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Insights into Editorial: For a world free of chemical weapons

Insights into Editorial: For a world free of chemical weapons




America’s top general said they involved in “routine dialogue” with President Donald Trump about military options should Syria ignore Washington’s warnings against using chemical weapons in an expected assault on the enclave of Idlib.

The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond “swiftly and vigorously” if government forces used chemical weapons in Idlib.

President Donald Trump has twice bombed Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018.


Introduction: Chemical Weapons Convention:

The Chemical Weapons Convention Act was enacted in 2000 to give effect to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction signed by the government on January 14, 1993.

The success of the Chemical Weapon Convention is the result of collaborative efforts of the States Parties, the chemical industry, the community of scientists and civil society, working in tandem with the OPCW.

The world faced daunting challenges with discovery of new toxic molecules, advancements in deployment and dissemination techniques and “emergence of non-state actors are among the important developments that call for greater vigilance and for renewing our efforts”.


Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.

The CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is headquartered in The Hague. OPCW won the 2013 Nobel peace prize.

The CWC is open to all nations and currently has 193 states-parties. Israel has signed but has yet to ratify the convention.

Three states have neither signed nor ratified the convention are Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan.

The OPCW receives states-parties’ declarations detailing chemical weapons-related activities or materials and relevant industrial activities.

After receiving declarations, the OPCW inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.


Chemical Weapons Convention Act:

The Act defines chemical weapons and empowers the Centre to set up a National Authority to act as the “national focal point” for effective channel for communication between groups, organisations and other state parties on matters relating to the Convention and for fulfilling the obligations of the country.

The definition includes in its ambit “any equipment” specifically designed for employing chemical weapons.

The Act defines chemical weapons as toxic chemicals, including munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm.


National Authority: As a channel of communication:

The importance of the work of National Authorities cannot be overemphasised, as they are the key players responsible for ensuring State Parties’ compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention

The Authority’s functions include regulation and monitoring the development, production, processing, consumption, transfer or use of toxic chemicals or precursors as specified in the Convention, among others.

The Authority is also empowered to issue directions and even close down facilities which violate the Convention.

It can communicate with other countries to seek or give assistance and protection against the use of chemical weapons.


A world free of chemical weapons means two things:

(a) That the existing stockpile of chemical weapons is irreversibly destroyed and

(b) Re-emergence of chemical weapons is scrupulously prevented.

Free availability of raw materials and enhanced access to technical knowhow through the internet are factors which help subversive elements to craft chemical weapons with comparative ease.

Emergence of non-state actors further exacerbates the situation.


Way Forward:

Remote sensing technology, artificial intelligence, and unmanned aerial systems, may ostensibly appear to have little relevance to preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons.

The need for science and scientists to support the CWC and its norms will only intensify.

New scientific discoveries have the potential to both complicate and assist the mission of the OPCW and we cannot, nor should we want to, stifle and restrict innovation.

We must recognise where new science can help fulfil our mission of a world free of chemical weapons.

Looking to the Royal Society of Chemistry and other learned scientific societies, we rely upon your insights, advice, and contributions to ensure science is a force for human benefit that works to make the world a better place.