The need to uphold the norm against the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances was the fundamental message from the opening day of the Twenty-First Session of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP) to the Chemical Weapons Convention, in The Hague.
“The Convention is an integral element of the international disarmament architecture and makes a crucial contribution to international peace and security. Its near-universality demonstrates the strength of the international norm against the possession and use of chemical weapons and the horror with which humanity views their use,” affirmed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his special message to the CSP, delivered by Mr Won-soo Kim, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
Outgoing Chairperson of the CSP, H.E. Ambassador Eduardo Ibarrola-Nicolín of Mexico, highlighted that during the course of 2016, the OPCW States Parties “have continued to ensure that the Convention remains effective and operational, allowing us to build further on our past success as we look forward to addressing some of the current and future challenges”.
Following Ambassador Ibarrola-Nicolín’s remarks, the CSP proceeded to elect H.E. Ambassador Christoph Israng of Germany to chair the Twenty-First Session.
OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, further shared the Organisation’s achievements in 2016.
Special attention was given to OPCW’s work in Syria. Ambassador Üzümcü reminded delegates of the recently adopted Executive Council decision, which reflected the Council’s grave concerns about the findings of the third and fourth reports of the Joint Investigative Mechanism.
“States Parties have repeatedly stressed that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms established by the international community. Use of chemical weapons is a negation of the fundamental norms of the Convention, which are now regarded as universal. As history will judge this moment, my hope is that we will continue to work together to uphold the norms of the Convention,” expressed the Director-General.
Another major undertaking highlighted by the Director-General was the OPCW-coordinated international mission to remove and transport chemical weapon precursors from Libya for destruction outside its territory. Ambassador Üzümcü characterized the endeavor as “a positive sign for the Organisation as we prepare for future challenges”.
The Director-General’s speech opened the floor for States Party discussions that will guide the work and actions of the Organisation in 2017. The Conference will also consider emerging challenges to the CWC regime, such as the use, or threat of use, of chemical weapons by non-state actors. Moreover, States Parties will adopt next year’s programme and budget for the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat.
States Parties and civil society will hold an assortment of side events during the week-long Conference, showcasing a range of issues that are currently impacting the chemical disarmament agenda.
Conference participants will pay tribute to all victims of chemical warfare and reaffirm their commitment to upholding the global norm against these reprehensible weapons. The ceremony, scheduled for Wednesday 30 November, serves as a reminder that such weapons remain a horrifying reality, causing extensive human suffering.
This year, 134 out of 192 States Parties have convened in The Hague along with two Observers – Israel as a Signatory State and South Sudan as a non-Signatory State – and eight International Organisations. Additionally, representatives of 57 non-governmental organisations along with representatives from chemical industry are in attendance and will make statements to the CSP.
The Conference of the States Parties is the principal organ of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and consists of representatives from each of the Organisation’s Member States. It meets annually for one week in The Hague to assess the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and to make key decisions regarding the future work of the Organisation.
The Chemical Weapons Convention comprehensively prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. Any chemical used for warfare is considered a chemical weapon by the Convention.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – with its 192 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
To date, nearly 94 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.