THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 8 June 2017 — Chemists from Africa expanded their expertise in analysing chemicals related to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) through the application of gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), during an Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) training in Pretoria, South Africa, from 22 May-2 June 2017.
The course took place over two weeks and offered comprehensive theoretical and practical training in GC and GC-MS analysis – pre-eminent analytical techniques in separating, identifying and quantifying compounds in complex mixtures.
The participants practiced preparing and handling samples, operating analytical instruments and applying various GC and MS techniques. Exercises were supported by lectures on the physical-chemical properties of chemical warfare agents, quality control, safety, health and environmental protection related to working in chemical labs, and the handling of toxic chemicals.
Moreover, the course provided an overview of the CWC and developed participants understanding of the important role science plays in the effective implementation of the Convention.
“This is a much needed initiative, as there are no courses on chemical weapons in chemistry departments in Africa. I especially appreciated the practical aspect of the training, which allowed us to gain expertise in the complexities of GC and GC-MS analytical techniques,” one participant stated. Another attendee underlined the professional self-reliance that the course had granted him: “The lessons on troubleshooting and equipment maintenance were extremely useful; now we know how to deal with common equipment malfunctions without waiting for foreign expertise to fix them, saving us both time and money”.
The course was co-organised by the OPCW and the Protechnik Laboratories from Pretoria, and was conducted under the OPCW’s Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa.
This ninth edition of the training was attended equally by men and women from OPCW Member States from Africa. The 22 participants represented: Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – and with its 192 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
To date, nearly 95 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.