The 28th Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CSP28) has held a minute’s silence in a ceremony of remembrance for all victims of chemical warfare on Wednesday, November 29, 2023.
The minute’s silence took place at the opening of the third day of the annual conference in The Hague, conducted under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The conference is being chaired by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the OPCW, H.E. Mr Suljuk Mustansar Tarar, who assumed his duties from the outgoing Chairperson, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the OPCW, H.E. Mr Vusimuzi Madonsela.
“Preventing re-emergence means preventing new victims of chemical weapons”
In advance of the ceremony, the Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Fernando Arias, issued a statement in which he said that the occasion is an “opportunity to recall that 193 States Parties to the Convention have made a solemn commitment to never develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer or use chemical weapons”.
“As we tackle the existing and emerging challenges to the Chemical Weapon Convention, we must continue to bear in mind the deep humanitarian aspect of our mission. The suffering of victims, from World War One to the present, will continue to sustain our determination to ensure that toxic chemicals are employed exclusively for peaceful purposes,” he said.
Referring to a developing aspect of the OPCW’s work following the destruction of the final declared chemical stockpile in the United States of America on July 7, 2023, the Director-General added that “preventing re-emergence means preventing new victims of chemical weapons – the goal we are all ultimately striving towards.”
“Degraded geopolitical environment”
“We must acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead,” said Ambassador Arias in his statement. “The degraded geopolitical environment and the threats associated with misuse of new and emerging technologies have heightened the risk of the re-emergence of toxic chemicals being used as methods of warfare. As the Organisation intensifies its focus on preventing re-emergence, it is imperative that we maintain vigilance and continue to respond resolutely to their use.”
His statement concluded, “as we honour the memory of those killed and injured in chemical warfare, let us renew this commitment to ensure a world permanently free of this abhorrent means of warfare.”
OPCW Programme and Budget for 2024-2025 Adopted After Roll Call Vote
Elsewhere during CSP28, the OPCW Programme and Budget for 2024-2025 was adopted by roll call vote after consensus on its contents could not be reached. The Programme and Budget was passed with 98 votes for, eight votes against, and 21 abstentions.
Russia, Iran, and Syria were among the countries voting no, citing the increased funding for the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) as one of their reasons for doing so. The IIT was established based on a decision taken during the Conference of the States Parties dated June 27, 2018, to “identify the perpetrators of specific instances of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic”.
OPCW The Hague Award
CSP28 also saw two people and one organization be awarded the OPCW The Hague Award that recognises individuals and organizations that play a significant role in advancing the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The three winners were: Dr Syeda Sultana Razia, for strengthening chemical safety and security with science and education; Mr Hubert K Foy, for enhancing CWC implementation in Africa through advocacy and training; and the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, for advancing chemical disarmament through science, research and analysis.
CSP28 concludes on Thursday, November 30, 2023.