A record number of 181 emergency responders from 41 Member States of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) enhanced their knowledge of detection, sampling, and identification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals during an online course, held from 15 to 19 March. The event was conducted by the OPCW in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DESTO) from Pakistan.
The Head of the Chem-Bio Defence Directorate of Pakistan’s National Authority, Director Syed Hasnain Haider, remarked: “Pakistan fully supports the OPCW’s endeavours to make the world a safer place. We really appreciate OPCW’s work on enhancing the assistance and protection capabilities of Member States, as enshrined in Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention. We pledge to continue supporting OPCW’s efforts to strengthen international cooperation for further building the chemical emergency response capacities of its Member States.”
OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, stated: “This course has gathered an impressive number of participants and states from all regions. These numbers indicate high interest among our Member States to enhance their first responders’ knowledge and skills in reconnaissance and sampling for chemical incident management. The well-attended course, where some 70 percent of participants are taking part in an OPCW training programme for the first time, also confirms the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s capability to deliver robust online Article X training in the challenging circumstances of the current pandemic.”
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.
The participants included military, police, customs, and other civilian professionals from a range of emergency response backgrounds, and represented the following Member States from all OPCW regions: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Ukraine, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.
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 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.