The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international panel formed in 1997 to enforce a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.
Behind-the-scenes work in identifying whether all 190 nations that have signed the treaty adhere fully to terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. That treaty outlaws the production or use of chemical weapons; authorizes OPCW staff to decommission chemical-weapons production plants; and gives them power to inspect a country's industrial sites suspected of involvement in such production.
Because the OPCW is at the center of global efforts to keep Syria's 2 1/2 -year-old civil war from worsening into a deeper international conflict. Syria's government last month signed the chemical weapons treaty under pressure from Russian diplomats and the threat of U.S.
air strikes. An OPCW inspection team is currently deployed in Syria documenting its chemical weapons supplies and planning their destruction, a mission expected to take nine months.
The Nobel honor puts a spotlight on an organization that typically attracts no public attention from its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. It could strengthen the OPCW's hand in seeking additional financing and powers, and could encourage the few nations still boycotting the treaty to join the club.
WHO HASN'T JOINED?
Only seven officially. Israel and Myanmar have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it through their parliaments. Angola, North Korea, Egypt and South Sudan have rejected it. Taiwan says it accepts the treaty but cannot ratify it because the United Nations denies the nation membership. Several ratified members, most notably Iran, have been accused of building stockpiles illegally. And some signatories, such as the United States and Russia, have yet to destroy all their declared stores despite starting the process in 2000.