THE HAGUE, Netherlands—20 November 2023—The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias, paid an official visit to the Republic of Finland from 14 to 16 November 2023 at the invitation of the Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Elina Valtonen.
The Director-General and the Minister discussed during a bilateral meeting the cooperation between the OPCW and Finland in relation to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Both also discussed the situation in the Middle East and Ukraine regarding the same matter.
During the meeting, the Director-General gave an overview of the various challenges the Organisation is addressing following the end of destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles on 7 July 2023. He emphasised that rapid developments in science and technology present both threats and opportunities to the implementation of the Convention, including to the Organisation’s efforts to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons and advance chemical safety and security.
The Director-General underlined that the OPCW is closely monitoring these scientific and technological developments, including the potential threats associated with the misuse of Artificial Intelligence and unmanned means of delivering weapons, including lethal chemicals. In this connection, he highlighted the role of the OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre) in enabling the Organisation to keep pace with scientific and technological progress through training, research and the use of modern equipment and facilities for the benefit of its Member States. He also thanked the Minister for Finland’s political and financial support to build and operationalise the ChemTech Centre, which was inaugurated on 12 May 2023.
The Director-General also underscored that achieving universality of the Convention is a top priority for the OPCW and briefed the Minister on the recently issued joint communique between the Republic of South Sudan and the OPCW. He emphasised that only by achieving the full universality of the Convention can the world be assured all chemical arsenals have been declared and destroyed.
In relation to the current international security environment, the Director-General briefed the Minister on the OPCW’s support to Ukraine related to assistance and protection against chemical weapons (Article X), and thanked Finland for its contribution to this effort. He further noted that the Technical Secretariat is closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East.
“The arms control and disarmament system is under unprecedented pressure. In this context, it is very important to send a strong message about the importance of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation for international stability, security and peace. Since 1997 the Chemical Weapons Convention has been a key instrument of the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime. Finland continues its strong support for the OPCW; our common objective is to ensure the world free of chemical weapons”, said Minister Valtonen.
As part of his visit, the Director-General participated together with the Minister in an international seminar to mark the 50th anniversary of the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) and the release of the 2023 Blue Book, “Recommended Operating Procedures for Analysis in the Verification of Chemical Disarmament”. Both delivered statements during the seminar and, later, the Director-General was given a tour of VERIFIN and its laboratory. VERIFIN serves as Finland’s national authority and is one of the OPCW’s designated laboratories.
The Director-General said: “VERIFIN is an important partner for the OPCW in strengthening capabilities of laboratories in Member States, promoting understanding of chemicals related to the Convention, and enhancing international collaboration to ensure that chemistry is used only for peaceful purposes.”
During his visit, the Director-General also had the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with Ms Eva Biaudet, a member of the Parliament of Finland, and with Mr Petri Hakkarainen, the Director-General of the Political Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.
Finland has been an active member of the OPCW since the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997. Finland is a member of the Executive Council, the OPCW’s executive organ, which is responsible for promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as supervising the activities of the Organisation’s Technical Secretariat.
To date, Finland has made voluntary contributions totalling EUR 1,587,834 to eight OPCW trust funds.
The ChemTech Centre, which was inaugurated on 12 May 2023, enhances the OPCW’s ability to conduct chemical research and analysis. This significantly reinforces the Organisation’s verification regime and inspection capabilities of chemical industries around the world. In addition, an increasing number of capacity development activities are being delivered through the Centre, including chemical emergency response trainings and analytical skills development courses for experts from Member States.
South Sudan is one of only four countries who have yet to accede to the CWC, the others being the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, and Israel which has signed but not yet ratified the Convention.
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 verified that all chemical weapons stockpiles declared by the 193 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.