Argentinian Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter

Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter
Director General, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
A Personal View


The OPCW organization, which I have had the honor to lead for the last eight years, has proven that multilateralism and consensus—when supported by countries’ strong desire to work for peace and security—offer a workable means for advancing precisely those objectives, which are in fact those of the Charter of the United Nations. Indeed, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, has made enormous progress over the last 13 years toward ridding the world of a whole category of weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, progress toward the elimination of chemical weapons is not fully indicative of what is going on in the broader areas of disarmament or nonproliferation around the world. Despite the excellent progress that has been made on the chemical front, we must recognize that there is still cause for serious concern, most notably in the nuclear area but also in the biological one. We have all recognized that the possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction constitutes the gravest danger for the very survival of humanity in the long term. Moreover, I think we also recognize that progress on nonproliferation is, to a considerable degree, linked to progress in the area of arms control and disarmament.


I would like to pay tribute to President Obama and his administration for the strong contributions that he has made in this area during the last year. Since his speech in Prague, a series of concrete steps by the American administration has contributed to the creation of an improved atmosphere in a field in which, quite clearly, distrust and enormous concerns still prevail. The steps taken with regard to Russia, the review of the strategic and nuclear posture of the United States, the personal efforts by President Obama at the security summit in Washington, the high-level meeting of the Security Council in September of 2009, and the transparency that was provided to the NPT Review Conference in New York as to the quantities of nuclear warheads deployed and stockpiled are all very, very positive. We have to pay tribute to them, because I believe they have had an enormous impact.

Nuclear Disarmament

Of course, much still needs to be done with respect to nuclear disarmament; there is no question about that. Nonetheless, the step-by-step approach agreed to in the final document of the NPT Review Conference is a good way of moving forward. It is also very positive that we will take stock in 2012 and 2014. Nonetheless, we must clearly do much more in certain specific areas in order to achieve the vital goal of eventually eliminating nuclear weapons from our world.

Chemical Weapons

In the area of chemical weapons, progress on disarmament is much more satisfactory. Over 60% of all chemical weapons have been destroyed—verifiably. Although we still have much to do, there is no question that Russia and the United States, which still have large stockpiles, will complete destruction sooner rather than later.


The concerns basically regard nonproliferation, and I think that goes for all categories of weapons of mass destruction. On the nuclear front, we clearly face countries with opaque polices as well as countries that are cheating. In the case of the NPT, we face difficulties based on the fact that the additional protocol of the NPT has not yet entered into force for many countries. Basically, we face challenges involving countries that are still inside the NPT, while there is one country, North Korea, that has left.
With chemicals, the nonproliferation front is much better. We have instrumented a credible regime of verification of industry for nonproliferation purposes. Although much still needs to be done, the OPCW has been able to carry out almost 2,000 inspections, and, as a result, the international community is well on the road to doing what it is supposed to do.

Biological Weapons

I think that the big remaining question marks are for biological weapons. We have a treaty, but we do not have a truly independent, multilateral, nondiscriminatory verification regime. Arguably, we have enormous doubts, and those doubts don’t just emanate from the policies of governments; they also emanate from the fact that terrorists could very well—as you know—have access to either nuclear, chemical, or biological materials for the pursuit of evil goals. Resolution 1540 of the Security Council tried to address that, but much more needs to be done.

In the case of biology, we saw in the United States not long ago a case in which just one individual using anthrax was able to cause enormous concern. That is an indication of how not only governments but also small groups of terrorists, or even individuals, can do serious damage. Therefore, it is vital for all of us to remain united.


Top of page | Home | ©2010 Center for Strategic Decision Research