OPCW Director-General receives UK’s FCDO Director for Defence and International Security

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—30 November 2023—The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Fernando Arias, had a meeting with Mr Stephen Lillie, Director for Defence and International Security at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the sidelines of the Twenty-Eighth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CSP-28) in The Hague, Netherlands.

During the meeting, the Director-General and Mr Lillie discussed the current international security climate and how it could impact the implementation of the Convention. They both underlined the importance of chemical emergency preparedness to address the threat of chemical terrorism.

The Director-General provided an overview of OPCW’s Organisational priorities following the end of destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles on 7 July 2023. He underlined that preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons, strengthening chemical safety and security in Member States, and achieving universality of the Convention remain top priorities for the Organisation. Furthermore, the Director-General emphasised that rapid advances in science and technology could have a significant impact on the implementation of the Convention.

“While significant progress in science and technology could bring advantages, such as enhanced verification techniques, they also present risks. Artificial Intelligence, for example, holds tremendous potential, including the ability to predict the development of new toxic chemicals and their production methods. However, in the wrong hands, AI could be utilised to design, develop, and produce new chemical warfare agents,” the Director-General said.

“The OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology is an important tool for the Organisation to ensure that we can take advantage of the opportunities and effectively address the challenges posed by scientific and technological progress,” he highlighted.

“The UK reaffirms its support for the OPCW and its work to address future challenges, including through our contribution of €1M to projects this year. We will continue to work to ensure the OPCW has the right resources and capabilities to address noncompliance with the CWC and prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons,” Mr Lillie said.

Background

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been an active member of the OPCW since the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997. The UK is a member of the OPCW Executive Council, the OPCW’s executive organ, which is responsible for promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as supervising the activities of the Organisation’s Technical Secretariat.

As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

On 7 July 2023, the OPCW verified that all chemical weapons stockpiles declared by the 193 States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1997 — totalling 72,304 metric tonnes of chemical agents — have been irreversibly destroyed under the OPCW’s strict verification regime.

For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

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