CHEMICAL WEAPONS’ CONVENTION DEADLINE OF 2012 FOR DESTRUCTION OF REMAINING CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILES ‘ENORMOUS CHALLENGE’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD

GA/DIS/3348
19 October 2007

CHEMICAL WEAPONS’ CONVENTION DEADLINE OF 2012 FOR DESTRUCTION OF REMAINING CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILES ‘ENORMOUS CHALLENGE’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD

19 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3348
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

First Committee

12th Meeting (PM)


CHEMICAL WEAPONS’ CONVENTION DEADLINE OF 2012 FOR DESTRUCTION OF REMAINING


CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILES ‘ENORMOUS CHALLENGE’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD


Even If Known Stocks Destroyed, States outside Treaty Could Develop

Chemical Weapons, Weaken Determination to Eliminate Weapons of Mass Destruction


On the non-proliferation of chemical weapons, the implementation arm of the Chemical Weapons Convention could claim a number of achievements, including the creation of an effective verification regime and the destruction of more than 30 per cent of existing chemical weapons stockpiles, but enormous challenges remained in order to reach the goal of total destruction by the target date of 2012, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today.


Opening the thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction, Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said that, although the 30 per cent destruction was not insignificant, it had taken 10 years to accomplish, and that left only five years to destroy the remaining 70 per cent of known chemical weapons stocks.


That challenge was particularly daunting for the largest possessors of those weapons -- the Russian Federation and the United States, which, respectively, had destroyed more than 30 per cent and approximately 50 per cent of their stocks.  Then, too, the cost of destruction was high, particularly if it was to be carried out with appropriate safety precautions.  Plus, even if the destruction of known stockpiles was implemented, the Convention could still be legally and morally weakened if States outside that instrument developed chemical weapons, he warned. 


Another panellist, Ralf Trapp, a consultant on chemical and biological weapons, arms control and disarmament, said the chemical industry was now “on the move”, with chemical production taking place in additional parts of the world, in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.  That changed the picture for chemical manufacturing, involving countries with no past experience in regulating chemical industries, and, therefore, created new challenges for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, especially in the crucial area of verification. 


Stressing that the United States was working assiduously to destroy those “horrific weapons” as rapidly as it possibly could, without jeopardizing safety, the representative of the United States said his country had begun destroying chemical weapons in 1990 and, to date, had successfully destroyed 47 per cent of its stockpile.  That effort, however, had proven to be more complex than originally anticipated and so it had asked for, and received, an extension.  He called on parties and signatories to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions to immediately terminate their offensive chemical and biological weapons programmes. 


The representative of the Republic of Korea said that, in only 10 years, membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention had reached 182 nations, encompassing 98 per cent of humanity.  However, near-universality was not universality.  There had been no significant developments in the status of those States that were not parties and whose non-adherence to the Convention was a cause for serious concern.  A strong message needed to be delivered encouraging those States to join the rest of the world in the conviction that the international community could, and must, achieve a world free of chemical weapons.  For each State party, steady progress towards the total elimination of chemical weapons and their means of production would be a demonstration of an unflinching dedication to reach the goal of the Convention.


Also addressing the Committee today was the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, who stressed that the incremental growth in membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention, coupled with the efforts under way by its States parties to fulfill their obligations, had testified to the strength of the global norm against chemical weapons.  That reinforced the long-standing taboo against the use of such weapons, which dated back to the Geneva Protocol of 1925.  Beyond that, the Convention helped to promote multilateralism, the rule of law, and even the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament.


Other panellists included:  Horst Reeps, Director of the Verification Division, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative on Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction of the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Council of the European Union; Santiago Onate Laborde, Legal Adviser, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; and Liliam Ballon, Minister Counsellor, General Division of United Nations and Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru.


The representatives of Portugal (on behalf of the European Union) and Switzerland spoke during the thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction.


