Nihad Alihodzic is the Head of the Declaration Assessment Team for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
In October 2013, Nihad’s organisation received the Nobel Peace Prize for their extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. The award was bestowed shortly after the accession of Syria to the CWC following an agreement brokered between Russia and the USA on the elimination of chemical weapons from Syria, which was accepted by the Syrian regime. Nihad was one of the key persons in OPCW’s efforts to oversee the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. In January 2017, Nihad received France’s highest order of merit, the Légion d'honneur, for his work in managing the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. In May the same year, he also received the Večernjakov Pečat, a prestigious award for the Person of the Year in the category of science by “Večernji list”, one of the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest daily newspapers.
Nihad is originally from Vlasenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but left at the age of 18 after the outbreak of war in 1992. In Tuzla he joined the BiH Armed Forces and then, in 1997, he joined the International Police Taskforce (IPTF) with the United Nations (UN) Mission in Bosnia. In 2002, he moved to the Netherlands to work for the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), established to prosecute those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law committed in the Former Yugoslavia since 1991.
Then in 2004, Nihad joined the OPCW, which oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. During his time with the OPCW, which has 193 member states, Nihad has worked on the chemical disarmament of many countries including Iraq and Libya. He received a series of promotions over the years and was eventually appointed as Head of the Declaration Assessment Team and one of the heads of the OPCW mission in Syria. The mission to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria is ongoing and Nihad has visited the country dozens of times over the last seven years – staying anywhere from a week to a month.
Alongside his career, which sees him spending extended periods away from home, Nihad has also completed a Master’s degree in International Relations with Staffordshire University. Nihad signed up in 2015 to study via distance learning and graduated in 2018 – highlighting the relevancy of studying diplomatic processes during a time when he was heavily involved in peace efforts in Syria. Together with another student, he also hosted a visit of Professor Fiona Robertson-Snape and a group of fellow students at The Hague during his studies. The visit included a tour of The Hague, “the legal capital of the world”, including visits to international organisations such as the OPCW, UN ICTY and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Nihad in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the creation of a safer world. As Head of Declarations Assessment at the OPCW, he has played a pivotal role in the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons programme and the assessment of its chemical weapons capabilities. The award also acknowledges his tenacity and determination in achieving his Master’s award from Staffordshire University, despite spending long periods working away from home in dangerous and difficult conditions.