Issue No. 15, May 1997
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Conference:
'Secretary-General [Kofi Annan] calls banning of chemical
weapons "momentous act of peace", in opening remarks to Conference
of Parties to Convention at The Hague,' Speech as prepared for
delivery, United Nations Press Release, SG/SM/6232, 5 May 1997
Remarks of UN Secretary-General
"We are witnessing today an historic event. An entire category
of weapons of mass destruction has been banned by the Chemical
One hundred and sixty-five nations have signed the treaty, and
more still are planning to join. Eighty-eight countries have
ratified the Convention and more still are preparing to do so.
Pause for a moment, if you will, and consider the symbolism, but
more importantly the significance of this act.
It is not merely a great step in the cause of disarmament and
non-proliferation. It is not merely a signal of restraint and
discipline in war. It is much more. It is a momentous act of
What you have done of your own free will is to announce to this
and all succeeding generations that chemical weapons are
instruments that no State with any respect for itself and no people
with any sense of dignity would use in conflicts, whether domestic
or international. You have been summoned by history and you have
answered its call.
One of the most monstrous tools of warfare has been ruled
intolerable by all States Parties. We who have gathered here in The
Hague need look no farther than to the fields of Flanders or to the
streets of Halabjah to see proof of how our century has been
scarred and shamed by the use of chemical weapons. What we can do
at its close, however, is to help ensure that they never again can
become part of any nation's arsenal, never again the scourge of any
battlefield, never again the silent but certain doom of a civilian
This is an achievement in which we all can take tremendous
pride. The establishment of this unprecedented agreement in the
field of disarmament and non-proliferation is the product of years
of careful negotiations and detailed preparations.
The Convention establishes an international norm against the
development of chemical weapons for all time, and provides the
legal and political basis for firm action against those who would
violate its rules.
Through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons, a powerful instrument of verification and enforcement will
be at the disposal of the international community.
Beyond ensuring that chemical weapons no longer can be produced,
the Convention will eliminate all chemical weapons stockpiles and
production facilities in all States Parties within a fixed period
of time. It will, at the same time, ensure that civilian chemical
industries of States are not adversely affected by the Convention's
It requires States Parties to report the location of chemical
weapons storage sites, the location and characteristics of chemical
weapons production and research facilities and prohibits trade in
certain chemicals with countries not party to the treaty.
The key to the effective implementation of the Convention
remains, of course, its universal adoption. While the ratification
process worldwide has gained new momentum, I urge that all the
signatories, indeed all 185 Members of the United Nations, finish
the job that has begun and join the community of ratifying
A convention as sweeping, as universal and as specific as this
will undoubtedly need a process of adjustment and implementation.
Some signatories are new to multilateral regimes of this nature,
others uneasy about the verification process and its power of
To all I say, be patient and stay determined. For it is
precisely those provisions that make this a great undertaking whose
rewards in the most literal sense are incalculable.
Recalling the darkest days of the cold war, we may appreciate
perhaps better than any previous or succeeding generation the
rewards of this treaty.
The Convention on Chemical Weapons is the latest in a series of
arms-reduction treaties that, a decade ago, would have seemed
From the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1988 to the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) most
recently reaffirmed in 1996 [sic] to the negotiations on a
comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, the world has witnessed a
commitment to disarmament unprecedented in history.
In the effort to rid the world of land-mines, we have also seen
progress. In countries as diverse as Angola, Cambodia, and Bosnia
and Herzegovina, we can see how the long and hard work of
post-conflict rehabilitation is marred many years into the future
by the presence of landmines. We must do more to rid our world of
this wicked weapon whose primary targets are the innocents of any
conflict - women and children.
The Chemical Weapons Convention will now join this pantheon of
landmark agreements sought and brokered in this remarkable era of
peacemaking, to which we are such privileged witnesses.
Allow me, then, to congratulate you on behalf of the United
Nations and of peace-loving peoples everywhere. It remains for me
to declare the First Conference of the States Parties of the
Chemical Weapons Convention open."
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.
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