ALGIERS, Algeria— 12 October 2023—The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias, attended a VIP Day during CHEMEX Africa on 3 October 2023 in Algiers, Algeria. Held under the high patronage of H.E. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, the VIP Day was chaired by the Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army of Algeria, Army General Saïd Chanegriha, and attended by the Prime Minister of Algeria, H.E. Mr Aymen Benabderrahmane, and other high-level officials from the Government of Algeria, including cabinet ministers, as well as Ambassadors to Algeria from a range of countries.
“CHEMEX Africa illustrates very well the type of support provided by the OPCW, together with its partners, to build collective resilience against chemical threats,” said the Director-General in his remarks delivered at the VIP Day.
“This exercise reflects the OPCW’s approach to support capacity building of experts of the States Parties. The training aims to manage and respond to complex chemical emergencies. These include incidents and attacks that might be perpetrated by non-State actors. Through training and drills conducted over the past two weeks, CHEMEX has been enhancing the preparedness of African teams,” he highlighted.
“I would like to sincerely thank the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria for co-organising and hosting this key exercise,” Ambassador Arias added. “My sincere thanks also go to the government of Canada for its significant voluntary contribution to CHEMEX Africa, in the framework of the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.”
“Algeria is honoured to host this important event and has great appreciation for the joint initiative, undertaken by our national authority and the Organisation’s Technical Secretariat, to strengthen and develop technical expertise in the prevention and prohibition of chemical weapons, for the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, of the African region. Algeria reiterates its firm belief in the need to consolidate international security and peace, through the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, which constitute a serious threat to mankind and the very future of humanity,” said Army General Chanegriha in his opening remarks.
During the two-week intensive training, more than 80 first responders from 33 African countries strengthened their knowledge and skills required to manage and respond to complex chemical emergencies, including incidents and attacks perpetrated by non-State actors. Strengthening national capacity in assistance and protection is one of the key provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Designed as a special project within the framework of the OPCW Africa Programme, CHEMEX Africa combined a broad range of theoretical knowledge with practical experience, including a chemical emergency response simulation at the VIP Day. The exercise was organised by the OPCW in close cooperation with the government of Algeria and with financial support from the government of Canada.
Michael Callan, Canada’s Ambassador to Algeria said: “Canada recognises the critical role that first responders play in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack or incident involving toxic chemicals. We are proud to support OPCW-led initiatives such as CHEMEX Africa, which aim to build national capacities and address chemical threats. In the global campaign to prevent, detect and respond to chemical threats, effective national front-line emergency response is imperative.”
CHEMEX Africa participants included civilian and military first responders in civil defence fire and rescue services, police, military, hazardous materials teams, and medical professionals from the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Southern African Development Community. They were trained by instructors from the East African Community, who were supported by technical teams from North Africa and the Sahel, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. The exercise instructors from the East African Community region were previously trained through the OPCW Africa Programme, which is designed to strengthen cooperation with Africa on implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention.
External experts from the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, and the European Union’s CBRN Centres of Excellence provided expert supervisors, evaluators, and observers for the exercise.
CHEMEX Africa allows the OPCW and participating countries to evaluate and analyse existing gaps in chemical emergency response capabilities in Africa. The outcome of this analysis will be used as a basis to build up and improve national programmes for protective purposes. In addition, it will allow the OPCW to further fine-tune the capacity building support it provides to its Member States in Africa and beyond.
The Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on the Chemical Weapons Convention —the OPCW Africa Programme — focuses on the particular needs of African Member States, including the promotion of peaceful uses of chemistry for a developed, safe and secure Africa.
CHEMEX Africa is unique in its approach, combining a comprehensive theoretical framework with hands-on experience. Through this program, first responders were trained to manage the complexities of chemical emergencies. They learned how to identify, manage, and mitigate the threats posed by toxic industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents.
During CHEMEX, first responders received rigorous training on the proper use of personal protective equipment, decontamination procedures, detection and sampling techniques, and incident commands.
Designed within the framework of the OPCW Africa Programme, CHEMEX Africa was sponsored by the Government of Canada through a voluntary contribution within the framework of the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
The Czech Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the European Union, and other regional and international organisations provided expert supervisors, evaluators, and observers for the exercise.
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.
On 7 July 2023, the OPCW confirmed that all chemical weapons stockpiles declared by the possessor States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1997 — totalling 72,304 metric tonnes of chemical agents — have been irreversibly destroyed under the OPCW’s strict verification regime.
For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.