Think Tank (November to December 2019)
Amb Ahmet Üzümcü


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Is the Use of Chemical Weapons No Longer a Taboo?
07 Nov 2019

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is part of the rules-based international order. Therefore, the international community must uphold the integrity of the CWC for global peace and security.

This was the key point made by Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, former director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at an RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture on 7 November 2019. Outlining the progress in and challenges to the implementation of the CWC, Amb Üzümcü pointed out that the convention is the world’s first multilateral disarmament agreement to provide for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction within a fixed time frame.

Amb Üzümcü noted that the implementation of the CWC over the past 22 years had been successful, with 193 countries having joined the OPCW. So far, 97 per cent of declared stockpiles — declared by eight member states, including Syria — had been destroyed under OPCW verification. However, while the CWC is recognised as the gold standard for the disarmament regime, Amb Üzümcü lamented that reports of the massive use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria since 2012 had raised criticism and posed challenges to the CWC and OPCW.

Amb Üzümcü proposed several measures that could be adopted to strengthen the OPCW and the implementation of the CWC. First, the activities of the vast chemical industry, including the global supply chain, should be faithfully monitored. Second, law enforcement agencies should be well trained, well equipped and knowledgeable about detecting and preventing chemical weapons utilisation. (Amb Üzümcü noted that the OPWC is assisting member states in this regard.) Third, OPWC should be equipped with more resources to enhance its capability to fully perform its mandate. Fourth, the role of regional organisations is important as they help OPCW save resources and enhance the efficacy of CWC implementation. Fifth, there is a need to universalise the CWC, with the remaining four countries that have yet to ratify the CWC being encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Sixth, awareness of the CWC must be heightened through active engagement with non-state stakeholders and civil society organisations.

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