The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) organized a solemn commemoration of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to recognize the first two decades since the 1997 entry into force of the global abolition treaty. Green Cross International’s director of environmental security and sustainability, Dr. Paul F. Walker, was invited by OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu to participate in the ceremonies in the Dutch Binnenhof “Hall of Knights,” on behalf of civil society and the CWC Coalition. He was one of 450 dignitaries joining the historic event, which also included representatives of the 192 States Parties to the CWC, the City of The Hague, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations, civil society, and chemical industries.
OPCW Director General Uzumcu, in welcoming all participants, noted the “noble aims of the Convention” and called on all “to rededicate ourselves to peace, security and progress, …the abiding objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the essence of all our endeavors at the OPCW.” Uzumcu paid homage to the many victims of chemical weapons attacks over the past century, including those present at the ceremony, and noted that “[t]hey remind us of the human toll when morality is recklessly abandoned and universal norms callously breached.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Mayor of The Hague Pauline Krikke, and Chairperson of the CWC Conference of States Parties Christoph Israng all spoke of the vital importance of the CWC to global peace, security, and sustainability. This is even more important today, with the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq, the assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia with VX nerve agent, and four remaining countries – Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan – which have still not joined the Convention.
Green Cross’ Paul Walker stated: “Green Cross is honored to participate in this historic commemoration of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to note that over 95 per cent of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles – 72,304 metric tons of deadly chemical agents in millions of proliferation-prone weapons – has now been safely destroyed under on-going OPCW on-site verification. The CWC is an excellent model of multilateral cooperation to ban and safely abolish, under the OPCW’s watchful eye, a whole class of weapons of mass destruction. Much can be learned here for our efforts to likewise verifiably ban both nuclear and biological weapons.”
The Chemical Weapons Convention was opened for signature in 1993 and entered into force on April 29, 1997 with 84 States Parties. Declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been verifiably destroyed in Albania, India, Libya, South Korea, and Syria; the two largest stockpiles in the United States (28,600 MTs) and Russia (40,000 MTs) will be fully destroyed by 2023 and 2020 respectively, and two large sealed bunkers with chemical detritus from Saddam Hussein’s old chemical arsenal in Iraq are being evaluated. Serious questions remain still about Syria’s 2013 stockpile declaration to the OPCW and the recent use of both chlorine and sarin in Syria.
For more detail on the 20th anniversary commemoration in The Hague, including photos and Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu’s speech, see https://www.opcw.org/news/article/opcw-marks-its-20th-anniversary-with-solemn-commemorative-ceremony/. For comprehensive information on the Chemical Weapons Convention, see https://www.opcw.org/chemical-weapons-convention/.