The Environmental Security and Sustainability (ESS) Program of Green Cross International organized a two-hour roundtable in The Hague, The Netherlands on 19 July to focus on stakeholder involvement and the global ban on chemical weapons. Entitled “Briefing on Follow-up Steps to Further Enhance Stakeholder Involvement with the OPCW after the Third Review Conference,” the discussion was focused on how best to involve civil society to strengthen the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), now joined by 189 countries across the globe.
Although the CWC entered into force in 1997, sixteen years ago, very few non-governmental organizations, experts, academics, and industry representatives have participated over its sixteen years of operation. The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, a multilateral regime which oversees the destruction of chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles in seven declared possessor countries, helps to prevent the reemergence of chemical weapons, and promotes the peaceful uses of chemistry.
The Green Cross ESS Program established a “CWC Coalition” in 2009 to help network, coordinate, and expand civil society involvement in the abolition regime. The 19 July meeting brought together five NGO experts, and also included an introductory presentation by Dr. Paul F. Walker, Director of the ESS Program and coordinator of the CWC Coalition.
The OPCW has overseen and verified the safe and irreversible destruction of over 56,000 metric tons of deadly chemical agents over the past 16 years in the US, Russia, Albania, Libya, India, and South Korea. The US, Russia, Libya, and Iraq still have more chemical agents to destroy, but it is expected that this effort will be completed in the next decade. And seven countries still remain outside of the CWC regime – Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, South Sudan, and Syria. Much discussion at the OPCW this month focused on the issue of Syrian chemical weapons.
OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu stated in his opening remarks that civil society has played a very important role in many arms control, disarmament, public health, and environment-related regimes including the ban on land mines, on cluster bombs, on nuclear weapons, and on both biological and chemical weapons. Uzumcu urged civil society and non-governmental organizations “to continue their important role” promoting peace, security, and sustainability, and thanked the CWC Coalition for its catalytic effort to raise public awareness of the importance of these global regimes.
The Green Cross ESS Program has worked since the mid-1990s to facilitate safe and sound nonproliferation and elimination of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological; of strategic launch systems including strategic ballistic missiles, submarines, and bombers; of conventional weapons; and of fissile material and radioactive sources which could be used for nuclear devices or “dirty bombs.” It has also worked to promote the clean-up and remediation of military and civilian lands and waters polluted with toxic contamination and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) from wars, military training, and industry, and to better understand the impacts on public health and the environment. More information on the July 19th CWC Coalition event in The Hague, and on chemical weapons destruction in general, can be found at www.opcw.org and www.cwccoalition.org.
To learn more about the Green Cross-organized roundtable of 19 July in The Hague, please visit our website.