Promoting Security and Developing Cooperation for a Chemical Weapons Free World
Amb. Vaidotas Verba
Candidate of Lithuania for the post of the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Use of chemical weapons in Syria brought massive casualties, economic and social losses and fear, at an unprecedented level in modern history. Recent reports of use and threat of use of chemcal weapons in Syria continue to alert international community. Existence of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction carry out the risk that terrorists take the sites with weapons of mass destruction and related materials. Terrorists acquiring a chemical or nuclear device or biological material could spread massive murder and destruction far grater than any other terrorist attack conducted so far.
The world is confronted with the growing danger of use by terrorist of chemical weapons or chemical material. In contrast with the nuclear sphere, chemical materials can be acquired throughout the world. The know-how to produce simple chemical weapons is widely available. The technological and financial hurdles to be overcome are much less problematic than those posed by the illicit manufacture and use of primitive biological and nuclear weapons.
The international community has a remarkable instrument, namely the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – a single multilateral means to prohibit the production and prevent the use and spread of the horrific Chemical Weapons. There are already 192 nations which joined the treaty. CWC now extends over 98% of the global population and to over 95% of the relevant global chemical industry.
The CWC proved to be a watershed in the international community’s efforts to ban chemical weapons. As for today 94 percent of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed.
The CWC effectively addresses the danger of proliferation in the chemical domain. By ratifying the Convention every country accepted the obligation to eliminate any chemical weapons in their possession under stringent controls of international inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, the Netherlands. Moreover, all States are under permanent obligation to accept, on short notice, on-site military and industrial inspections, to confirm that these activities are for peaceful purposes.
OPCW exemplifies an active and concrete movement on and synergy between disarmament and non-proliferation. On any given day, somewhere in the world the chemical industry is now being inspected by the OPCW, and all declared chemical weapons are monitored by the OPCW inspectors. 6,327 inspections have taken place at 235 chemical weapon-related sites. 2,255 industrial sites on the territory of 86 States Parties were inspected by the OPCW inspectors since April 1997.
States Parties to the Convention have the advantage of benefiting from programmes of the OPCW which has acquired considerable experience and capacity in assisting Member States to fulfil their national implementation obligations. Over 100 States Parties to date have received assistance under the OPCW Plan of Action on national implementation.
Not joining the Chemical Weapons Convention is devoid of any justifications. International community should intensify efforts to convince Non-States Parties to join CWC and promote world-wide implementation of its provisions. The remaining States not Party to the CWC shall ratify or accede to the CWC as a matter of urgency and without preconditions.
The existence of the chemical disarmament system exemplified by the CWC and effective work of the OPCW, is a fundamental advance that has been made. It is essential now to develop mechanisms and support States to prevent misuse of toxic chemicals as means of warfare or terror and to reduce chemical threat. Even though the OPCW is not an anti-terrorism agency, given the comprehensive prohibition against chemical weapons that falls within in remit, it makes an important contribution in this area. The OPCW actively cooperates with the national agencies of the States-parties, chemical industry, academia, NGO’s and broad public, to enhance preparedness against misuse of toxic chemicals.
Once the destruction of existing chemical weapons is completed, preventing their re-emergence will become the core objective of the Organisation. This endeavour also accords entirely with the objectives of the UN Security Council’s non-proliferation efforts under Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004).
With the rapid development of chemical industry production and bio-agents as well as biochemistry, and their spread to new areas of the world enhancing the security in the area of legitimate production, transportation and use of chemicals and bio-agents is assuming much higher importance. As the premier international organization devoted to preventing the hostile use of chemicals, and close ties to the chemical industry, the OPCW is well-placed to serve as a meeting ground for government and industry to talk about concerns related to chemical security issues.
Enhancing international security in an era of a growing danger of chemical weapons and terrorism requires all states and individuals to fully implement the national and international commitments. In this context, there should be an understanding among governments as well as international agencies and civil society on the need to work together.
The OPCW set an example how to act in concert and together to effectively implement profound desire for peace and for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. This mission has to continue through transparency, consensus and trust.