Saturday, March 17, 2012

14 October 2010 – OPCW DG speaks to UNGA


Yesterday, H.E. Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü of Turkey, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), made his first address to the UN General Assembly.

As this was an introductory moment for the new Director-General (who, as you may recall from a previous COP message, took office at midnight on Saturday 24 July 2010), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü’ss speech was understandably short on detail.  However, he did manage to hit all of the necessary high points, and provided some interesting statistical updates.  I thought it might be useful to excerpt a few of them here (the statement notes are in blue).

1)  The OPCW, at present, devotes 85% of its inspector time to verifying the destruction of existing CW stockpiles at declared CW destruction facilities.  This means, by extension, that only 15% of inspector time is devoted to verification activities at more than 6,000 declared, inspectable chemical industrial facilities.  Incidentally, this ratio has not changed since 2006, despite the fact that CW destruction has made significant strides since then.  So far, only 1900 inspections have been carried out at industrial sites in 181 States Parties - but since many states parties have only a few sites, a lot of them have been hit twice.  China, for example, has about 3,000 declarable, inspectable sites, but since the algorithm authorized for use by the TS maxes out at 20 inspections per State Party per year, it will be 150 years before all of China’s facilities are hit once.  This is a very serious problem, given how the chemical industry is evolving away from massive, single-product linear production plants to smaller, multi-functional, rapidly reconfigurable batch production facilities.

2)  62% of declared CW stockpiles have been destroyed.  As I said, this represents a significant advance in only 4 years; as of 1 December 2006, only 22.5% of the declared CW stockpiles had been destroyed.  Three possessor States Parties - Albania, ‘A State Party’ (the ROK), and India have completed their destruction programmes.

3)  Libya and Iraq have CW to destroy, but have not yet begun their destruction programs.  Russia and the US have reached the 50% and 80% marks, respectively.  Both have formally declared that they will miss the 27 April 2012 deadline for completion of their destruction obligations.

4)  96% of member states have established a National Authority (as required by para 4 of Article VII), while only 50% have implemented the legislative provisions of para 1 of Article VII.  This is a significant shortfall that must be redressed as a matter of priority.  That said, practically speaking, most of the delinquent States Parties don’t really have anything resembling an actual ‘chemical industry’, so the Convention’s object and purpose are not really imperilled by these lacunae.

5)  Regarding universality, the membership of the OPCW currently stands at 188 States Parties.  The most recent country to accede to the Convention was the Bahamas, for which state the CWC entered into force on 21 May 2009.  At present, only 7 countries remain outside of the Convention.  However, there are some important ones on this list: Angola, the DPRK, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria.  Five of those are strongly suspected of possessing chemical weapons - especially Syria.

All very interesting stuff, and a good background for the run-up to the 15th Session of the Conference of States Parties, scheduled to take place at the Organization’s HQ in The Hague, from 29 November to 3 December.

The Director-General’s statement can be read in full here.

Anyone interested in CSP 15 can find all relevant information here.