Mexico’s representative, on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition ( Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden), speaking on the topic of yesterday’s thematic debate -– nuclear weapons -- introduced a draft resolution entitled “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitment”.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 October, to resume its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to hear a final statement on its thematic discussion on nuclear weapons, and to begin its thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction.


Statement/Nuclear Weapons


LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico), on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition ( Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden), introduced a resolution, entitled “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitment”.  The very existence of nuclear weapons and the threat of their use led to insecurity.  The text was based on two fundamental premises:  first, the belief that disarmament and non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing concepts; and second, that nuclear-weapon States had already undertaken to carry out the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, in accordance with article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.


He noted that the resolution introduced two news paragraphs:  one welcomed the first session of the Preparatory Committee for that Treaty’s 2010 Review Conference and expressed wishes for a successful process; and the other paragraph recognized the vital importance of the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.   The Coalition was submitting the draft because it believed its content was fully valid and constructive, and it wished to promote the goal of complete disarmament.


Panel Discussion/Other Weapons of Mass Destruction


To begin the thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction, the Committee heard presentations by an expert panel.


SERGIO DUARTE, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development of Chemical Weapons (Chemical Weapons Convention) on 29 April 1997 had undoubtedly been a milestone in the international community’s effort to rid the world of those weapons.  Albania’s successful completion last July of the destruction of its entire stockpile of chemical weapons was a significant step forward in fulfilling that great agenda.


He said he appreciated the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for its significant accomplishments on the road to full implementation of that historic Convention.  The tenth anniversary of the Convention provided an excellent opportunity to reaffirm collective commitment to multilateral treaties and to the Convention’s objective and purpose.  Several joint forums had been organized this year by the United Nations, together with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to commemorate that event.  In close cooperation with the organization, the Office for Disarmament Affairs had actively promoted and publicized the anniversary event, both among United Nations Member States and the general public.


The incremental growth in membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention, coupled with the efforts under way by its States parties to fulfil their obligations, testified to the strength of the global norm against chemical weapons.  That reinforced the long-standing taboo against the use of such weapons, which dated back to the Geneva Protocol of 1925.  Beyond that, the Convention helped to promote multilateralism, the rule of law, and even the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament.


ROGELIO PFIRTER, Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said that the organization could claim a number of achievements.  On disarmament, the target was the total destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012, and the destruction of more than 30 per cent of those stockpiles had been achieved to date, which was not insignificant.  On non-proliferation, the international community could look with satisfaction at the fact that the organization had created an effective verification regime, and more than 1,200 inspections had taken place.  There had also been progress with respect to international cooperation and assistance, with many Member States receiving support from the organization and expressing satisfaction with that assistance. 


At the same time, he emphasized that enormous challenges still remained.  On disarmament, he noted that it had taken 10 years to destroy 30 per cent of existing stockpiles, leaving more than 70 per cent yet to be destroyed in the space of only five years.  There was a particularly big challenge for the Russian Federation and the United States.  The Russian Federation had destroyed more than 30 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpiles, leaving between 65 and 68 per cent to destroy in fewer than five years. The United States would have destroyed 50 per cent of its chemical weapons stockpiles by the end of this year, leaving it with only five more years to destroy the remaining 50 per cent.  The cost of destruction was expensive, particularly if it was to be carried out with appropriate safety precautions.


He reminded the Committee that all possessor States must demonstrate a continued political commitment.  However, even if the destruction of known stockpiles was carried out, the Convention would still be frustrated if States outside that instrument developed chemical weapons.  Thus, the Convention’s universality was essential.  By remaining outside the Treaty, States were legally and morally weakening the international community’s determination to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.


HORST REEPS, Director of the Verification Division, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, described some of the work of the organization, including in enhancing security and knowledge about the global use of produced chemicals.  States wanting to join the Chemical Weapons Convention were required to submit initial and annual declarations.  The biggest States parties were the United States and the Russian Federation.   Libya had not yet begun the destruction of its stocks, while India was in “full swing” with its destruction.   Albania had recently completed the destruction of its stockpiles. 


