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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 65, July - August 2002

OPWC Searches For New Director-General after Bustani Dismissal

As reported in the last issue, late April saw the dramatic and controversial dismissal of José M. Bustani, Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at a Special Session of the Conference of States Parties (CSP) in The Hague. Mr. Bustani's ouster was engineered primarily by the United States on the grounds of arrogance, incompetence and bias. Following the dismissal motion on April 22 - carried by 48 votes to 7 (Belarus, Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran, Mexico and Russia), with 43 abstentions - the Executive Council of the OPCW was charged with recommending a new Director-General to the CSP no later than June 10. The Deputy Director-General, John Gee of Australia, is to serve in an interim capacity.

As of early June, there was no indication that a clear favourite to succeed Mr. Bustani had emerged. Indeed, a press release issued by the OPCW on June 3 made clear that the June 10 deadline had now slipped: "The Executive Council...convened its Eighteenth Meeting on May 31, 2002... The Executive Council decided to urge all OPCW member states, in particular developing countries, to present qualified candidates for the post of the Director-General of the Technical Secretariat as soon as possible. The candidates should be presented to the Executive council no later than June 24, 2002. The Twenty-Ninth Executive Council Session, to held from June 25 to 28, 2002, will review the situation in order to make an early recommendation on the appointment of the Director-General to the Conference of the States Parties."

Addressing the CSP Special Session on April 23, US Ambassador Donald H. Mahley summarised Washington's understanding of the correct role and mandate, and desired standards of performance, of an efficient and impartial Director-General:

"As the Conference begins the process of choosing a new Director-General, I would like to share with you some thoughts on the Director-General's role. We shared these views with the previous Director-General as long ago as 1998. The CWC establishes a hierarchical relationship among the three OPCW organs: the Conference, the Executive Council [EC], and the Technical Secretariat [TS]. In business terms, the Conference represents the shareholders in the OPCW. The Conference acts as the 'principal organ of the Organization'. It oversees the implementation of the Convention and the activities of the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat. The Executive Council represents the Board of Directors of the OPCW. It serves as the 'executive organ of the Organization', promoting the effective implementation of, and compliance with, the Convention. The EC supervises the activities of the Technical Secretariat, facilitates consultations and cooperation among states parties, and reports to the Conference. The Technical Secretariat represents the operational staff of the OPCW. It assists the Conference and the Executive Council in performing their functions. In particular, the Technical Secretariat carries out the verification measures provided for in the Convention.

The Director-General is the chief executive and operating officer of the Technical Secretariat, responsible for the organization and functioning of the Technical Secretariat. He is appointed by the member states and he serves at their pleasure. The Director-General implements the policies established by the Conference (shareholders) and the Council (board of directors) and reports to them. He also makes recommendations on policy issues for their consideration and assists the member states in reaching agreement. While the Director-General must operate within the boundaries established by the Convention and the policy organs, he is not a mere functionary who is restricted to following explicit orders. Rather, the Director-General should pursue the goals of the Convention energetically, with creativity and broad vision. The Director-General should actively promote universal adherence to the Convention and defend the integrity of its implementation. As the chief administrative officer, the Director-General must ensure that the resources provided by member states are effectively used to carry out the CWC verification regime and other functions specified in the CWC. The Director-General should have reasonable managerial freedom and be allowed to make needed operational decisions. At the same time, the Director-General should extend the same freedom to the qualified staff in the Technical Secretariat who were selected on the basis of their experience and professionalism. If a policy is lacking or is unclear, the Director-General should call this to the attention of the policy organs and seek their guidance. When preparing recommendations on important issues, he should consult informally with key officials, group coordinators, and key delegations. The Director-General must respect the limits established by the Convention and the policy organs and not 'push the boundaries' or free-lance on controversial issues. The Director-General should keep member states informed about his and the Technical Secretariat's activities and plans, and not surprise them with an abrupt action or decision. The Director-General should seek to unite the member states, just as the member states should seek to resolve their differences and reach a consensus.

To conclude, the United States is a leading supporter of the Convention, a major contributor to the OPCW, and a country extensively impacted by the CWC's verification regime. We seek a close and cooperative working relationship with both the Director-General and the Technical Secretariat. Our overarching objective in this relationship is to ensure that the object and purpose of the Convention are realised."

On May 15, the OPCW announced that the United States had "paid in full its annual assessed contribution" to the Organisation. According to a number of reports, threatened non-payment of the US contribution - amounting to over a fifth of the OPCW's budget - was used by the Bush administration to lever support for Bustani's motion.

On April 23, UK Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw was questioned about the exact charges against Bustani. "Why," asked fellow Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, "have we supported the sacking of this man?" Bradshaw replied: "Because we share the belief of all the other European Union members who voted the same way, and the vast majority of members of the committee [CSP] who voted the same way, that there were serious management problems and that Mr. Bustani was not the best candidate to sort those out... I would rather not go into the details because I am not sure whether I am covered by Parliamentary privilege... Suffice to say that the management of Mr. Bustani left something to be desired... What we are concerned about is that this body is an effective body." Mackinlay was unappeased: "We do have a right to know whether this chap has merely disobliged the Americans or if he has had his hands in the till or has done something pretty terrible... [S]ome see this as evidence of our being prepared to do the bidding of the US State Department." Another Labour MP, Malcolm Savidge, Convener of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation, argued that the dismissal "raises concern about whether international diplomats will be subject to United States bullying and whether the US will accept chemical weapons inspectors being free to inspect in all countries, including the United States itself".

Amid the turbulence and rancour of recent events, on April 29 the OPCW marked the fifth anniversary of the entry-into-force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. A press release noted: "When the Convention entered into force...it had been ratified by 87 countries. Today, the OPCW has 145 member states. An additional 29 states have signed the Convention, but have yet to ratify it. The OPCW is waiting to welcome these states into the Organisation, along with the 19 countries that have not yet legally committed themselves to the Convention. ... The Convention has made significant contributions to worldwide efforts towards chemical disarmament. The first five years since it entered into force have seen many positive developments in the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles and the elimination of chemical weapons production facilities. A stringent and balanced verification regime has been put into place. The OPCW has established programmes to facilitate international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry. The OPCW is now working to ensure the successful outcome of the first major international conference to review the implementation of the Convention since it entered into force. This Review Conference is currently planned for April 2003."

Reports: Statement by Ambassador Donald Mahley, representative for the United States of America to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, at the First Special Session of the Conference of the States parties, April 23, 2002, OPCW document (http://www.opcw.org); British MPs seek justification for Bustani removal, Global Security Newswire, April 26; Fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical weapons convention, OPCW Press Release 37/2002, April 29; The United States pays its assessed contribution to the OPCW 2002 budget, OPCW Press Release 38/2002, May 15; OPCW member states urged to present candidates, OPCW Press Release 41/2002, June 3.

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