On Monday 7 November, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, paid an official visit to Poland. He met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Mr Witold Waszczykowski and discussed the political and technological challenges of permanently eliminating chemical weapons, as well as Poland’s involvement and support to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The Director-General also had meetings with the Undersecretary of State at the MFA, Ambassador Marek Ziółkowski and the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Development, Mr Jerzy Kwieciński. While meeting Commander Jacek Barański and his associates at the CBRN Area Control Centre, the Director-General was given a demonstration on sample collection in a hostile environment.
Ambassador Üzümcü also spoke to students of Warsaw University of Technology about the need to ensure that the gains in chemical disarmament become a permanent feature of international security architecture.
During the visit, Ambassador Üzümcü, while highlighting the historic achievements in chemical weapon destruction that make the OPCW one of the most successful international disarmament instruments, also spoke about the growing threat of chemical terrorism and the use of toxic chemicals as weapons, as demonstrated by recently confirmed cases in Syria and Iraq.
He explained that challenges such as these have guided the OPCW to re-focus its work, so that “in the future [the OPCW] will seek to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons, as opposed to focusing on the destruction of declared stockpiles, which has almost been accomplished.”
Prevention is a challenge of remarkable complexity, he explained, and it involves ensuring that domestic implementation of the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention is more effective, and that we keep abreast of advances in science and continue to carry out vigorous education and outreach initiatives.
“In the current international environment, it is easy to be struck with pessimism. But we must stay resolute. There is no alternative to peace. As a global civilisation, we have learned that lesson through many self-inflicted tragedies and devastating conflicts,” the Director-General concluded.
Poland joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997. It actively engages with and supports OPCW activities, including those that build national and regional capacity through the OPCW’s international cooperation and assistance programmes.
In 2013, Poland offered a voluntary contribution to the Syria Trust Fund for the Destruction of Chemical Weapons.
A visible manifestation of Poland’s active contribution to chemical weapons’ disarmament is the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution on the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention that Poland sponsors every year. Through that Resolution, the international community reaffirms its strong support for the goals of the 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 for 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, 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.