“Joint Assistance 2005”, a major field exercise — planned and coordinated jointly by the Government of Ukraine, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) — which was conducted at the Yavoriv Training Area near L’viv, Ukraine, from 9 to 13 October 2005, has concluded.
The exercise involved fifteen OPCW Member States — Austria, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Iran, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Sweden, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan — as well as the host nation, Ukraine. Together with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) nations, they were organised into fourteen teams. These units provided expertise, advice, personnel and material to deliver coordinated assistance.
In addition, experts from the OPCW, NATO-EADRCC and UN-OCHA participated in both operational and support activities. In total, more than 1,000 personnel were assembled to test and refine international cooperation procedures to deliver emergency assistance, following a simulated terrorist attack using a chemical agent.
This is the first exercise which combines personnel and resources from both OPCW and the EADRCC nations.
The five-day exercise’s objective included: coordinating the delivery of assistance by different teams from different nations and organisations, each using their own sets of procedures and equipment; enhancing these teams’ ability to combine assets and share operational information; and deploying their resources swiftly and effectively in response to a terrorist attack using chemical weapons.
The scenario for Joint Assistance 2005 involved a series of terrorist attacks using a variety of improvised chemical weapons. During the course of these attacks, the teams were tasked to assess the extent of the contamination, warn and evacuate the threatened population, search for victims and rescue them from contaminated areas, render specialised medical treatment for contaminated victims at a purpose-built field hospital, and train the local population in the use of personal protective equipment.
In parallel with the relief effort, OPCW inspectors conducted an investigation of alleged use. The inspectors set up a mobile laboratory and analyzed samples to determine the chemicals’ composition. The results of such an investigation would serve to improve the medical response and the safety of the threatened population, as well as providing evidence for an eventual prosecution of the perpetrators.
The exercise’s concluding ceremony was co-hosted by General Volodymyr Tymoshenko, First Deputy Head of the Security Service and Head of the Anti-Terrorist Centre of Ukraine; Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, OPCW Director-General; and Ambassador Maurits Jochems, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations.
In his address to the assembled teams, Director-General Pfirter expressed his gratitude to the Government of the Ukraine for hosting the exercise and for their firm commitment to the aims of the Chemical Weapons Convention. He stated that Joint Assistance opens a new chapter of cooperation and partnership between national and international organisations and agencies, bearing a responsibility to respond to acts of chemical terrorism.
Director-General Pfirter also gratefully acknowledged the dedication, thorough planning, hard work and the professionalism of the participants, which were crucial to ensuring the success of the exercise. He also thanked NATO and UN-OCHA for the close cooperation and collaborative spirit that these organisations had extended to the Joint Assistance teams.
In his remarks at the closing ceremony, Director-General Pfirter stressed that joint assistance can help to save lives. He noted that the threat of chemical terrorism is real, and all of the nations and organisations that have participated in Joint Assistance 2005 share the same sense of urgency when addressing the horrific possibility that today’s scenario script may become tomorrow’s reality.
Director-General Pfirter made clear that Joint Assistance 2005 has demonstrated that when nations and organisations pool their experience and resources, every nation stands a better chance of dealing with the emerging threat of chemical terrorism.