The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The intergovernmental organisation was formed in 1997 to promote and verify the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and outlines procedures for their destruction. The organisation hit the headlines recently for its ongoing role in Syria and so quickly emerged as a potential winner of this year’s award. Syria submitted its application to sign up to the treaty and join the organisation as part of the process to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. The OPCW is not a UN organ; however the two bodies do have a strong working partnership and cooperate on many issues relevant to both parties.
Not intending for one second to overshadow the great work of the OPCW or question the decision of the Peace Prize Committee but for me, what was interesting about the award was learning about some of the lesser known contenders and the tireless and brave work they are doing. The Guardian newspaper launched a poll for their readers to vote on possible candidates for the Nobel Peace prize. There were some very recognizable names and some less so. All have their own stories and struggles which led to their inclusion on the list. One name that quickly stands out was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban last year for her work promoting women’s right to access education in Pakistan. Hassan Rouhani, the new president t of the Islamic Republic of Iran also made the list. This was due to the early signs that he is steering his country away from the more hostile and sinister route which his predecessor Ahmadinejad had taken.
I didn’t really have any personal preference for who won the prize, they were all very worthy for different reasons. I was struck by the power of the biography given for Teresita Quintos Deles who is an adviser to the president of the Philippines for the Peace Process in Mindanao. Her impact on this protracted conflict is extraordinary. The conflict as described by Simon Tisdall has claimed the lives of nearly 120,000 people over 40 years of fighting between government forces and the Muslim insurgency, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. Quintos Deles is a former teacher who has worked for years as a women’s right activist. Her calm and patient mediation of the conflict has brought the two sides very close to a peace deal which is being stalled only by a small number of extremists. Her inclusive approach, ensuring that all stakeholders to the agreement, whether they are in political office or on the streets, felt a part of the peace process, has made the difference.
Another sterling ambassador for peace is Denis Mukwege. Trained as a gynaecologist, Denis has helped thousands of women who suffered the torture of gang-rape during the DRC conflict. He has travelled the world advocating for more to be done to help the victims of this conflict and punish the rebels as well as the DRC and Rwandan governments. His work led to an assassination attempt which he survived. His injuries and fear for his family’s safety, forced him into exile. In early 2013, Mukwege returned to South Kivu to continue his work and treat the women who still suffer from this most gruesome ‘act of war’. Denis Mukwege will never be a household name but his advocacy, bravery and morality in the face of pure evil should be respected and honoured.
Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer, Barry Hynes