THE HAGUE, Netherlands–6 December 2021–Female armed forces personnel upgraded their knowledge on assistance and protection against chemical incidents during the first online course held specifically for women from the Pan-American region, from 29 November to 3 December. The training was conducted by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat in partnership with the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB).
The General Director of the IADB, General Porfirio Fuentes, underlined: “The topics covered during this course constitute a valuable training opportunity for members of the armed forces. Virtual activities such as this allow to close the knowledge gap on assistance activities during chemical emergencies.”
The Director of OPCW’s International Cooperation and Assistance Division stressed in her opening remarks: “It is my firm conviction that women engaged – or aspiring to be engaged – in first response to chemical emergencies must be given greater opportunities to develop and realise their potential and empowered to make their contribution to the cause of the Chemical Weapons Convention. To make that happen, we all must do our part to break the glass ceiling and open the doors of opportunity.”
The participants learned about the history of chemical weapons use, main tenets of the Chemical Weapons Convention, types of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, protection and detection systems relating to chemical weapons, chain of custody, decontamination, and command and control. Attendees also discussed IADB’s role during chemical incidents, while a guest lecturer of the United States National Veterinary Response Team delivered a lecture on the implications and procedures of canine decontamination.
This new capacity building initiative builds on the success of the OPCW “Women in Chemistry” project launched in 2016 to advance the role of women scientists in promoting peaceful uses of chemistry.
The workshop was attended by 77 female professionals from 15 OPCW Member States: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Uruguay.
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 has been the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapon 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.