RSIS Roundtable with Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, RSIS (Former Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)
Chemical and Biological Terrorism
The world is certainly better prepared than in 1995 when Aum Shinrikyo used sarin at the Tokyo subway. There is increased awareness among relevant national and international institutions about the risks of chemical and biological terrorism. Several countries put in place preventive measures and response arrangements. We should not forget, however, that terrorism is a trans boundary threat and it requires a collective response. Countries should cooperate more for prevention. We cannot afford having loopholes in different parts of the world. Furthermore, international organizations need to coordinate their efforts in order to avoid duplications and use their resources in the most efficient manner. In the field of chemical terrorism, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has made serious efforts. A working group which was established after 9/11 is revitalized and is being used as a platform for consultations and sharing best practices. Cooperation with other organizations such as Interpol has increased. A rapid response assistance mission (RRAM ) has been set up. It already has the analytical capabilities through the network of designated laboratories. On the biological side, very little has been done. Some countries have been encouraging the UNODA to lead the work in this domain. In addition to response activities to save lives, we should also have investigative mechanisms aimed at identifying the perpetrators of attacks. If we fail to hold the terrorists to account, we won’t be able to deter further uses.
About the Speaker
Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü was Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague from July 2010 to July 2018. He is a career diplomat with vast experience in multilateral diplomacy.
Prior to his appointment as OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Üzümcü served as the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations Office in Geneva from 2006 to 2010. In an earlier assignment, he was the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Council in Brussels, from 2002 to 2004. Ambassador Üzümcü also held the post of Ambassador of Turkey to Israel, from 1999 to 2002.
In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara, Ambassador Üzümcü has served, inter alia, as Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Bilateral Political Affairs in charge of Russia, Central Asia, Caucasus, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, from 2004 to 2006 and as Head of the Personnel Department from 1996 to 1999.
From 1989 to 1994, Ahmet Üzümcü served in an international capacity as Staff member in NATO’s Political Directorate. During this posting he contributed to NATO’s initiatives in the aftermath of the Cold War, such as the Partnership for Peace (PfP). In this capacity he travelled extensively to Eastern European countries and former Soviet Republics.
Ambassador Üzümcü received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the OPCW in December 2013. In December 2015, H.E. Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, decorated Ambassador Üzümcü with the Légion d’honneur (rank of officer).
Ambassador Üzümcü is fluent in English and French and a native speaker of Turkish. He is married and has one daughter.