THE HAGUE, Netherlands–10 December 2021–The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) organised a training course for Member States in Africa on the enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s (CWC) transfer regime of scheduled chemicals. Conducted within the framework of the OPCW Africa Programme, the online course was held in French and English from 8 to 10 December.
The Head of OPCW’s Implementation Support Branch remarked: “In relation to the CWC, customs play a key role in monitoring the import and export of toxic chemicals to ensure that those chemicals are used exclusively for peaceful and authorised purposes. Tight control over the trade in chemicals is particularly important in view of new and evolving security threats, particularly those posed by non-state actors.”
Ms Vesna Vračar, a WCO trainer, emphasised the customs security mandate established by the Punta Cana Resolution. She noted: “WCO’s cooperation with the OPCW on capacity building is essential for enhancing the knowledge of front-line customs officers on effective enforcement of trade control over strategic chemicals”.
During the course, customs officers learned about the use of chemical identification tools and correct reporting on imports and exports of scheduled chemicals. Participants discussed practical issues related to chemical trade control, experiences in national customs training on Convention-related issues, and best practices of cooperation between customs and CWC National Authorities.
A participant from Mauritius, Mr Mitreshwarnath Gokhoolah, highlighted the importance of establishing effective cooperation between customs and the National Authority. He stated: “Customs regularly provide import and export data to the Mauritius National Chemical Weapons Authority and assist it with addressing discrepancies in trade figures. Therefore, it was particularly helpful to learn during the course about the ways to identify scheduled chemicals and address transfer discrepancies.”
The course was attended by 39 customs officers from the following 17 Member States from Africa: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
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.