THE HAGUE, Netherlands—14 November 2023—The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias, had a meeting with Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.E. Dr Vincent Biruta, at OPCW Headquarters in the Hague on 6 November 2023.
During the meeting, the Director-General and the Minister discussed a range of issues regarding the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention related to the post-destruction phase, as well as the current international political and security environment. In this context, they both underscored the importance of increasing international cooperation and capacity building in chemical emergency preparedness for strengthening chemical safety and security in all Member States and in Africa in particular. The Director-General briefed the Minister on the work of the Organisation, including the outcomes of CHEMEX Africa, the first ever large-scale chemical emergency response exercise for African countries, which was organised by the OPCW and the Algerian Government, and took place from 23 September to 5 October 2023 in Algiers, Algeria.
“Our aim of a world free of chemical weapons includes the facilitation and the provision of assistance and protection against chemical incidents and attacks, as well as fostering international cooperation, so that chemistry is used solely to advance peace, progress and prosperity in both developed and developing countries across the world,” the Director-General said.
Ambassador Arias agreed with the Minister that African States Parties have a vital role in ensuring the full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention to support stability and peace for populations everywhere. He also underlined the importance of the OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre), which has a key role in strengthening the Organisation’s efforts in responding to new and emerging threats and opportunities arising from rapid advances in science and technology.
“The ChemTech Centre will also enhance the Organisation’s capacity to deliver training activities for Member States and strengthen local capabilities to respond to chemical incidents,” he added.
“It is an honour to visit for the first time the OPCW; an Organisation that plays a significant role in building a world free of chemical weapons and which achieved this year a significant milestone of eliminating all declared chemical weapons stockpiles,” the Minister said.
“Rwanda remains committed to the principles of the Chemical Weapons Convention and looks forward to the continued cooperation with the Technical Secretariat on the peaceful use of chemistry,” he highlighted.
Rwanda signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, ratifying it in 2004 and has been an active member ever since. Rwanda 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.
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. Designed within the framework of the OPCW Africa Programme, CHEMEX Africa was unique in its approach, combining a comprehensive theoretical framework with hands-on experience. Through this two-week capacity building exercise, African instructors trained African first responders in a South-South collaboration.
The ChemTech Centre, which was inaugurated on 12 May 2023, enhances the OPCW’s ability to conduct chemical research and analysis. This significantly reinforced 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.
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.