"On this Remembrance Day, let us renew our efforts to rid the world of these and all other weapons of mass destruction. Only by working together, can we realize a world free of chemical weapons." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The Conference of the States Parties at its Tenth Session decided that a Memorial Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare would be observed on April 29th each year — the date in 1997 on which the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force.
This commemoration will provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the victims of chemical warfare, as well as to reaffirm the commitment of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the elimination of the threat of chemical weapons, thereby promoting the goals of peace, security, and multilateralism.
The Third Review Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Convention held 8-19 April 2013 in the Hague, the Netherlands, adopted by consensus a political declaration that confirms the “unequivocal commitment” of the States Parties to the global chemical weapons ban, and a comprehensive review of CWC implementation since the last Review Conference in 2008 that also maps out the OPCW’s priorities for the coming five years.
Delivering his remarks to the Conference the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon stressed that progress in achieving the total destruction of chemical weapons must be complemented by efforts to gain universal adherence to the Convention.
ORGANIZATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS: Working together for a world free of chemical weapons
What is a Chemical Weapon?
A common conception of a chemical weapon is of a toxic chemical contained in a delivery system such as a bomb or artillery shell. While technically correct, a definition based on this conception would only cover a small portion of the range of things the CWC prohibits as ‘chemical weapons’. For one thing, CW components— a toxic chemical and delivery system, for example—may be stored separately, each in and of itself less than a fully developed weapon. In the case of binary munitions, a non-lethal chemical may actually be stored within a munition, only to be mixed with a second chemical inserted into the munition shortly before firing, and the toxic product disseminated upon arrival at the target. The complexity of the chemical weapon definition needed to meet the objectives of the Convention can be seen when considering ‘dual use’ items and technologies. Dual-use chemicals are those that can be used for peaceful and commercial purposes and can also be used as, or applied to the creation of, chemical weapons. To address the potential threat posed by these chemicals, the CWC definition of a chemical weapon had to be as comprehensive as possible. At the same time, however, care had to be taken not to define chemical weapons in a way that unnecessarily hindered legitimate uses of chemicals and the economic and technological development to which such uses may lead. While providing for the prevention of production or stockpiling of chemical weapons, the definition could not result in restrictions of any State Party’s right to produce and use chemicals for peaceful purposes or to acquire and retain conventional weapons and their associated delivery systems. The definition eventually adopted allowed for a balanced approach under which the Convention’s objectives can be met while the rights of States Parties are retained. To preclude contravention of the treaty’s intent by separation of chemical weapons into component parts, the Convention defines each component of a chemical weapon (CW) as a chemical weapon—whether assembled or not, stored together or separately. Anything specifically designed or intended for use in direct connection with the release of a chemical agent to cause death or harm is itself a chemical weapon. Specifically, the definition is divided into three parts: toxic chemicals and their precursors, munitions or devices and equipment ‘directly in connection’ with munitions and devices.
Origins of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW History was made on April 29, 1997 with the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)— the world’s first multilateral disarmament agreement to provide for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction within a fixed time frame. The event marked both the culmination of many years of painstaking negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament and Preparatory Commission and the birth of an international chemical weapons disarmament regime headed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Organization strives to fulfil the Convention’s mandate to end the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons; to ensure the elimination of existing stocks of such weapons; and, in so doing, to make the world safe from the threat of chemical warfare.
Sources: UN.org, fact sheets