Why Malala should have won the Nobel Peace Prize

  • Malala Yousafzai addresses students and faculty after receiving the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University on Sept. 27. The Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October for advocating education for girls was considered a strong candidate to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. (JESSICA RINALDI / Associated Press)

Given the choice between recognizing the efforts of chemical weapons inspectors and those of a Pakistani teenager who campaigned publicly in the Swat Valley for the education of girls despite death threats from the Taliban, was shot in the head as a result, and is now continuing her campaign after recovering — I know whom I would have chosen for this year's Nobel Peace Prize: Malala Yousafzai.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has a good case and nothing should be taken away from its staff. Since the body's formation in 1997, it has been one of the more successful disarmament bodies, verifying the elimination of 82 percent of the chemical weapons stocks that member states have declared. In Syria earlier this year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Weapons also— for the first time in its history — sent inspectors into a conflict zone to collect samples and verify a chemical weapons attack. They seem to have done the job well. And now they are piling back into Syria at significant personal risk to verify and destroy the chemical weapons stocks of a murderous regime.

The case for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, however, would surely be much stronger — or potentially weaker, but in either event more certain — in 2014. For the next nine months or so the organization's inspectors will be doing their jobs. We'll find out later whether they are successful. We'll know whether they took take extreme risks from armed ill-wishers on either side of Syria's civil war, or spent a lot of time in hotels. We'll find out if they nailed not only the weapons President Bashar Assad has declared but also the ones he hasn't. And we'll know whether their efforts laid the ground for ending the slaughter in Syria using conventional weapons. Right now that's all a big question mark.

The Nobel committee is developing a habit of offering the peace prize as a kind of advance payment on great deeds to come, which in such cases tells us more about the priorities of the committee members than the actions of the winners.

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