THE HAGUE, Netherlands—25 July 2022—A group of 30 first responders from across the world were trained on protection against chemical weapons during a course held from 11 to 15 July 2022 in Spiez, Switzerland. The course was hosted by the Swiss Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) Defense School, based in Spiez. The school co-organised the event with the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The course provided fundamental training in protection against chemical weapons. Topics covered included a theoretical introduction to chemical warfare agents and the basics of individual protective measures. It also included practical training with chemical detection and decontamination equipment.
Many of the participants, which included military, police, firefighting, and technical personnel, were specialists associated with the training of civilians in protection against chemical weapons.
In his opening statement, Colonel Christophe Chollet, Commander of the NBC Defense School remarked that: “The focus remains on the threat these weapons pose to regional and international peace and security. This Basic Course is an integral part of our offer under Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It not only draws on the considerable expertise of Switzerland in the field of civilian chemical weapons protection, but also on participants’ feedbacks. At the end of this week, participants should have the necessary basic knowledge and skills to be able to support their own national chemical weapons protection capability.”
The OPCW project officer-in-charge stated: “In an ever-changing environment of conflict and natural disasters, it is of the upmost importance to train first responders to proficiently and efficiently respond to chemical emergencies. This course covered various key steps such as protection, detection, and identification of chemical weapons and toxic industrial chemicals.”
The Swiss Basic Course on Assistance and Protection has been offered annually since 2008 and is a core element of Switzerland’s approach to upholding its obligations under Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Participation in the Basic Course is required to attend the advanced and laboratory skills courses which are also offered by the NBC Defense School in Spiez.
The Basic Course was attended by 30 participants from 17 Member States: Argentina, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ecuador, Germany, Lebanon, Maldives, Mauritania, Nepal, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.
Article X relates to the provision of assistance and protection, on request, to any Member State in the event of the use or threat of use of chemical weapons. Under Article X, Member States “have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, material and scientific and technological information concerning means of protection against chemical weapons.”
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 99% 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.