Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which implements and verifies the CWC, announced at the 48th Meeting of the OPCW Executive Council this week that Myanmar, one of the six countries remaining outside of the Convention, had voted to ratify the treaty and would be submitting the instrument of ratification for the President’s signature and formal submission to the United Nations Secretary General as the CWC’s Depositary.
Myanmar had signed the CWC on 14 January 1993, the day after the treaty was opened for signature in Paris, but this ratification makes it the 191st member state (“State Party”) of the chemical weapons banning regime. The treaty will take effect for Myanmar a month after its formal submission. The CWC is currently the most global of all multilateral arms control regimes and has verified the elimination of over 61,000 metric tonnes of deadly chemical agents – about 85 per cent of declared chemical weapons stockpiles – in eight countries (See www.opcw.org).
Myanmar’s move leaves only five UN member states not party to the CWC. Angola, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan have neither signed nor acceded to the treaty, while Israel has signed but not yet ratified it.
“This long-awaited step by Myanmar is most welcome, and further builds the universality of the comprehensive and global ban on chemical weapons,” said Dr Paul Walker, Director of the Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme. “Since the horrors of chemical weapons use were most recently and vividly demonstrated in the Syrian civil war over the past three years, no country may any longer even contemplate, let alone plan, for use of chemical weapons in warfare. Syria’s accession in September, 2013, and now Myanmar’s ratification, both contribute to pressure on the remaining five non-member countries – Angola, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan – to join the abolition regime as soon as possible.”
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, also ratified the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) on 1st December 2014 to become the 171st State Party to the BWC. The country appears to be in process of joining a number of global treaties and agreements.
Green Cross has worked closely with the OPCW, BWC, and other multilateral global security regimes for the past two decades – partnerships that have promoted safe and environmentally sound abolition of weapons of mass destruction, on-site inspection and verification, and strong national implementation. It also founded and manages the CWC Coalition, an international network of non-governmental experts, to support transparency for chemical weapons demilitarization efforts and civil society involvement to strengthen the Convention and OPCW.