UNSCOM inspectors take mustard agent samples
UNSCOM inspectors take mustard agent samples from 155-mm mustard agent artillery projectiles, which have been wrapped in plastic to minimize contamination, Iraq, 1991.
Photo:UN Photo/Shankar Kunhambu

The Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, at its 20th Session, decided that a memorial Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare would be observed on 30 November each year or, when appropriate, on the first day of the regular session of the Conference.

This commemoration provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the victims of chemical warfare, as well as to reaffirm the commitment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the elimination of the threat of chemical weapons, thereby promoting the goals of peace, security, and multilateralism.

The Third Review Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Convention held 8-19 April 2013 in the Hague, the Netherlands, adopted by consensus a political declaration that confirms the “unequivocal commitment” of the States Parties to the global chemical weapons ban, and a comprehensive review of CWC implementation since the last Review Conference in 2008, which also maps out the OPCW’s priorities for the coming five years.

Background

The history of the serious efforts to achieve chemical disarmament that culminated in the conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention began more than a century ago. Chemical weapons were used on a massive scale during World War I, resulting in more than 100,000 fatalities and a million casualties.

However, chemical weapons were not used on the battleground in Europe in World War II. Following World War II, and with the advent of the nuclear debate, several countries gradually came to the realisation that the marginal value of having chemical weapons in their arsenals was limited, while the threat posed by the availability and proliferation of such weapons made a comprehensive ban desirable.

Adopted in 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force on 29 April 1997. It determined, “for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons.” (Preamble)

The States Parties to this Convention established the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “to achieve the object and purpose of this Convention, to ensure the implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification of compliance with it, and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation among States Parties.” (Article VIII).

Learn more about the OPCW's work in supporting victims of chemical weapons.

Orizuru, an origami paper crane

In 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched Securing our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament, outlining a vision of disarmament actions that help set our world on a path towards sustainable peace and security for all. One of the actions of the Agenda includes work of the Secretary-General with the members of the Security Council in order to build new leadership and unity in restoring respect for the global norm against chemical weapons.

 

OPCW logo

The OPCW’s mission is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to achieve our vision of a world free of chemical weapons and the threat of their use, and in which chemistry is used for peace, progress, and prosperity. Today, the OPCW Member States represent about 98% of the global population and landmass, as well as 98% of the worldwide chemical industry. In 2013, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the OPCW "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons".

 

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.