Green Cross International (GCI) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) co-organized an expert discussion on Monday, July 18, 2016 in Washington DC on global chemical safety and security. Chaired by Ambassador Robert Mikulak, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at CNS and former US Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the seminar included Ambassador Krzysztof Paturej from Poland and Dr. Paul F. Walker of Green Cross International. Ambassador Paturej is President of the International Center for Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS) in Warsaw, Poland. Dr. Walker is the Director of the GCI Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme, and manages GCI’s Washington DC office.
Ambassador Mikulak introduced the discussion by underlining the importance of global chemical safety and security, especially in light of the apparent on-going use of toxic chemicals in both Iraq and Syria. He noted that while the chemical industry has instituted an important voluntary programme – “Responsible Care” – over the past fifteen years, and while over 90 per cent of declared chemical weapons have now been safely and verifiably destroyed under the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the innumerable uses of deadly chemicals over the past three or more years in the Middle East has increased the urgency of strengthening global safety and security.
Dr. Walker emphasized that the CWC has been very successful in its 19-year history to date in verifying the safe elimination of over 66,000 metric tons of declared chemical agents in military stockpiles in seven possessor states – Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, Syria, and the United States. Iraq, which also declared unknown quantities of chemical agents and weapons in 2009, continues to work on plans for eliminating these old stocks from the pre-1991 First Gulf War which were sealed by United Nations inspectors in two large bunkers two decades ago.
Dr. Walker also noted that the CWC, which entered into force in 1997, was never designed as an anti-terrorist treaty and the OPCW is just now confronting what this might mean for the future of the CWC. Chemicals are ubiquitous, as Walker pointed out, with many of them dual-use and toxic, requiring much stricter management and reporting standards, especially for storage and transport. He cited the 2015 major chemical accident in Tianjin, China, which killed hundreds and injured thousands, as an example of the potential power of chemical terrorism.
Ambassador Paturej told the audience that he had just returned from Beijing, China where he signed a joint communique, on behalf of ICCSS, with the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CPCIF) to expand cooperation on chemical safety and security. The two organizations are also co-organizing a global summit, CHEMSS2017, in the fall of 2017 in China. Paturej also presented a summary of CHEMSS2016, a global summit organized by ICCSS in Kielce, Poland last April. He stated that “strict chemical safety and security measures must be applied throughout the full chain of production, infrastructure, transportation, storage, use, and disposal of chemicals in order to support effective barriers against misuse and diversion of chemical agents and materials.”
Additional information can be found on the websites of ICCSS and CHEMSS2016. The final declaration from CHEMSS2016, drafted by Ambassador Haji Farajvand from Iran and Dr. Paul Walker, is noted below, as well as a summary from the April summit in Kielce, Poland.