THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 27 July – Representatives of National Authorities from African States Parties convened at the 15th Regional Meeting in Banjul, The Gambia from 18 to 20 July, to review the achievements, explore the challenges and the needs of the region in terms of the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The meeting also acted as a platform to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the CWC and the establishment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of The Gambia, Mr Assan Tangara affirmed that, “the existence of chemical weapons will always pose a threat to international peace and security” and reiterated the long-standing commitment of the African States Parties to address this threat through full and effective implementation of the Convention.
The panel discussion held on the first day focused on pertinent issues related to the Convention’s implementation: security challenges and threats coming from non-State actors, verification activities, the need to adopt national implementing legislation and expanding education and outreach initiatives.
The Director of OPCW International Cooperation and Assistance Division, Mr Hamza Khelif, thanked National Authorities for their commitment to implementation of the Convention in Africa and pointed out that “further efforts are needed to overcome the gaps in implementation related to adoption of the national implementing legislation, enforcement of control over the transfer of dual-use chemicals, and enhancement of protective capacities of States Parties”.
The working sessions saw participants make presentations and work in groups to share good practices in the working of the National Authorities as well as informing others on their activities planned for 2017, including those devoted to the OPCW 20th anniversary. The last day of the event was fully dedicated to the discussion of the OPCW Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa.
The students of the University of The Gambia delivered a special anniversary performance for the delegates, who regarded it an excellent example of youth involvement in education and outreach activities. In addition, the performance by professional actors of Ebunjan Theatre Centre told a tragic story of Fritz Haber, a Nobel Prize winner, considered a father of chemical warfare.
The participants represented National Authorities from the following countries: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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.
Ninety-five 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.