The Hague, The Netherlands

2 December 2013

Secretary-General's message to the Eighteenth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention [delivered by Mr. Jarmo Sareva, Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament]

I am pleased to greet the Eighteenth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

This has been an extraordinary year for the Convention, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations. We have seen both shocking incidents as well as some positive developments.

We have witnessed the successful conclusion of the Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CWC, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW, the accession to the CWC of Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic, and the emergence of a strengthened global norm against chemical weapons.

  Yet this year also featured the tragic use of chemical weapons.  In response, the United Nations together with the OPCW and the World Health Organization rose to the occasion by expanding cooperation to investigate the reported allegations. This included the establishment of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, in which teams of OPCW and WHO inspectors figured prominently.

The OPCW Director-General and I have joined with many other voices in condemning the use of chemical weapons.  Though broken, the taboo on their use still remains, as does the world’s determination to seek the elimination of such weapons—not just in Syria, but everywhere. We must do everything we can to prevent the chemical genie from coming back out of its bottle; as long as chemical weapons exist, there remains a risk that they will be used.
The United Nations and OPCW have travelled a long road together in a very short time. I am proud of what we have accomplished in confronting difficult challenges.  We are playing an indispensable role in implementing the decisions of the UN Security Council and OPCW Executive Council, which are now guiding the historic mission of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapon programme. 

The recent establishment of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission marks another milestone in this collaboration.  This work is progressing despite the conditions of an ongoing civil war, and our efforts helped Syria to meet its first major deadline, which required the functional destruction of all chemical weapons production equipment.  Yet much remains to be done, and I would like to stress the need for the full support of all Member States, including the Syrian government, in bringing this work to a successful conclusion.

The United Nations remains strongly committed to promoting the universality and full implementation of the CWC.  I hope the recent use of these weapons will encourage the six States that remain outside the Convention to join it and thereby become a full part of our shared efforts to build a world free of chemical weapons.

At this critical juncture, I would also like to reiterate the importance of forging a stronger partnership with the chemical industry so that we can address concerns over the safety and security of poisonous chemical agents while reaping the tremendous technological and economic benefits that chemicals can make possible.

Let us be encouraged by recent progress.  But let us also now finish the job.

In that spirit of shared purpose and resolve, I wish you a productive conference.