, labour-intensive and, in fact, dangerous operation – we have to recognise their achievements. But also, I have to recognise their commitment in this endeavour. And we expect them, in fact, to fulfil their obligations in the coming years.
[AS] Thank you very much indeed. Now this announcement comes on what was already a busy day for you, because the Executive Council is in session this week, isn't it?
[AU] Yes, the Executive Council has been in session since Tuesday, and this was the last day in fact. The Council has just adopted its report, but the news of the Nobel Peace Prize, in fact, were really overwhelming at this morning's session, when I announced it, and they welcomed that of course and they were very moved.
[AS] That's very good to hear, very nice to hear. Well, thank you very much indeed for speaking to us, ([AU]: Thanks) and it's been a pleasure to speak to you ([AU]: Thank you) and congratulations again on the award.
[AU] Thank you.
[AS] Thank you.
Listen to the Interview