OPCW training paves the way for chemical transfers

Posted by () on Aug 25 2011
VERTIC Blog >> Arms Control and Disarmament

Kate Farrell, London

From 18-22 July, 2011, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Republic of Ukraine held a regional training course for customs authorities in Eastern Europe. 20 participants from 16 states gathered in Kiev to explore technical aspects of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) transfers regime. Opening the training course, Mr Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Acting Head of Arms Control for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, noted that the fullest exchange of chemicals for peaceful purposes requires effective implementation of the CWC transfers regime.

The CWC Verification Annex regulates chemical transfers and controls the cross-border movement of scheduled chemicals. Chemicals classified in Schedule 1 pose high risk to the object and purpose of the Convention and have been, or can be, developed, produced, stockpiled or used as a chemical weapon. Under Part VI of the Verification Annex, these chemicals can be transferred to State Parties, but cannot be re-transferred from there. Part VII applies to Schedule 2 chemicals (non-proscribed but nevertheless ‘high risk’ chemicals produced in large quantities). These can only be transferred between States Parties. Finally, schedule 3 chemicals, those deemed ‘low risk’, can be transferred to anyone, as long as the exporter has a valid end-user certificate.

There are several practical, and quite technical, challenges related to the implementation of chemical transfers under the CWC. For example, customs terminology may not apply specifically to the convention. In addition, different customs officials may use different codes identify a given chemical. The training programme is set up to help states coordinate such national control systems. It is also beneficial to the OPCW itself. The organization benefits from having uniform national systems in all its member states.

The training course in Kiev included lessons on the monitored chemicals themselves, import and export licencing, controlling transhipments and transits, illegal trading and smuggling and risk assessments. The OPCW also uses these training courses to exchange information on best practices. National authorities share real-world experiences through case-studies and roundtable discussions. This approach gives member states the opportunity to learn from their neighbours and develop a comprehensive understanding of the problems they face within the region.

Alongside regional training courses, the OPCW offers different methods of capacity building designed to strengthen wider non-proliferation efforts. In November 2010 the Technical Secretariat held a table-top exercise in Poland to gauge the readiness of States Parties to prevent and respond to chemical terrorism. This exercise stepped outside the OPCW’s traditional training program and gave states a unique opportunity to explore responses to scenarios that are difficult to prepare for. In the December issue of Trust and Verify VERTIC’s Senior Legal Officer, Scott Spence, wrote ‘though the CWC is not an anti-terrorism instrument, an effective legislative framework which implements the non-proliferation obligations of the CWC will greatly facilitate the prevention and response to criminal or terrorist attacks involving chemicals’.

With an active outreach agenda, the Secretariat has six training events scheduled for August and September. The value of such events have been recognized by independent experts as well. In its recent final report, the Advisory Panel on Future OPCW Priorities stressed the role of the Technical Secretariat in continuing to help States Parties with technical assistance and sharing of best practices. To document the training courses from an insider’s view, the CWC Implementation Support Branch is now blogging reflections from each course.

Often, countries may need advanced technical knowledge and expertise to implement arms control agreements. Outreach and training plays a critical role in developing skills and building awareness within government and industry, to strengthen capacity for full compliance and implementation. The OPCW’s continuing outreach efforts, particularly with developing states, are a valuable tool for promoting cooperation and building state capacity to implement the CWC.

Last changed: Aug 25 2011 at 5:07 PM

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