He said that 12 States parties that had been involved in chemical warfare activities in the past had stocks that needed to be destroyed, and those included stores from the Second World War.  Significant quantities of chemical weapons abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army in China also still needed to be destroyed.  Overall, the organization’s verification and destruction efforts had been very successful.  No violations had actually been detected.  However, the organization faced budgetary constraints because verification was an expensive undertaking, and there was a need to maintain corporate technical knowledge.


ANNALISA GIANNELLA, Personal Representative on Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction of the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Council of the European Union, said that, in 2003, the Union adopted its security strategy, which constituted the Union’s strategic concept.  That strategy identified the five major threats to the Union, and to international peace and security, as:  terrorism; failed States; regional conflict; organised crime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


She said that, in order to define a comprehensive and structured approach to the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the European Union had adopted an additional strategy against those weapons, the central principle of which was to support effective multilateralism.  It also called for strong support for the Chemical Weapons Convention.  In particular, it called for the release of financial resources to support specific projects conducted by the multilateral institutions, including the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.


Since the adoption of that additional strategy, the Council of the European Union had adopted three legal acts in support of the chemical weapons organization’s activities, which allowed the Union to take action to allocate financial resources for a specific objective, she said.  Specifically, that amounted to five million euros, channelled through the chemical organization’s technical secretariat in The Hague.  Those targeted actions complemented the more political/diplomatic actions carried out by the European Union Presidency and European Union member States.  In connection with the organization’s tenth anniversary, the Union would co-sponsor the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Industry and Protection Forum, to be held in The Hague on 2 and 3 November.  Industry needed to be partners in the efforts against proliferation.  The Union was also co-financing chemical weapons destruction projects in the Russian Federation, thereby helping that country to meet its obligations under the Convention.


SANTIAGO OÑATE LABORDE, Legal Adviser, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said that the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention was the responsibility of each Member State.  It was necessary for the organization to work together with States parties to put the Convention’s provisions into effect.  Treaties were meant to be carried out, not simply used as measures of good faith.  The Convention had gained significant universality, growing from 87 States parties to 182 States parties, but that degree of growth must be accompanied by the fulfilment of obligations.  That was the true challenge of implementation.


He said that toxic chemicals must be used exclusively for the benefit of mankind, and technical and scientific exchanges concerning such chemicals must be carried out through a complex system of rights and duties.  States had the right to develop and use toxic chemicals properly, if they operated under a regime of international verification.  He called for the introduction on the national level of criminal legislation to ensure the proper use of chemicals.  Also at the national level, it was necessary to establish a system of control of transfers and to provide for the enforcement of that system. 


LILIAM BALLON, Minister Counsellor, General Division of United Nations and Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru, briefed the Committee on an Internet-based network established in support of the objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The network served as a database and information source to protect against chemical weapons, including their impact and possible casualties, as well as related protective measures.  A component of the network was the existence of a help desk.  The network was currently being funded through the United Nations Regional Disarmament Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.  It was also receiving support from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and from the Peruvian Government.  The Regional Centre was producing network software for the network.  That software would be owned by the United Nations.


RALF TRAPP, international disarmament consultant, specifically in the area of chemical weapons disarmament for the past 25 years, said that, over the past 10 years since the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and its organization, there had been changes in the security environment, in science and technology, and in the chemical industry.  There were mechanisms built into the Treaty to make it adaptable to such changes, such as the amendment procedures and the Review Conference held every five years, which provided an opportunity for a systematic examination.  The review process was also an opportunity to look at the process in a broader perspective.  The upcoming Review Conference was the last before the 2012 deadline for the destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiles, and, therefore, marked an important juncture.


