The Open Forum

Here is a (not so brief) overview of the Open Forum held at OPCW headquarters yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon was the Open Forum, where other stakeholders in the CWC, such as industry, academia and NGOs were able to present their views and ideas on moving the Convention forward. The forum was chaired by Dr. Ralf Trapp and began with a brief welcome from Director General Rogelio Pfirter. The DG thanked us for coming and expressed his appreciation for the participation of industry, academia and NGOs in the RevCon. The OPCW, the states parties and the other stakeholders all need to work together for the CWC and continue to be “dedicated to peace and security and the improvement of the human condition.”
Next United Kingdom Ambassador Lyn Parker, Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group for the preparation for the Second Review Conference said a few words. He outlined the extensive preparations for the conference and is looking forward to the upcoming discussions between the states parties, but also attached importance input from us.
The first panel of the meeting focused on “creating a more secure world through the Chemical Weapons Convention” and Daniel Feakes of the Harvard Sussex Program was the first speaker. Daniel’s talk focused on CWC universality and discussed many of the themes addressed in his recent Arms Control Today article. In order to increase CWC universality he recommended tailored strategies for each remaining holdout state, a need for high level political engagement, pressure by other states parties using all tools (including trade), a possible ban on Schedule 3 chemical transfers, and an enhancement of OPCW programs under Article X and Article XI. In addition, Daniel put forth the idea of an NGO contribution to CWC universality. He suggested an NGO campaign which would be a grassroots, bottom-up approach to complement the diplomatic top-down methods of the OPCW. He also pointed out that NGOs have valuable skills in raising awareness and conducting outreach which would be useful. This, however, would require a more equitable relationship between the OPCW and NGOs, especially concerning access to information.
The next speaker, Paul Walker of Global Green USA talked about chemical weapons destruction. In a very candid address, Paul did not hold much back. He began by listing the possessor states and their declared stockpiles, including South Korea – generally referred to as the un-named state party (this is the worst kept secret of the CWC). He also expressed frustration and the lack of knowledge about the South Korean stockpile (they have between 400 and 1000 metric tons) and requested that the South Koreans clarify this and provide more transparency in the future. Paul presented specific numbers on the weapons destroyed and remaining stockpiles at each of the Russia and U.S. destruction facilities. He also pointed out that in the U.S. construction, which will cost $4B and take several years, has not yet begun on 2 key facilities. He also pointed out that the U.S. met some of the early deadlines of the CWC for destruction, but that was because they started in 1990. Russia only started destruction in the last few years and is essentially 10 years behind. Paul highlighted increasing costs ($40B in the U.S. and $10B in Russia), protests and lawsuits by citizens over facilities and transport, and environmental concerns as major barriers to destruction in both countries.
Paul was asked a pointed question by the representative from Pakistan about why the U.S. had not made further progress on CW destruction and whether it would impact the commitment of other states to destroy their CWs. He responded that it was simply a question of money. Funding was there in the past, but priorities changed with the Iraq war. Money has been needed to fund the military operations so the prior post-9-11 priority of CW security and destruction was put on hold. Paul stressed the fact that he did not see this as something that would affect the commitment of other states to destroy their stockpiles because there is no doubt in his mind that the U.S. is 100% fully committed to destroying their CWs and ensuring that the world is free of them.
The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) was represented by Neil Harvey. Members of ICCA make up over 70% of global chemical production capacity and are part of programs aimed at best practices in chemical industry such as Responsible Care. Neil showed that over the past decade there has been a shift in the global market and chemical production toward developing nations. Increasing globalization affects the implementation of the CWC, and while industry generally agrees with export controls, it “stresses the need for minimal trade restrictions on a global level playing field.” Neil also highlighted the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) which ICCA has adopted.
On the topic of national implementation of the CWC, Angela Woodward of VERTIC spoke. She stated that although the CWC is approaching near universality, only 40% of the states parties had adopted legislation to implement it, and that this “does not meet the standards we have come to expect for this convention.” Angela pointed out that national legislation is important for maintaining the effectiveness of the General Purpose Criterion so that the treaty can remain relevant despite scientific and technical advances. Another key point Angela raised is that national implementation is a process, not an endpoint. Laws will need to be reviewed and amended over time so that they continue to be appropriate and effective.
