Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons

Assistance and protection against chemical weapons, their use, or threat of use, in accordance with the provisions of Article X of the Convention.

Assistance against chemical weapons

Offers of Assistance
The 10th Session of the Conference of States Parties with its decision C-10/DEC.8 adopted a format as guidance for submitting information on the kind of assistance made available in accordance with subparagraph 7(c) of Article X. Use of the assistance format is voluntary and does not prejudice the right of States Parties to present this information in another format or to provide other assistance.
Requests for Assistance
Every State Party to the CWC has the right to request assistance from the OPCW in any of the following circumstances: 1) the State Party considers chemical weapons to have been used against it; 2) the State Party considers riot control agents to have been used against it as a method of warfare; or 3) the State Party considers itself to be threatened by actions prohibited by the Convention taken by another country. A request for assistance must be submitted to the Director- General with substantiating information—e.g. on the types of CW alleged to have been used, the extent and time of use, and the effects on humans, animals and vegetation.
Rights and Responsibilities of States Parties
Along with activities related to industry, agriculture, research, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the CWC does not prohibit the development of means of protection against toxic chemicals and chemical weapons. In fact, the Convention explicitly states that all States Parties have the right to conduct research into, develop, produce, acquire, transfer and use means of protection against chemical weapons. Also articulated is the right of States Parties to participate in, and the obligation to facilitate, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, material and scientific and technological information concerning means of protection.
The Role of the Secretariat
The Secretariat is required to establish and maintain a data bank containing freely available information concerning means of protection against chemical weapons. The Secretariat is instructed to provide expert advice and to assist States Parties, upon request, in identifying how to develop or improve the implementation of their national CW protection programmes.

Protection against chemical weapons

There are four main cornerstones in the protection against chemical weapons: physical protection; detection; decontamination; and tactical behaviour suitably adapted to the CW environment.
Protective Equipment
The best protection is obtained by continuously carrying some kind of respiratory protection. A protective mask to be used for long periods must be comfortable. A solution tested in some countries is a facelet, a semi-protective mask which is supposed to be more comfortable to wear but does not provide as good protection as a normal protective mask.
Collective Protection
a group of people can use collective protection, e.g., vehicles or special shelters. People under a roof, e.g., indoors or in covered vehicles, are not only protected against CW agents in liquid form but also receive a certain degree of protection against aerosols and gases since the air turnover in such spaces is lower. The concentration increases more slowly and there is not such a hurry to don protective masks.
Detection is vital in obtaining information on the risks. Detection implies that evidence is obtained on the types and quantities of CW agents in the area. The questions asked may be whether, for example, protective masks are required, whether body protection is necessary, if normal behaviour should be modified in any special way, and whether equipment will require decontamination
The aim of decontamination is to rapidly and effectively render harmless or remove poisonous substances both on personnel and equipment. High decontamination capacity is one of the factors which may reduce the effect of an attack with CW agents. In this way, it may act as a deterrent.
Health & Safety Issues
Each State Party, during the implementation of its obligations under this Convention, shall assign the highest priority to ensuring the safety of people and to protecting the environment, and shall cooperate as appropriate with other States Parties in this regard. In carrying out their activities, inspectors and inspection assistants shall observe safety regulations established at the inspection site, including those for the protection of controlled environments within a facility and for personal safety.
Where Can I Find out More?
A list of links to information related to protection against chemical weapons
Protection National Programmes
Each State Party shall provide annually to the Technical Secretariat information on its programmes. The Conference of the States Parties adopted a unified format for the submission of such information.

Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons are frightening and dreadful weapons. They inflict excruciating and long-term suffering on a mass scale. Some Member States have the capacity to protect their populations against chemical weapons, while others do not. All Member States have pledged to provide assistance and protection to fellow Member States threatened by the use of chemical weapons or attacked with chemical weapons.

Resources from a Voluntary Fund for Assistance, as well as individual offers of equipment and trained personnel, are available, should the need arise to swiftly dispatch assistance and expertise. A network of protection experts consults regularly on the means to improve the ability of Member States to respond to the use of chemical weapons and to protect civilian populations. If a Member State requests assistance, the Technical Secretariat is responsible for the effective coordination of the assistance and protection measures provided by Member States. These capabilities can include expertise in predicting hazards, in detecting and decontaminating chemical agents, in medical relief, and in on-site coordination with humanitarian and disaster response agencies.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat organises courses aimed at providing training to first responders, government experts and emergency response units in building and developing national and regional capabilities and emergency response systems against the use, or threat of use, of chemical weapons. Over 2,200 participants have benefited.

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