He said that the chemical industry had always been a close partner in the Chemical Weapons Convention.  That industry was “on the move”, with chemical production now taking place in new parts of the world, such as in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.  That changed the world of chemical manufacturing, involving countries with no past experience regulating the chemical industries.  That, therefore, created new challenges for the organization, especially on verification. 


There had been a revolution in the life sciences, with the emergence of new chemicals and new technology, he said.  There was an increasing linkage between the chemical and life sciences, and it was important to “come to grips” with what that meant for the future.  Issues to deal with included:  the Convention’s destruction schedules, including whether action was needed to amend those timetables; the future of the chemical weapons industry; emerging technology; and the expertise needed by the organization for verification.  He also wondered about the future relationship between the chemical weapons and biological weapons regimes, given the crossover between the chemical and life sciences.


Statements


JOSÉ JÚLIO PEREIRA GOMES (Portugal), on behalf of the European Union, said that weapons of mass destruction, as well as the risk that terrorists might acquire chemical or biological weapons, were a growing threat to international peace and security.  The European Union was conscious of those dangers, as had been demonstrated by the European Security Strategy and the “EU” Strategy Against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.   He urged all States to adhere to the Biological Weapons and Chemical Weapons Conventions, as well as to the 1925 Geneva Protocol.  The Union also supported the work of the United Nations Security Council’s “1540 Committee”, and it urged all States to fully implement Security Council resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006).


He said that, given the rate of scientific and technological change in areas relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention, it was necessary for the international community to take action to strengthen and further implement it.  He welcomed the establishment of its Implementation Support Unit.  The European Union had adopted a “green paper on bio-preparedness”, in order to launch a process of consultation.  It had also launched a joint action to increase the membership of the Biological Weapons Convention and to assist States parties to “transpose” their obligations into appropriate national legislation.  Further, the Union had adopted an action plan to promote the United Nations Secretary-General’s mechanism for investigating cases of the alleged use of chemical, biological and toxin weapons by updating the list of experts and laboratories.


Congratulating the “remarkable success” of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the discharge of its functions, he said he looked forward to a successful outcome of the Second Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2008.  The Union attached great importance to that instrument’s full and effective implementation, especially with respect to destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, and the further strengthening of the verification regime under articles IV and V of the Treaty. Implementation of the Convention’s industry verification regime was also instrumental in enhancing confidence in the non-proliferation of chemical weapons. 


He said that the Union viewed with growing concern the development of ballistic programmes by several countries.  The missile tests carried out last year by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been “troubling”.  The Iranian missile programme was also “reason for deep concern”.  The Hague Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation constituted the most “concrete” initiative in that fight, and a fundamental step in addressing the problem of missile proliferation.  He noted that 126 States had subscribed to the Code, and he urged all States to adhere to it and to implement it. 


On outer space, he said he was concerned about the test of an anti-satellite weapon this year and the amount of dangerous space debris that had caused.  Space activities must be conducted in a safe environment.  The Union had voted for the General Assembly resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, and on preventing an outer space arms race.  It had also submitted a joint reply to the former resolution, which contained concrete proposals on maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation on space issues. 


JÜRG STREULI ( Switzerland) said that much had been achieved in the 10 years since the Convention’s entry into force, but much remained to be done.  Still, with 182 States parties, the Convention was “only a few steps away from universality”.  He welcomed Iraq’s intention to sign the Treaty, and called on all States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify it.  The destruction of chemical weapons was a priority of the Convention, and Switzerland had provided financial support for Albanian and Russian authorities to help them in the destruction of their arsenals.  He congratulated Albania on the recent completion of its destruction programme. 


Overall, he said, the destruction process was advancing, but the deadlines fixed in the Convention were approaching.  He called on all chemical-weapon States to keep up their efforts to meet the deadlines, calling that “paramount, not only for the credibility of the Convention, but also for global security”.  He looked forward to “substantive and comprehensive” debates in The Hague during the upcoming Second Review Conference.


