THE HAGUE, Netherlands—27 October 2022—The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias, visited Australia from 19 to 21 October.
During his visit, the Director-General met with the Hon. Mr Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Hon. Mr Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Assistant Minister for Defence. The officials discussed approaches to addressing the challenges posed to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in the current international security landscape. The Director-General briefed the Assistant Ministers on the progress in the construction of the OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre), which is due to become operational in the first half of 2023. The officials also exchanged views on preparations for the Fifth Review Conference of the CWC, which will be held in May 2023.
On 19 October, the Director-General participated in a forum on enhancing the implementation of the CWC in the Pacific region, in Brisbane. In his keynote address, the Director-General highlighted: “Adopting, implementing, and enforcing legislation at the national level is your first line of defence against re-emergence of chemical weapons, in particular with the respect to the illegal acquisition of toxic chemicals by non-state actors for malicious purposes. The OPCW stands ready to support all States Parties from the Pacific region in your efforts to strengthen your implementation of the Convention.”
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Mr Tim Watts MP remarked that: “Australia is a strong supporter of the OPCW and the vital role it plays in supporting global disarmament and non-proliferation.” He continued to state that: “Collaboration, communication and shared learning with our Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours is vital to ensuring regional security. This includes by strengthening implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention throughout our region, a core theme of this week’s Subregional Conference held in Brisbane.”
On 21 October, the Director-General participated in a signing ceremony to formalise a technical agreement with Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), one of the OPCW Designated Laboratories, for preparing test samples for the Eighth Official OPCW Biomedical Proficiency Test.
During the ceremony, Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon. Mr Matt Thistlethwaite MP, remarked that: “Australia is proud of the integrity and expertise of our Defence Science and Technology Group, and the considerable amount of work undertaken by scientists here to reach and maintain the OPCW Designated Laboratory status.”
The Director-General stated that: “Australia was instrumental in concluding the negotiations for the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1992, and since then, continues to be a key partner for the OPCW. I am deeply grateful to Australia for its contributions to critical OPCW activities such as the network of OPCW Designated Laboratories and the ChemTech Centre, which will be an essential vehicle for the Organisation to address its current and future challenges.”
During the visit, the Director-General met with high-ranking officials of the Government of Australia and delivered a public lecture to an audience of senior government officials and representatives from academia at the Australian National University.
The Subregional Forum on the Chemical Weapons Convention: Enhancing National Implementation and Regional Cooperation in the Pacific Region was held 17 to 20 October in Brisbane and brought together stakeholders of OPCW Member States from Pacific region to exchange views and discuss approaches to national implementation of the CWC. It was organised in collaboration between the OPCW and the Governments of Australia and Malaysia.
The Review Conference occurs once every five years. It is an opportunity for all States Parties to review the operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and set a strategic direction for the OPCW for the next five years and beyond. States Parties are anticipated to offer recommendations for enhancing the OPCW’s work in the areas of verification, assistance and protection, international cooperation, capacity development, and outreach. The Fifth Review Conference will take place from 15 to 19 May 2023.
Australia has been an active member of the OPCW since the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997.
Australia has voluntarily contributed AUD 350,00 to the project to build the OPCW ChemTech Centre.
OPCW Designated Laboratories must be able to perform off-site analysis of chemical or biomedical samples collected by OPCW inspectors from chemical production facilities, storage depots and other installations, or from the site of an alleged use of chemical weapons.
These laboratories offer the necessary assurance to our States Parties that chemical or biomedical analyses needed to make determinations or to clarify issues occurring during OPCW deployments are carried out competently, impartially, and with unambiguous results.
Designated Laboratories are evaluated by OPCW proficiency tests in order to attain and retain the status.
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.
- Australia at OPCW
- OPCW Designated Laboratories
- ChemTech Centre
- Keynote Speech by the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Fernando Arias, at Subregional Forum on the Chemical Weapons Convention: Enhancing National Implementation and Regional Cooperation in the Pacific Region
- The Hon Tim Watts MP (Media Release): Chemical Weapons Convention Partnerships
- Speech by the Hon. Tim Watts MP: Subregional Forum on CWC National Implementation
- Article VII of the CWC – National Implementation Measures
- Photos from the event