Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop

The Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction—the Chemical Threat

OSCE Sec Gen Marc Perrin de Brichambaut with Georgia's For Min Bezhuashvili

Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter (left), Director-General of the OSCE, with Workshop Chairman Roger Weissinger-Baylon (center), and Dr. Arthur T. Hopkins, U.S. Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs.

"...a world that is completely free from chemical weapons appears today
not as an improbability but as an achievable goal"


It is a very great honor and a pleasure for me to be here today at the 24th International Workshop on Global Security and to address this prestigious audience. I would like to thank most warmly His Excellency Hervé Morin, the Minister for Defense, and Dr. Weissinger-Baylon for their kind invitation to me to attend this important meeting, which represents a timely contribution to the debate over the contemporary challenges to international peace and security.

France has the proud legacy of hosting in 1993 the historic ceremony at which 130 nations of the world signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and committed themselves to achieving a world free from the scourge of chemical weapons. Today, as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) commemorates the 10th anniversary of its establishment, it is my proud privilege to be in Paris and to share with you a brief account of our progress and our challenges.


In 1992 the Security Council recognized that new threats to our security environment from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were imminent. Twenty-five years later, this danger is felt more acutely, especially because of the possibility of terrorists acquiring and using these weapons. Against this background, the value of the CWC is magnified when we consider that the international community has almost universally joined a treaty regime aimed at the total, verifiable destruction and non-proliferation of a whole category of such weapons. The groundswell of support that the CWC, with its 182 States Party, enjoys from the community of states is an indication of these nations’ commitment to rid the world forever from the threat of chemical weapons and of the binding force that their total ban has acquired under international law.

The chemical weapons ban has successfully broken new ground in multilateral disarmament. The Convention is the most comprehensive disarmament and non-proliferation treaty ever to be implemented and occupies a crucial position in the global security architecture, including being an effective tool to address the threat of international terrorism.

The achievements during the 10 years that the Convention has been in operation have been significant in our attempt to contribute to international peace and security through chemical disarmament. Notwithstanding the challenges that we face, the realization of a world that is completely free from chemical weapons appears today not as an improbability but as an achievable goal. Within a relatively short time span and despite the impasse in disarmament and non-proliferation generally, the Convention has been broadly accepted by the international community as a credible and unique instrument for the elimination of a whole category of weapons of mass destruction. The OPCW has emerged as a robust and efficient institution that is carrying out its mandate with dedication and determination.


At the same time, we recently witnessed how present and dangerous the threat of chemical weapons still is in our world today. The recent multiple cowardly attacks with chlorine gas carried out in Iraq to kill and injure innocent civilians came as a tragic reminder of the dangers that the misuse of toxic chemicals, even the most common ones, poses to our security, and of the importance of striving to strengthen the norms against chemical weapons and to achieve the goals enshrined in the Convention.

As the Director-General of the OPCW, I condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms. The Executive Council of the Organization also unanimously condemned these actions and firmly rejected the use of toxic chemicals under any circumstance. Making the world free from chemical weapons is a challenging and multifaceted task. Under the Convention, this goal includes not only achieving chemical disarmament and ensuring non-proliferation, but also supporting effective domestic implementation and promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry. In the face of increasing threats of terrorism, the salience of OPCW programs in the field of assistance and protection has also increased.


During the first 10 years of our work, our attention has been understandably focused on possessor States meeting their destruction obligations. The Convention set for those states the ambitious task of destroying over 71,000 metric tons of chemical warfare agents and nearly nine million munitions within a period of 10 years. Eliminating this huge stockpile of extremely toxic and dangerous substances, while ensuring that neither people nor the environment is harmed has always been a daunting challenge for possessor States.

Undoubtedly, some gratifying results have been reached. By the end of April 2007, over 22,000 metric tons, or almost 32%, of the declared chemical warfare agents were destroyed in six States Party. At the same time, all 65 former chemical weapons production facilities that were declared by 12 States Party were permanently inactivated, 42 of them destroyed and 19 converted. The contribution already made by this process to our global security environment cannot be underestimated.

