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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

Tenth Anniversary of CWC

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was opened for signature in Paris on January 13, 1993. The landmark accord, incorporating rigorous compliance and verification procedures unthinkable during the Cold War, entered into force on April 29, 1997. The tenth anniversary was marked in a statement from the Convention's implementing authority, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague:

"Today, 148 countries are members of this community of nations, which collectively resolved to never allow chemical weapons to threaten humanity again. In the five years since the...OPCW commenced operations, over one-quarter of the eight million munitions and over one-tenth of the 70 million kilograms of chemical agent, declared to the OPCW as chemical weapons, have been verifiably destroyed. This destruction is monitored by the Organisation's inspectors to ensure compliance with the Convention's stipulation that the chemical weapons' destruction is irreversible. All of the declared former chemical weapons production facilities have been deactivated. Two-thirds of these facilities have been destroyed or converted or are awaiting destruction or conversion. In total, the Organisation has conducted over 1,300 inspections on the territory of over 50 states parties during missions now totalling more than 75,000 inspector days, or over 205 inspector years. In addition, the Organisation has conducted over 500 inspections of industrial sites in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. ... 'Much has been achieved since the Organisation's founding, yet many challenges lie ahead,' OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter noted. The First Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention will convene from April 28 to May 9, 2003. 'The First Review Conference', Mr Pfirter stated, ' will provide states parties with a timely opportunity to demonstrate their unwavering support for this Convention and the chemical weapons ban, which proves itself to be of particular value now that concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are increasing.'"

The day after the anniversary, the OPCW issued a statement noting the wide range of "generous support" provided in "the past months" to the Organisation in the form of wide-ranging voluntary contributions. The statement listed the most recent examples of this "crucial support", reaching The Hague from Canada, Italy, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, the UK and the US. Washington's contribution was described as "support for the inspection and verification regime, as well as for international cooperation, including support to enhance national measures to combat chemical terrorism". On December 3, the OPCW received a voluntary contribution of $2 million from the US - a sum which, according to Director-General Pfirter, "will certainly be of great assistance in relieving the Organisation of its financial constraints and will also facilitate a number of important activities in line with the proposed general uses of the funds."

According to Lionel Fernando, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the OPCW and Chair of the Organisation's Executive Council, such 'generosity' should be properly placed in the context of long-term budget shortfalls. Speaking on November 21, Fernando noted: "The OPCW has been underfunded for several years now. The underfunding has had an impact on OPCW inspections... [T]here is clearly a need to address the issue of funding with a view to making sure that future budgets are adequate for verification and other programs."

Note: on November 20-21, US Representative Christopher Shays, Republican Chair of the House International Relations Committee' Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, visited the OPCW as part of the Subcommittee's investigation of the evolving threat of WMD terrorism. Speaking on November 21, Shays observed: "A tremendous amount of chemical weapons have been declared to this Organisation and are awaiting destruction. The OPCW verifies this destruction and monitors the production and transfer of dual-use chemicals. By implementing this Convention, the Organisation plays a crucial role in eliminating these weapons of mass destruction." According to an OPCW press release (November 26), in "his meeting with US Representative Shays" Director-General Pfirter "emphasised the importance of the full support of member states at a time when the OPCW's verification activities are bound to increase significantly."

Reports: OPCW - funding shortages delay inspections, official says, Global Security Newswire, November 21; US Congressional visit to the OPCW, OPCW Press Release, Number 69 (2002), November 26; OPCW receives US voluntary contribution, OPCW Press Release, Number 73 (2002), December 3; Member states provide voluntary contributions to the OPCW in 2002, OPCW Press Release, Number 1 (2003), January 14; Tenth anniversary of the chemical weapons ban, OPCW Press Release, Number 2 (2003), January 15.

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.