Malaysian is part of Nobel Peace Prize winning team

Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW will be part of the delegation attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

A MALAYSIAN will be part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) delegation that will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec 10.

Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü is justifiably proud of the OPCW, guardian of the global ban on chemical weapons that took effect in 1997. (According to its website, 190 nations, 98% of the global population, have joined the OPCW and 81.71% of the world’s declared stockpile of 71,196 metric tonnes of chemical agent has been destroyed.)

The director-general has asked Malaysia’s Permanent Repre­sentative to the OPCW Datuk Dr Fauziah Mohd Taib (pic) to be part of his delegation attending the award ceremony. (Two member states from each of the five regions will be accompanying him to Oslo.)

Fauziah’s “invitation is recognition of the vital role we have played in the organisation,” said her predecessor Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, who was Malaysia’s second Permanent Representative to the body.

Fauziah was “moved to tears” when she heard about the award and sees the trip next week as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many people can go as part of a winning team, much less a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize!”

Her very first statement as a long-term delegate at the United Nations General Assembly in 1988, when she was a junior officer, was about chemical weapons. “I never thought I would cover that subject again,” she said. “Multilateral work has always been my favourite. I have reached the level where I can take the floor without any need for a prepared text and I think that can only come with experience.”

Malaysia has been on the Executive Council thrice before and will be a member again for the 2014-16 term.

Fauziah, 58, has three decades of experience at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Relations at the University of Malaya, a Masters degree in International Relations from the University of Paris 1 (the Sorbonne) and a Ph.D in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury in England.

She takes the floor at almost every meeting. And together with the Netherlands Permanent Repre­sentative to OPCW, she has streamlined the methodology for selecting plant sites for verification and inspection, a task at which eight earlier facilitators had failed.

“I took the time and effort to sit with the technical secretariat and understand the matter from a technical perspective, and then consult with diplomatic colleagues to learn of their political concerns,” she explained.

“Malaysia has been punching above its weight,” noted Tan Sri Hamidon Ali, chairman of the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which comes under Wisma Putra. Since 2007, the Authority has conducted regional and sub-regional courses, seminars, workshops and exercises on various aspects of the Convention, with the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat.

Hamidon sees the Peace Prize as “recognition of the invaluable work done by the OPCW and its 190 member states towards making this world a peaceful place by destroying all chemical weapons, prohibiting their use in warfare, their production, and transfer”. Only six States have yet to ratify or accede to the Convention – North Korea, Myanmar, Israel, Egypt, Angola and South Sudan.

Fauziah stressed that the Peace Prize was “10 years in the making, awarded as the Prize committee chairman described, ‘because of (the OPCW’s) long-standing efforts to eliminate chemical weapons’ and not just for events that happened this past year”.

And, she noted, the current issue is who will be willing to accept Syria’s chemical weapons – which have to be removed by the end of this month. “We have, under exceptional circumstances, allowed the Convention to be breached to enable their weapons to be destroyed outside their territory,” she pointed out.

“I have voiced my concern that while we accept the exceptional circumstance this time around for the case of Syria (who have declared that they are not in a position financially or economically to destroy their chemical weapons), we must not allow a continual violation of the Convention.”

Fauziah Mohd Taib