But while these figures indicate steady progress, it is just as clear that disarmament efforts will continue to demand most of our attention, energies, and resources. As you are no doubt aware, all six possessor States have been granted deadline extensions for destroying their chemical weapons. India and another state party have made steady progress in their destruction efforts and seem to be on the right track to meet their final destruction deadlines. By May 29, 2007, Albania destroyed approximately 71% of its Category 1, and approximately 76% of its Category 2, chemical weapons stockpiles. Although it did not meet its April 29, 2007 extended deadline, Albania is continuing its efforts and remains politically committed to complete destruction as quickly as possible.

In the United States, the destruction campaign has remained stable, and by 1st June 2007 this possessor State had destroyed over 12,000 metric tons, or approximately 44%, of its Category 1 chemical weapons. In the case of the Russian Federation, there is encouraging progress, especially with the recent momentum resulting from new destruction facilities coming online, as I personally witnessed during a visit to the destruction facility at Kambarka in April 2007. By May 2007, the Russian Federation had destroyed more than 8,500 metric tons, or approximately 21%, of its Category 1 stockpiles. I remain hopeful that both Russia and the United States will leave no stone unturned in order to uphold their obligation to completely eliminate their stockpiles by the 2012 deadline set forth in the Convention.

I continue to believe that the solemn commitments undertaken by all States Party to the Convention will be honored, and I support possessor States in their efforts to achieve this target. Let me take this opportunity to recognize once again the support that the destruction program in the Russian Federation is receiving from the G8 countries through the Global Partnership, and to further encourage donors to continue to engage and cooperate with Russia in this endeavor. In this regard, I welcome with satisfaction the G8’s declaration, at its last meeting in Heiligendamm, expressing its support for strengthening the WMD multilateral treaty system, including the CWC. That declaration also embodies the G8’s commitment to promoting effective implementation by all States Party and full compliance with their obligations under the Convention.


While we must persevere in upholding the provisions of the Convention that cover disarmament, there are other pressing priorities that need to be tackled. The Convention contains provisions and obligations that, if effectively implemented, will go a long way toward addressing the international community’s heightened concerns about proliferation and possible terrorist acts perpetrated through the use of chemical weapons. Lax controls over trading in, manufacturing, or selling toxic materials can not only lead to their proliferation but it can also increase the risk of chemical terrorism, especially since the knowledge and the skills needed to produce rudimentary types of chemical weapons are not difficult to acquire.

Since June 1997, when they first began, the OPCW has completed over 2,900 inspections to ensure the total destruction of stockpiled weapons and the non-proliferation of chemical weapons and their precursors. Elimination of chemical weapons being the primary objective of the Convention, the most frequent inspections take place at chemical weapons-related facilities.  The largest amount of inspector time has been devoted to overseeing the destruction of chemical weapons and a major allocation of inspection resources will continue to be made in support of the disarmament aspects of the Convention. Over time, though, as inventories of existing stockpiles reduce significantly and the CWC regime matures further to adapt to contemporary needs, inspections at industrial sites will continue to increase.

We should not forget, however, that rapid advancement in technology and developments in the chemical industry represent a significant challenge to the Convention. New research, synthesis, and production technologies and new business and organizational models represent evolving conditions that did not exist at the time the CWC was negotiated. We need to adapt to the changing circumstances if we want to maintain the effectiveness of the chemical weapons ban. At the same time, strengthening the non-proliferation aspects of the Convention also requires an enhanced regime concerning industry verification, especially in the category of Other Chemical Production Facilities (OCPFs) of higher relevance to the objective and purpose of the Convention.  In this context, an effort is required of the Organization and its policy-making organs to try to improve the industry verification regime. The Technical Secretariat is ready to give its full support to Member States to conceive and implement improved inspection site selection criteria and verification methods.  


