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Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons agency gets budget for year ahead

Flexibility helps bring chemical weapons conference to a close despite tensions

by Laura Howes
December 2, 2022

Fernando Arias sits on the podium during the 27th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention
Credit: OPCW
Fernando Arias, director-general of the OPCW, on Nov. 27 at the 27th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention

The goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention is a world without chemical weapons, but the world is not there yet. Most notably, chemical weapons have been used in the last few years against rebels in Syria and in attempted assassinations of Russians Sergei Skripal and Alexander Navalny.

From Nov. 28 to Dec 1, signatories to the CWC met at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquarters in the Hague to discuss progress toward eliminating chemical weapons and to agree on the effort’s budget for the upcoming year.

We convene in this Conference in a period of international tensions. . . . The situation in Ukraine has again increased the real threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons,” OPCW director-general Fernando Arias said in his opening speech. “What once were constructive fora on disarmament and non-proliferation, related to the most dangerous weapons, now have become places for confrontation and disagreement.”

Since beginning its war on Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine plans to use chemical weapons, according to a joint statement by 54 states that are party to the convention. However, the signatories, including the US, “judge that Russia made these claims with the sole purpose of trying to justify its war of aggression. There is no substance behind these claims.”

Delegates to the meeting made progress nevertheless. They agreed on the 2023 budget and decided how the OPCW will continue its work in various ways. For example, rules that normally limit OPCW staff to 7 years of service were relaxed to enable the organization to retain or rehire people with necessary skills and expertise. At the end, the Russian delegate even agreed to allow some previously contentious wording in a specific paragraph of the proceeding to pass, in the spirit of “flexibility” because of the season.

Several milestones were also reported to the conference. US Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins confirmed that destruction of US stockpiles is on course to be complete at the end of 2023. And construction of the OPCW’s new ChemTech Centre is on time and on budget, Arias said in his speech. The new center, which will be used to support and train inspectors and research new methods to support detection and verification will be inaugurated in May 2023, Arias told the conference.



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