The use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances, is intolerable and a serious violation of international law. Impunity for their use is unacceptable. There can be no justification for the use of these abhorrent weapons. We must remain united and determined in preventing their use, or the threat of their use.
Developments and trends, 2020
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to international efforts to uphold the global ban against the use of chemical weapons. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) adapted to the situation, however, continuing to deliver on its mission to fully and effectively implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention).
In addition to carrying forward its critical work of verifying the destruction of remaining declared chemical weapons stockpiles, OPCW successfully resumed its inspections, in line with article VI of the Convention, after a pause forced by public health restrictions. It also continued to provide States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention with assistance in meeting their declaration obligations.
Meanwhile, the OPCW policymaking organs flexibly carried out their responsibilities amid limits on in-person meetings. The OPCW Executive Council held its regular sessions in an adapted modality to continue promoting the Chemical Weapons Convention’s effective implementation, and the OPCW Technical Secretariat developed online platforms and new modules to continue building capacities among States parties to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons. In addition, the Technical Secretariat provided ongoing assistance to States in promoting the peaceful uses of chemistry; advancing scientific and technological cooperation; countering the threats posed by non-State actors; and expanding partnerships with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the chemical industry and other entities.
OPCW also moved forward with work in other areas, achieving major progress towards the construction of the Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre). It also continued efforts to universalize the Chemical Weapons Convention, including through calls for States still not party to the Convention to join without delay or preconditions.
For OPCW and other international organizations, one priority was addressing significant concern around allegations about possession and use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. In that regard, 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 chemical weapons programme in the Syrian Arab Republic, while also working with the Council’s members to build unity and restore adherence to the global norm against chemical weapons.
OPCW, for its part, engaged further with the Syrian Arab Republic in an effort to resolve all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that had arisen from the initial declaration of its chemical weapons programme. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission also continued its work to establish the facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic. Separately, the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team kept up its activities, pursuant to the 2018 decision of the Conference of the States Parties, to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in the country, issuing its first report in April.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General continued to work with the members of the Security Council to build unity and underscore the need to identify and hold accountable those who have used chemical weapons. In support of this priority, the Office for Disarmament Affairs completed a lessons-learned project on the OPCW–United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, aiming to provide the Security Council, as well as the United Nations Secretariat and its partners, with food for thought on how to fulfil the Council's responsibilities in this regard.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the States parties decided to postpone the Meetings of Experts and the Meeting of States Parties from their originally scheduled dates in 2020. In that context, the Convention’s Implementation Support Unit organized a series of webinars where participants could informally discuss the topics of the future Meetings of Experts.