Eliminating existing inventories of chemical weapons is not the only means for rendering our world a safer place. While the Convention sets out a concrete legal framework for disarmament and non-proliferation, it is vital that states have in place the necessary legal and administrative capacity to apprehend and prosecute all individuals and entities that contemplate the misuse of toxic chemicals for criminal or terrorist purposes. When OPCW Member States fulfil their obligations under the Convention, such measures translate into security enhancement for themselves and for other state parties.

We have also had to recognize the hard fact that not every OPCW Member State is currently in a position to detect, pursue, and prosecute a breach of the Convention by nationals within its jurisdiction. We have therefore been intensifying our efforts since the adoption by the first CWC Review Conference in 2003 of an Action Plan to enhance national implementation, to identify areas for improvement, and to spend the time, money, and effort required to address perceived gaps as expeditiously as possible.

Effective national implementation implies leaving no loopholes in domestic legal systems that might compromise full compliance with the provisions of the Convention, including enacting penal legislation with respect to prohibited activities, improving border controls, and introducing appropriate industry regulations. The OPCW has spared no effort in providing States Party with technical assistance to implement all aspects of the Convention, and the results of our combined efforts are today quite tangible. As at May 2007, 74 States Party had legislation in place covering all key areas of the Convention while a further 43 had enacted implementing legislation that covered some, albeit not all, key areas. In addition, 95% of our Member States have designated or established their National Authorities, which are the key actors in the adoption of domestic implementing measures. Full and effective implementation of the Convention in domestic legal orders appears even more important today in the face of the threat of terrorists acquiring chemical weapons, especially within the meaning of UNSC resolution 1540 (2004).


While not an anti-terrorism treaty, the CWC has a contribution to make in this area. Resolution 1540 (2004) creates an obligation on all U.N. member-states to adopt a series of concrete legal and administrative measures to prevent non-state actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, which, as regards chemical weapons, are equivalent to the obligations enshrined in the Convention. With its extensive legal definitions and provisions establishing a legal mechanism to prevent and repress access to chemical weapons and toxic chemicals by persons, groups, and other entities, the Convention represents a necessary and effective complement to the obligations set out in the council’s resolution. Full implementation of those legislative measures, including the universal application of the principle of extraterritorial jurisdiction inscribed in the CWC, helps to ensure that any violators of the Convention can be prosecuted and punished, that declarable activities are reported and transfers of toxic chemicals and precursors are properly monitored, and that transfer prohibitions required under the Convention are enforced.

The OPCW contributes to the efforts toward achieving implementation of resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006) and cooperates with the Security Council and its subsidiary body to this end. At the same time, the Organization operates in strict accordance with its mandate under the Convention. On February 23, 2007, I addressed the Security Council at its meeting on the issue of “Cooperation between the Security Council and International Organizations in the Implementation of Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006),” and briefed on the OPCW’s contribution. On that day, a Presidential Statement was issued whereby the Security Council acknowledged the contribution of the OPCW in the implementation of those resolutions.


An outstanding achievement of the OPCW is represented by the wide adherence that the CWC has attracted in a relatively short time span. On March 7, 2007, Barbados became the 182nd state to ratify the Convention. In the Middle East, Iraq and Lebanon informed the Secretariat that they have taken concrete domestic legal steps toward accession. In Africa, Congo has made the decision to ratify and will soon join the OPCW. The Technical Secretariat is also currently engaged with Myanmar, a signatory to the Convention, in an effort to persuade the country to ratify. Myanmar’s interest in the Convention is evidenced by its increasingly frequent attendance of OPCW-related events.

However, despite being the fastest growing disarmament treaty ever, the Convention has still not been accepted by a few states. A number of these states have been hampered by a lack of administrative assets or human resource constraints and we are working with them to find ways of addressing their difficulties. Other countries are located in regions that face political difficulties. For example, Egypt, Syria, and Israel continue to cite a number of security compulsions as reasons for not joining the Convention.

