Ensuring accountability for a confirmed use of chemical weapons is our responsibility, not least to the victims of such attacks. A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity. This in turn further weakens the norm proscribing the use of chemical weapons and the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture as a whole.
Developments and trends, 2019
A period of intense challenge to the international norm against chemical weapons use continued throughout 2019. In that context, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) persisted in its efforts to broaden and strengthen the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention).
At the international level, much of that work remained centred around allegations of chemical weapons possession and use in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Office for Disarmament Affairs continued to support the Secretary-General’s good offices in furtherance of the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.
OPCW continued to assist the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in efforts to resolve all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that had arisen from the initial declaration of its chemical weapons programme. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission continued its work to establish the facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic. Pursuant to a 2018 decision of the fourth special session of the Conference of the States Parties, the OPCW Technical Secretariat established the Investigation and Identification Team to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in the country.
Separately, OPCW enhanced its efforts to build capacities among States parties to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons. Through its related work, OPCW sought to bolster cooperation with key stakeholders in the areas of promoting the peaceful uses of chemistry; advance scientific and technological cooperation; counter threats posed by non-State actors; and expand partnerships with international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the chemical industry and other entities. During the year, further progress was made in an ongoing project to upgrade the OPCW Laboratory and Equipment Store into the Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre). Furthermore, OPCW continued its work to universalize the Chemical Weapons Convention, urging the remaining four States not party to the Convention to join without delay or preconditions.
While no incidents concerning the potential use of biological weapons were reported in 2019, States worked to further strengthen a decades-old global ban on those arms. The United Republic of Tanzania ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) on 14 August, becoming the 183rd State party. As at 31 December, four signatory States had not yet ratified the Convention, and 10 States had neither signed nor ratified it. In 2019, States parties held five intersessional Meetings of Experts in July and August and a Meeting of States Parties in December as part of a previously adopted intersessional programme for the years 2018 to 2020.