THE HAGUE, Netherlands–19 November 2021–The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) discussed recent scientific and technological advances relevant to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) during its Thirty-Third Session held from 15 to 18 November.
Opening the online meeting, OPCW’s Director-General, H.E. Mr Fernando Arias, invited the Board to finalise its Report on Developments in Science and Technology in the autumn of 2022 “to ensure that the SAB’s findings can be duly taken into account by the States Parties in the course of the preparation process” for the Fifth Review Conference likely to take place in April 2023.
The Director-General thanked the six members whose tenures on the Board will finish at the end of 2021. He expressed his gratitude to Chairperson, Dr Christophe Curty, and Vice-Chairperson, Dr Zrinka Kovarik, for their leadership roles in the SAB over the past few years.
During the session, Technical Secretariat staff provided an overview of OPCW work on countering chemical terrorism and updated the SAB on the activities of the OPCW Laboratory and those related to the construction of the OPCW’s new Centre for Chemistry and Technology (CCT), which is expected to open its doors in early 2023. Additionally, guest speakers provided briefings on innovative ideas in determining toxic chemical exposure in natural vegetation, recent work on detection and identification of human exposure to different chemical weapon agents, and effective management of risk associated with highly hazardous chemicals, among other topics.
The session concluded with an update on the work of the recently established Temporary Working Group (TWG) on the analysis of biotoxins which is mandated to review the science and technology relevant to the analysis of biotoxins that need to be considered during investigations into their alleged use.
At its final session of this year, the SAB elected Mr Gunter Povoden as its new Chair and Dr Andrea Leisewitz as Vice-Chair to start in 2022. Furthermore, six members will be leaving the Board at the end of 2021 after completing the maximum two terms.
The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), composed of 25 independent experts from OPCW Member States, advises the Director-General on science and technology issues relevant to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Every five years, the SAB also prepares a larger report on developments in science and technology for submission to Review Conferences of the Convention.
In January 2021, the SAB established a temporary working group (TWG) on the analysis of biotoxins to undertake an in-depth review of the methods and technologies used in the analysis of biotoxins and provide expert advice on the questions set out in the terms of reference of the Group. The TWG’s mandate was set for two years with a possibility of extension, pending the needs of the Organisation and available funding.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.