THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 27 November 2017 – Remaining vigilant and strengthening the international norm against chemical weapons in the face of their continued use was the main message from the opening day of the Twenty-Second Session of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP-22) to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), taking place from 27 November-1 December in The Hague.
The Conference is chaired by Permanent Representative of Morocco to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), H.E. Ambassador Abdelouahab Bellouki, who assumes the duties from outgoing Chairperson, H.E. Ambassador Christoph Israng of Germany.
Ambassador Bellouki invited: “delegations and all participants of this Conference to be guided by the spirit of cooperation, respect and consensus,” and highlighted that “we are all united by the primary aim of the Chemical Weapons Convention – the achievement of a world free of chemical weapons. A world with less fear, a world with less terror. A better world.”
During this week, States Parties will discuss and make important decisions on issues ranging from the global implementation of the CWC to the OPCW’s budget and programme for 2018.
In his opening statement, the Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, looked back at 2017 as “a landmark one for the OPCW that has given us the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on our achievements of the past two decades”.
He stressed that the international community continued to be confronted with the on-going and systematic use of chemical weapons. “It is vital, and in the interests of all States Parties to the Convention, that the long held international norm against chemical weapons remains strong and the perpetrators held accountable,” declared the Director-General.
Ambassador Üzümcü’s speech gave prominence to the progress in eliminating declared chemical weapon stockpiles, including this year’s major milestone of the Russian Federation completing the destruction of its chemical arsenal under OPCW verification. The Director-General affirmed the importance of continuous engagement with the chemical industry and scientific community, and of strengthening cooperation with the OPCW Member States in Africa.
On a more personal note, the Director-General reflected on his eight years at the helm of the Organisation as his tenure completes next year and stated, “In approaching the conclusion of my tenure, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I will leave an Organisation that is strong, vibrant, and efficient”. Looking to the future, he stressed: “The OPCW is and will be what its States Parties want it to be. I am confident that your continued commitment to the goals of the Convention will further strengthen this essential pillar of international security.”
Participants at CSP-22 also honoured the recipients of the 2017 OPCW-The Hague Award on 27 November at an awards ceremony held at the World Forum. The joint recipients, the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) from Algiers, Algeria, and the International Master Courses in Protection Against CBRNe Events at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, are institutions that make an outstanding contribution towards the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Award was established in 2014 from the monetary prize accompanying the Noble Prize for Peace and is supplemented by the City of The Hague.
On 30 November, the Conference will appoint Ambassador Fernando Arias of Spain as the new Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW. Ambassador Arias will start his four year term on 25 July 2018.
During the week-long Conference, States Parties, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the OPCW Technical Secretariat will provide a range of side events and exhibits showcasing topics related to the CWC.
This year, 135 out of 192 States Parties are convening in The Hague along with Israel as a Signatory State and South Sudan as a non-Signatory State. Additionally, representatives of ten International Organisations, 49 NGOs and three chemical companies are in attendance and will make statements to the CSP.
The Conference of the States Parties is the principal organ of the OPCW and consists of representatives from each of the Organisation’s Member States. It meets annually to assess the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to make key decisions regarding the future work of the Organisation. The Conference of the States Parties oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, promotes the treaty’s objectives and reviews compliance with the treaty. The Conference is composed of representatives of all Member States of the OPCW, each of which has one vote. The CSP meets annually for one week in The Hague.
The Chemical Weapons Convention comprehensively prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. Any chemical used for warfare is considered a chemical weapon by the Convention.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – and with its 192 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over ninety-six per cent of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Prize for Peace.