OPCW Updates

First of all, the Open Forum website has been updated to include the presentations of all of the speakers as well as pertinent position papers and statements.

Second, the OPCW prepared a press release to announce the official Second Review Conference Report. It gives bullet point highlights of the report and quotes Director-General Pfirter:

“Although the discussions were difficult and protracted at times, the final document of the Conference is comprehensive and reaffirms the strong commitment among all States Parties to achieve universality, complete the destruction of chemical weapons, further strengthen verification measures to ensure non-proliferation, provide assistance and protection, and promote the uses of chemistry for peaceful purposes.”

Remembrance Day for All Victims of Chemical Warfare

Today is the 11th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention entry into force. April 29 is also the day that the states parties of the CWC observe as a Remembrance Day for All Victims of Chemical Warfare.

Today there was a commemorative session at the OPCW with statements by Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the OPCW; Abuelgasim Abdelwahid Shiekh Idris, Chairman of the Conference of the States Parties; Ed Kronenburg, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and G.P.H. Huffnagel, Vice-Mayor of The Hague.

U.S. Senate Resolution on the CWC – April 22, 2008

On April 22 Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) introduced Sen. Res. 525 – Recognizing the Progress Made by States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on the Occasion of the Second Review Conference. The resolution was co-sponsored by Senator Lugar (R-IN) and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Biden introduced the bill saying:

“Mr. President, 11 years ago this month, the Senate gave its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC. Those of us who were here then remember all too well how contentious and difficult a task that was.

Eleven years later, I have no doubt in my mind that the Senate did the right thing. The CWC clearly serves the national security interests of the U.S. It continues to enhance international peace and security.

Since the CWC entered into force, 183 States have signed on to the treaty’s commitment to forgo poison gas forever, and have subjected themselves to the treaty’s verification procedures. States Parties to the CWC have destroyed over 27,000 tons of chemical weapons—over a third of the world’s declared stockpiles—and 11 destruction facilities around the world are working to destroy even more. Sixty-five chemical weapons production facilities that, without a Chemical Weapons Convention, could have churned out still more poison gas are no longer carrying out that horrible work, and all but 4 of those former weapons production facilities have been verifiably destroyed or converted to peaceful purposes. Most importantly, there has been no use of chemical weapons by any country in the last 11 years, and no international support for the use of such weapons by terrorist groups.

Under the able leadership of its Director- General, Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons runs a tight ship. It works with all States Parties to improve national declarations, to mount effective inspections, and to secure the adoption of effective national laws, regulations and procedures that criminalize and guard against the production or stockpiling of chemical weapons.

The States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention are gathering over the next 2 weeks in The Netherlands for the Convention’s Second Review Conference. Senator Lugar and I have introduced this resolution during the Review Conference in order to reaffirm the Senate’s commitment to the goals of the CWC. We are proud of the progress that has been made so far, and we call upon all States Parties to continue to meet their commitments under the CWC and to do all they can to further the noble aims of the Convention.

I urge all my colleagues to support this resolution.”

Japanese Abandonded Chemical Weapons News

I just ran across this news story on the latest scandal related to the Japanese removal of Abandoned Chemical Weapons (ACW) from China.

Time Magazine also ran a story on the Japanese ACW just days before the Second Review Conference.

During the RevCon the Japanese delegation hosted a lunch event to showcase their efforts on destroying ACW in China. It was pretty interesting, videos were shown of 3 different excavation sites, one in a riverbed, one in a forest and one in between the buildings of a chemical plant. Each site had unique challenges, for example to remove ACWs from the riverbed, the river needed to be dammed and a pier removed to allow workers to excavate. Metal detectors used to locate the ACWs also located garbage and other foreign metal objects that were buried in the river. The take-home message that the Japaense delaegation was hoping to impress upon us was that they are working on it, but ACW recovery has not been an easy process.

Next challenge: actual destruction of the weapons.

Recovery difficulties coupled with an additional corruption scandal… It’s not unreasonable to wonder if they will have trouble meeting the destruction 2012 deadline.

Speaking of countries that will have trouble meeting the 2012 deadline – The Pueblo Chieftain reported this week that some of the construction of the Pueblo chemical weapon neutralizing facility will be delayed until 2009. Yikes!

Draft Conference Report

Once again, many thanks to Richard Guthrie. He stuck around the RevCon after the rest of us NGO representatives left. And even though the meetings were closed, still provided the rest of us with updates on the RevCon’s progress. Its a good thing too, because otherwise we would have no information on the second week of the conference. The OPCW website has posted a few national papers, but does not list any information on the RevCon’s late-night closing or give any indication of when the conference declaration will be released.

Today Richard continues to keep us informed, sending out yet another email update and posting this announcement to his website:

“There appears to be a delay in producing the official version of the final declaration of the CWC Review Conference. As of the morning of 23 April, UK time, it has not appeared on the OPCW’s Second Review Conference website.

Having received many e-mails asking if I could post the copy of the declaration that was circulated to the Conference in the early hours of Saturday morning, it is with some hesitation I am now posting the two sections of the declaration as given below. I hesitate because there may be some changes that will have to agreed to the texts, notwithstanding that these were the texts legally adopted.

The first document (0.5MB) contains the preambular text agreed at 2am on 19 April (not 18 April as printed on the draft) and adopted by the Conference later in the morning. The paragraphs will need renumbering owing to the edits.

The second document (2.6MB) contains the main section of the declaration adopted by the Conference. The paragraphs will need to be renumbered as the preamble may be considered to have an extra paragraph, the paragraph numbers 35, 36 and 37 are repeated, and the number 67 is not used. These are simply consequences of the rapid production of the draft declaration at such a late hour.”

Report on the Conclusion to the Review Conference

Richard Guthrie has released his final report “The Final Day (and a half): Closure of the Conference.” In it he provides some detail of the struggles of the final hours of the RevCon to reach consensus. He also begins the discussion (which will undoubtedly be the subject of many papers written in the coming months) of what happened to derail the RevCon, what it means for future meetings regarding the CWC, and how the OPCW is changing as CW stockpiles are destroyed and its mandate shifts. The conference was meticulously planned, began with great optimism, but ended with disagreement, all night sessions, and weakened statements.

Hopefully the text of the declaration will be released later today. It will be interesting to read the official final document… and the postmortem analysis articles that will soon follow.

CWC News – April 21, 2008

Over the weekend there were a few news stories on the closing of the Second Review Conference.