The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Panamanian National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) jointly organised a regional basic training course in Panama City, Panama from 18 to 22 April 2022. First responders from OPCW Member States across the Latin America and the Caribbean region participated.
The training was supported by the Panamanian Firefighter Corps with instructional support from experts from Argentina, Cuba, and Uruguay through the OPCW Instructor Development and Exchange Programme. The practical training sessions took place in the Panama Canal in collaboration with the Panama Canal Authority.
Col Solís Pérez, General Director of the Panamanian Firefighter Corps, stated in his opening remarks: “This course will strengthen capabilities of emergency response personnel to respond to incidents with chemical warfare agents and other toxic substances. It is also a valuable forum for the exchange of experiences among the participating countries.”
Dr Alexandro Ganci, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Health of Panama, noted: “The course is important for Panama and all participating countries because it is essential to be prepared to respond to incidents involving chemical weapons and chemical processes, which can affect humans, goods and the environment.”
The OPCW’s programme officer remarked: “We appreciate our longstanding cooperation with Panama for the development and support of training activities for Latin America and the Caribbean. These trainings help countries in the region to achieve effective implementation of the assistance and protection provisions (Article X) of the Convention.”
The training covered the CWC, personal protective equipment, principles of emergency management, monitoring, detection, decontamination operations, and first aid in the field. In addition to theoretical knowledge, the course also included a practical session where participants applied the obtained knowledge during the week-long training.
The training was attended by 33 participants from 15 OPCW Member States: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.
This group of first responders will continue their training at an upcoming advanced course and an exercise in Argentina as part of the regional training cycle.
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.
Over 99% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.