From 14 to 23 November 2011, the OPCW hosted three meetings that examined in detail scientific and technological issues related to implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), including the 17th Session of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The Board, comprising 25 independent scientists from all regional groups and chaired by Dr Philip Coleman of South Africa, plays an important role in providing the Director-General with expert scientific advice on CWC-related issues. A total of 36 experts attended the meetings.
Opening the SAB meeting, Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü stressed that the Convention is closely tied to science [PDF 12 KB] and that the dynamism of science needs to be reflected in the work of the OPCW. “Every new development that potentially impacts the implementation of the Convention needs to be understood,” the Director-General said. “Such vigilance is vital to ensuring the long-term effectiveness of the Convention’s prohibitions (and) we should therefore maintain and strengthen strong links with the scientific community.”
The SAB addressed a number of issues and planned its future work programme, including preparation of a report on developments in science and technology that will be submitted through the Director-General to the Third Review Conference in 2013. Technical Secretariat staff provided an update on sampling and analysis in Schedule 2 inspections and on the captive use of Schedule 1 chemicals. The SAB decided to establish a new temporary working group on education and outreach, to be chaired by Professor Djafer Benachour.
A report on the 17th Session will soon be available on the Board’s website, with the next meeting scheduled for April 2012.
The OPCW also hosted the sixth meeting of the temporary working group on sampling and analysis, chaired by Dr Robin Black. The group addressed technical issues of toxin analysis; the application of trace analysis to environmental and biomedical samples collected during investigations of alleged use of chemical weapons; and new procedures and instrumentation that may be applicable for on-site and off-site analysis.
In addition, the OPCW hosted the first meeting of a new temporary working group on the convergence of chemistry and biology, which the Director-General has requested to examine what convergence means in practical terms for the Organisation. The group was chaired by Dr Robert Mathews and participants at the meeting included experts from the life sciences and the biotechnological industry. The group discussed advances in the life sciences, the extent of biologically-mediated synthesis of chemicals, the application of chemical synthesis for the production of toxins, bioregulators and peptides, and other aspects of convergence of potential relevance to the Convention.