Jiri Matousek of the Masaryk University in the Czech Republic focused his presentation on Article X, assistance and protection under the CWC. Jiri said that even though states parties may receive assistance such as decontamination, medical treatment, or other forms if CWs have been used against it, the OPCW cannot be the first responder. The Czech Republic actually has a great deal of protective equipment and know-how for CW detection, field analysis, and individual protection. Jiri showed pictures and descriptions of protective masks, suits and decontamination vehicles, and listed the other Czech activities in promoting assistance and protection under the CWC.
The second panel of the forum focused on peaceful chemistry. Alistair Hay began the panel by introducing the mission of IUPAC to “advance the worldwide aspects of the chemical sciences and to contribute to the application of chemistry in the service of Mankind.” Alistair outlined some of the education and outreach challenges to the CWC and an ongoing project of IUPAC to address them. There is very little attention paid to ethical issues in chemistry, but there is a need to promote chemistry as many of today’s problems will require chemical solutions. IUPAC has created education material on the “Multiple Uses of Chemicals” designed to challenge the way people think about chemicals and chemical plants. This type of education and outreach provides a context for ethical issues in chemistry and will be critical in advancing peaceful uses of chemistry and the CWC.
Professor Abdouraman Bary of Burkina Faso focused his presentation on economic and technical development under Article XI of the CWC. This is a key issue for developing nations and many of them joined the CWC because of these benefits. Strong international cooperation also directly benefits international security. There has been a lack of consensus in the interpretation of Article XI which Professor Bary sees as a problem. There have been some OPCW programs, but more is needed to build technical and intellectual capacity in developing nations. He suggested greater cooperation within the states parties to develop new programs and suggested fostering a common project such as an OPCW chemical university. This would work to narrow the gap between states parties, widen best practices in chemistry and widen common non-proliferation values.
During the discussion section following panel two, Rene Van Sloten of CEFIC raised the issue of national implementation to facilitate capacity building. He said that the real capacity building is done by companies and that they promote peaceful uses of chemistry. The market will go where it can and fostering an open atmosphere where all of the correct laws and intellectual property protections are in place assures that more of the industry and market share will go there. Ralf Trapp responded by adding that he didn’t disagree, but that there also need to be trained people in place and the OPCW can help with this.
Finally, the third panel of the Open Forum focused on the impact of science and technology on the CWC verification regime. The first presenter was Mark Wheelis speaking on behalf of the Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation and addressing toxic chemicals and law enforcement. Mark acknowledged the differences in interpretation of the CWC language involving riot control agents and urged that this be clarified. He also made clear that RCAs, non-lethals and incapacitants are all toxic chemicals under the definition of the CWC. Mark outlined three recommendations for the OPCW and states parties concerning this issue. First, that the review conference initiate “a mechanism to determine what features would need to characterize a toxic chemical, and the conditions for its use, in order for it to be appropriate for law enforcement and legal under international law; and what specific chemicals, if any meet these requirements.” Second, that they “consider developing a mechanism by which all states parties are required to declare all toxic chemicals held for law enforcement purposes.” Mark pointed out that there is nothing stopping any nation from voluntarily declaring their stockpiles of these chemicals or that they do not have any, and that this would greatly contribute to transparency. Third, Mark recommended that the review conference use the provisions in Article IX to initiate an in depth study of the topic to that the use of these chemicals under the CWC can be clarified.
In the discussion following this presentation, Mark was asked whether he thought incapacitants should be covered under the CWC, the BWC or both. Mark’s response was that they are chemicals, so they clearly fall under the CWC. But those that are analogues of biological compounds should probably be covered under both. Walter Krutzch also spoke and urged everyone to remember the original intent of those who drafted the convention and stated that this issue needed to be dealt with or “it will kill the convention.”
The final speaker, Bob Matthews from the University of Melbourne, addressed the issue of other chemical production facilities (OCPFs) and the CWC. Bob pointed out that when the CWC was drafted there was a lot of room left for the Technical Secretariat to make a risk assessment of chemical production facilities. This has traditionally focused on the scheduled chemicals and their quantities, but now can be adapted to reflect the changes in industry and new advances in science and technology. Bob suggested that there is a great deal of misunderstanding amongst the states parties about OCPFs and what they are and suggested a workshop and visit to a facility try to clarify this. He also said that OCPF inspections require a greater allocation of OCPF resources, but work needs to be done to alter the risk assessment so that only OCPFs relevant under the CWC are inspected.
Ralf Trapp ended the forum with a few brief words thanking the speakers and the national delegates for attending.