Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law. Identifying those responsible and holding them to account is of paramount importance. We have a responsibility, particularly to the victims, to ensure accountability for the use of these heinous weapons.
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to pose challenges to efforts aimed at upholding the global ban on chemical weapons. Nonetheless, by adjusting its working arrangements throughout the year, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fulfilled its mandate and commitment to ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention).
As OPCW took forward its critical work of verifying the ongoing destruction of the world’s remaining declared chemical weapons stockpiles, it continued to carry out chemical industry inspections as conditions in the pandemic allowed. The OPCW Executive Council held its regular sessions under adapted modalities, thus fulfilling its obligation to ensure the Convention’s continued implementation.
Meanwhile, the OPCW Technical Secretariat continued working to build capacities among States parties to prevent chemical weapons from re-emerging. The Technical Secretariat used online platforms and modules to continue its capacity-building programmes, assisting States parties and other stakeholders 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.
Other activities of OPCW in 2021 included notable progress in constructing its Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre) within the planned timeline and budget. Additionally, OPCW continued to advocate for the universalization of the Chemical Weapons Convention, urging the remaining States not party to the Convention to join without delay or preconditions.
OPCW faced delays, however, in its activities to ensure that the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic resolves all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that had arisen from the initial declaration of its chemical weapons programme. Despite those delays, the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission continued its work to establish the facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic. Likewise, the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team kept up its activities to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in the country. The Team issued its second report in April. In the same month, the Conference of the States Parties decided to suspend certain rights and privileges of the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with article XII of the Convention.
The Secretary-General, for his part, continued to underscore the need to identify and hold accountable those who have used chemical weapons. In that regard, the Office for Disarmament Affairs supported the Secretary-General’s good offices in furthering the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the chemical weapons programme in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Office also worked with members of the Security Council in their efforts to build unity and restore adherence to the global norm against chemical weapons.
Separately, as the global health situation permitted, States held several previously postponed meetings within the framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention). The 2020 Meetings of Experts took place in Geneva from 30 August to 8 September 2021, and the 2020 Meeting of States Parties was held in Geneva from 22 to 25 November 2021. Then, as agreed upon at the Meeting of States Parties, the Preparatory Committee for the ninth Review Conference held its first meeting in Geneva on 20 December. The Committee decided to resume work in April 2022 and to schedule the ninth Review Conference later that year, from 8 to 26 August 2022. The States parties decided to hold both meetings in Geneva in an in-person format, in accordance with past practice for sessions of the Biological Weapons Convention.