OPCW’s Scientific Advisory Board Provides Valuable Guidance at its Twenty-Fourth Session

31 October 2016
SAB members and OPCW Staff at the Netherlands Forensic Institute on 27 October

SAB members and OPCW Staff at the Netherlands Forensic Institute on 27 October

The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) offered valuable guidance on the scientific and technological work of the Organisation, during its Twenty-Fourth session at OPCW Headquarters on 28 October.

The Board’s crucial task, to consider scientific issues relevant to OPCW’s future, was highlighted in the OPCW Deputy Director-General, Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao’s, opening remarks, as he encouraged them to “continue [their] forward-looking and innovative stance and to think broadly in [their] advice and recommendations”. The Board’s subsequent meeting with OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, continued on this train of thought as they discussed ways to take their scientific advice and recommendations to policy makers.

 

Dr Christopher Timperley, SAB chairperson, noted: “The challenge before us is to continue to ensure that we are able to translate the complexity of science into viable policy options, which States Parties can apply to strengthen the CWC.”

 

During the session, chaired by Dr Timperley and vice-chair Mr Cheng Tang, the SAB reviewed two reports from their June and September workshops on chemical forensics and mechanisms of chemical agent toxicity. From these reports, the SAB put forward recommendations that arose from these two events. The two workshop reports will additionally inform the SAB’s report on developments in science and technology for the 2018 Fourth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). 

 

The Board invited experts from other advisory boards – including OPCW’s Advisory Board on Education and Outreach and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board – to discuss best practices for providing effective scientific advice to policy makers. This topic is especially relevant for the upcoming Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) Review Conference, where SAB members and the OPCW Science Policy Adviser will hold a side event on the scientific advice mechanism of the OPCW.

 

During the four-day session, experts provided updates on applications of omics technologies, computational approaches to studying chemistry, the analysis of big data, and industrial chemical technologies relevant to the CWC. Other activities included briefings on developments in the convergence of chemistry and biology, an overview of developments in analytical methods to assist the disposal of old and abandoned chemical weapons, a briefing to States Parties of the OPCW by the SAB Chair and Vice-Chair, and a tour of the Netherlands Forensic Institute. OPCW staff members were also given the opportunity to highlight areas of their work where scientific advice could be beneficial.

 

The Twenty-Fourth Session of the SAB report will be released shortly and the SAB will hold their next meeting in March 2017.

 

Background

 

The Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of 25 independent experts from OPCW States Parties, and advises the Director-General on science and technological issues relevant to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

 

The Chemical Weapons Convention comprehensively prohibits the use, development, production, storage and transfer of chemical weapons. Any chemical used for warfare is considered a chemical weapon by the Convention.  The OPCW is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention and oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons.

 

The Convention entered into force in 1997. With 192 countries obligating themselves to the CWC, it is the most successful disarmament treaty in existence, eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. To date, over 93 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.

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