Poisonous and dangerous chemical stockpiles destroyed – OPCW

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South Africa, in the form of Protechnik senior manager Dr Nomandla Vela, was one of over 200 delegates to the November Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Article XI Workshop in the Netherlands.

The annual workshop, according to the final Armscor newsletter of 2023, is a forum where practical debate and concrete measures are used via the views, knowledge and ideas of delegates to advance “full implementation” of the elimination of chemical weapons.

That this aspect of its operations has succeeded was welcomed by OPCW Director General, Ambassador Fernando Arias, in his opening remarks.

“On 7 July in the United States (US) the last remaining declared chemical weapons were verified as destroyed. This was the end of a process in several member states that ended with the destruction of more than 72 000 metric tonnes of the most poisonous and dangerous chemicals.

“The conclusion of the process of destroying declared stockpiles is an incontestable success for multilateralism and a historic moment for the international community.

“The destruction has been one of the main targets of the Organisation [OPCW] for the last 26 years. Once we have reached this target the task is by far not over because we will continue addressing existing as well as new and emerging challenges. Preventing the resurgence of chemical weapons, particularly in the hands of non-State actors using toxic chemicals as weapons, must remain our priority. Robust national implementing legislation and its enforcement, along with effective chemical security measures, are key to addressing this threat.

“Accordingly, this year’s meeting of National Authorities [at the workshop] will, among other topics, focus on preventing non-State actors from acquiring chemical weapons,” he said. This is in line with Article 11 of the Chemical Weapons Convention which aims to avoid “hampering” economic and/or technological development” in convention member states.

The South African delegate from Centurion-based Protechnik Laboratories focused on enhancing laboratory capabilities by way of tailored laboratory capacity trainings and twinning support. The Armscor affiliate is a multidisciplinary scientific laboratory focused on high-end research and development work in chemical and biological (CB) defence solutions.

Vela, a member of the OPCS scientific advisory board, also addressed the workshop on capacity building.

She said it was “critical” for convention member states to support national analytical chemistry laboratories from member states with developing or transitioning economies seeking OPCW designated laboratory status. Her suggestion will see aspiring laboratories twinned with assisting laboratories willing to share “capacity, knowledge and experience”.

In addition to South Africa, delegates from the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Finland, Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Serbia, Cuba, Tunisia, Chile and Brazil were at The Hague workshop.