It was crucial to achieve universal adherence to the Convention, he said, urging States parties to strengthen the Convention’s provisions.  Confidence-building measure submissions were the only transparency mechanism within the Convention, and those played a significant role in providing States Parties with information about compliance.  The biological sciences were developing rapidly, and that was a positive movement.  However, it was the task of the States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) to ensure that those scientific and technological advances were used for peaceful, and not destructive, purposes.


GAROLD LARSON ( United States) said that chemical and biological weapons represented a continuing threat to the international community.  His country had a clear history of seeking strong multilateral action to prevent their proliferation and had committed itself to working with the United Nations and the international community towards that goal.  The Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions were the foundations for global efforts to rid the world of those horrific weapons.  Fundamental to their success was their full and effective compliance.  It was terrifying to consider the possibility of biological or chemical weapons getting into the hands of terrorists, and the international community must continue to take a strong and active stand against that risk.


He said his country was eliminating its entire stock of chemical weapons safely and securely.  It had begun destroying chemical weapons in 1990 and, to date, had successfully destroyed 47 per cent of its stockpile.  That effort, however, had proven to be more complex than originally anticipated.  That was why it had requested and obtained an extension of the deadline for destruction of its stockpile.  The country was working assiduously to destroy those weapons as rapidly as it possibly could, without jeopardizing safety.


The tenth anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention was an opportunity to reflect on what had been done and to see what still needed to be accomplished, he said.  The Middle East, a region of significant political tension, was a notable gap in the Convention’s coverage.  His country continued to urge non-members in that region to join the Convention.  Also, not all parties were yet implementing the Convention as thoroughly as required, and the United States also urged all to do their best in that regard.


He said that the 2006 Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention had been an unqualified success.  It had reaffirmed the critical international norm condemning the use of biology as a weapon, and had underscored the need for all States to remain vigilant in combating all biological weapon threats.  That accomplishment had been significant and boded well for the future.


There was still work to be done, especially in fighting non-compliance, he stated.  In that regard, the United States called on parties and signatories to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions that had not done so to terminate their offensive chemical and biological weapons programmes immediately and to comply fully with their obligations.  States parties should also submit Biological Weapons Convention confidence-building measures declarations to increase transparency and to demonstrate their commitment to the Convention.  In addition, States parties should develop, on a national basis, more rigorous methodologies for assessing and detecting non-compliance, as there was no catch-all method for verification that was appropriate for every treaty regime.


PARK HEE-KWON ( Republic of Korea) said that that the Chemical Weapons Convention had served the international community well as a primary multilateral instrument for the enhancement of international peace and security.  The anniversary was an occasion to highlight the remarkable achievements of the first decade.  In only 10 years, membership of the Convention had reached 182 nations, encompassing 98 per cent of humanity.  However, near-universality was not universality.  There had been no significant developments in the status of those States that were not parties and whose non-adherence to the Convention was a cause for serious concern.  A strong message needed to be delivered encouraging those States to join the rest of the world in the conviction that the international community could, and must, achieve a world free of chemical weapons.


He said his country attached importance to the achievement of universal adherence to the Convention.  The Government had actively promoted universal adherence in various ways, providing recommendations on ensuring universality that were adopted at previous Conferences of Parties.  A primary obligation under the Convention was the destruction of chemical weapons in an irreversible, verifiable and timely manner.  For each State party, steady progress towards the total elimination of chemical weapons and their means of production would be a demonstration of an unflinching dedication to reach the goal of the Convention.  His country also highlighted the importance of enhancing the effectiveness of chemical-industry verification.  Such verification could underpin and strengthen the Convention, as well as the integrity and verifiability of the global non-proliferation regime.


On biological weapons, he said that recent developments required a multifaceted response within the multilateral regime.  The Biological Weapons Convention remained the fundamental legal and normative foundation for the collective endeavour to prohibit and prevent the use of biological and bio-toxic weapons, while ensuring the benefits of peaceful uses of biotechnology.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.