Experts from the African Member States of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) expanded their knowledge of detection, sampling, and identification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals during an online course held from 27 to 29 July. The event was conducted by the OPCW in partnership with the National Institute of Forensic Science and Criminology of the National Gendarmerie (INCC) based in Algiers, Algeria.
The Executive Secretary of Algeria’s National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Mr Missum Ramla, stated: “In view of the security threats and challenges confronting the region, is has become imperative to be prepared to combat any toxic chemical danger, put into effect first responder protocols, coordinate well, and set up damage-control measures, including sampling identification and analysis of toxic chemical compounds.”
OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, remarked: “African states have exhibited high interest in enhancing the national skillset in sampling and analysis in a highly contaminated environment. This expertise is crucial for successful response and management of incidents involving chemical weapons and toxic industrial chemicals. I thank Algeria for its sustained commitment to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the INCC for its substantial progress on chemical response preparedness.”
The participants learned about theoretical and practical aspects of detection, identification, sampling, and decontamination techniques used during reconnaissance and sampling operations in highly contaminated environments. The course also covered safety measures and procedures necessary during emergencies and a presentation of a simulated intervention involving recognition and sampling with full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
The course was attended by 47 experts from 17 OPCW African Member States: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, and Uganda.
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 has been the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapon of mass destruction.
Over 98% 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.