- More than 99% of declared chemical weapons stockpiles destroyed to date
- International experts meet to address remaining chemical weapons challenges
Scientists, technical experts, policy officials and non-governmental organisations from across the world congregated at the 25th Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation Conference in London to share experiences and lessons and address remaining challenges.
The Conference has been hosted by the Ministry of Defence and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense. The annual conference is crucial to facilitating conversations on the demilitarisation of chemical weapons.
As more than 99% of declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed, and with the remainder scheduled to be destroyed this year, this year’s conference addressed the future of demilitarisation. Speakers expanded the remit by presenting on topics such as biotoxins and the capability of states not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Delivering the closing remarks of the Conference, UK Defence Minister Baroness Goldie reflected on key successes, such as 72,000 metric tonnes of the declared chemical warfare agents across the world being verifiably destroyed – as well as condemning those who have used and retained chemical weapons – acknowledging the importance of holding those responsible to account.
Defence Minister, Baroness Goldie, said:
Chemical weapons still represent one of the greatest threats to peace and security that we face today. We must redouble our resolve, summoning the courage and optimism required to finish the job of ridding the world of these deadly weapons, neutralising current and future risks. Together, we can ensure we make this world a far safer place for the next generation.
OPCW Director General, Fernando Arias said:
This year, the OPCW celebrates its 26th anniversary. It is now up to all of us, to consolidate and strengthen our disarmament gains, and stay the course, we started in 1997, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of this type of abhorrent weapons with a total destruction and zero tolerance.
As joint hosts of the conference, Dstl plays a lead role in support of global demilitarisation and has an ongoing programme disposing of current and historic chemical weapons.
Dstl Chief Executive, Paul Hollinshead said:
Dstl appreciates and supports the work of the OPCW Laboratory in facing these emerging challenges [biotoxins]. We are immensely proud that under the MOD funding and Dstl technical leadership, a project that utilises the new Chem Tech Centre to develop more comprehensive analytical techniques to identify scheduled biotoxins in both environmental and biomedical samples will be established.
As the most successful multilateral arms control treaty with 193 States Parties, the CWC covers the vast majority of the global population. Our small part in that community has massive influence, which has time and time again changed the world for the better. The wider capability of our national protective programmes keep our troops safe through the deployment of advanced technology and the deterrent factor that technology provides.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, the Honourable Ms. Deborah Rosenblum said:
No nation, no government, can be successful in the fight against chemical weapons threats in isolation. We need each other and the best ideas industry, academia, and the NGO communities have to offer.
That is why this conference is so valuable. There is a rich history of government and industry partners working together to advance counter and non-proliferation objectives. Together, we have destroyed nearly all of the world’s declared chemical weapons.
Continued collaboration will be essential to tackling future challenges. I encourage you to share your ideas about how this conference can continue to be fit for purpose and to advance our progress toward the ultimate objective of eliminating this class of WMD.
The Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997, banning chemical weapons, and requiring states parties to destroy any existing stockpiles. In 1998 the first Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation conference was held, and this has continued to be hosted annually by the MOD and Dstl.
The Convention requires global cooperation to affect lasting change and address chemical weapons use, as highlighted by chemical weapon attacks including in Russia on Mr. Alexey Navalny in 2020, in Salisbury in the UK in 2018, and the numerous chemical weapon attacks by the Assad regime in Syria.