For my part, I continue to stress that the Convention should not be linked to any other security or political considerations—there is no legal, political, or moral justification to retain the chemical weapons option. If anything, such an option adds to insecurity in the region and further complicates efforts for bringing peace and promoting harmony. Removing the specter of chemical weapons from the Middle East arena will add to regional stability. The countries of the Middle East can utilize the CWC as a vehicle for dialogue concerning their security situation, and mutual efforts in this area could lead to other initiatives and help with the peace process.

I am continuing my efforts with the countries in the region. I travelled to Egypt. Immediately after that, I met with a delegation from Israel at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague. I presented those countries with what I believe are compelling arguments for them to join the chemical weapons ban, including as a measure to defuse tension in the region and progress toward the elimination of WMD prospects and toward promoting peace in the Middle East. It is evident that the achievement of universality in this region will continue to pose challenges. At the same time, though, I do value the presence of Egypt, Israel and Syria as observers at our Conference of States Parties, as well as the disposition to holding a friendly and frank dialogue with the OPCW as shown by Egypt and Israel, both during my visits to those countries and in the exchanges held with their envoys at our headquarters in The Hague. In the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the recent developments towards resolving the nuclear issue might also open up prospects towards that country’s consideration of joining the Convention. I will continue to urge participants in the six-party talks to include this issue in their agenda at the appropriate time. DPRK’s acceptance of the Convention must remain a key objective, because it is fully consistent with the goal of complete elimination of chemical weapons from the world.

In the Caribbean sub-region, despite relevant decisions by the Organisation of American States that call for the establishment of a biological and chemical weapons–free zone in Latin America, there are still two countries that are not yet states party. Their non-participation is not inspired by any fundamental disagreement with the objective and purpose of the Convention and it is my hope that the recent adherence by Barbados will encourage the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic to take concrete steps toward joining the Convention. In Africa, we hope that Guinea-Bissau and Angola will soon join the rest of the continent in support of the Convention. For our part, the Technical Secretariat remains committed to engaging with these countries to encourage their early adherence to the Convention.


Along with our other key objectives, we also need to promote a sense of ownership in each and every state that joins the Convention. In particular, States Party must be reassured that the Convention’s regime does in no way aim to hamper their economic development or their participation in legitimate international trade in chemicals. The Technical Secretariat has been carrying out an important number of activities in the field of international cooperation, ranging from the annual Associate Program to laboratory assistance programs to research projects. Through our international cooperation programs, the OPCW continues to develop key disciplines that strengthen national capacity to pursue peaceful chemistry and to effectively implement the chemical weapons ban. For instance, the OPCW trains chemists and engineers in industrial best practices to safely manage chemicals in a complex industrial environment. Over 1,400 participants have been sponsored to attend such training programs. The OPCW also supports specialized training programs that enhance analytical skills and supports research projects and encourages internships at world-class research institutions.


This workshop offers a very interesting and ambitious program for discussion. My message to you is that while, indeed, we face a number of challenges, we remain totally committed to fulfilling our mission to implement the provisions of the Convention in order to achieve the vision upheld by the international community of a world free of chemical weapons.

The OPCW is a young Organization entrusted with fulfilling an unprecedented mission in the history of disarmament. The Organization is a worthy example of the way to address and resolve issues in a cooperative, multilateral framework on the basis of consensus. This in itself should serve as an inspiration to all state parties to continue to work together to ensure the Convention’s successful future and to see the OPCW as a contributor to global efforts to face the contemporary challenges to our security environment and to maintain international peace.

In closing I would like to say that we could not have come this far in implementing the Convention’s provisions and in contributing to advance the cause of international peace and security without the steadfast and sustained support of our Member States. I wish to conclude by expressing my warmest appreciation and gratitude to France for its dedicated commitment to the goals of the Convention and its outstanding record of support for and co-operation with the OPCW.


Top of page | Home | ©2007 Center for Strategic Decision Research