The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) presented on 1 June a new Online Self-Assessment Tool (OSAT) to the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The pilot OPCW assistance project, with financial and technical support from the Government of the United Kingdom, bolsters the implementation of Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Assistance and Protection Against Chemical Weapons, at the regional and sub-regional levels.
The OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, stressed in his opening remarks: “The new Online Self-Assessment Tool will help National Authorities, initially from the SADC region, to assess the risks posed by hazardous chemicals, audit existing response capacities, and identify necessary improvement measures, including those the OPCW may help to build.”
The OSAT Project Manager, Senior Programme Officer from the OPCW’s Assistance and Protection Branch, Mr Anton Martyniuk, noted: “We anticipate finalising OSAT’s first version by the end of July, which will be followed by the launch of the self-assessment process in the interested SADC countries in the autumn.”
Once the self-assessments and joint evaluations are completed, the Assistance and Protection Branch will use the results as the basis for programming in support of Member States in the SADC region.
Under the current project phase, interested SADC Member States, assisted by the Technical Secretariat, assessed the OSAT design with the aim of identifying critical needs related to protection against chemical weapons at the national level. The group considered the factors necessary to assess the precise character of chemical risk; the presence and effectiveness of controls to mitigate those risks; the comprehensiveness of chemical emergency management policy, clearly assigning emergency roles and responsibilities to national agencies; as well as the institutional capacity of those agencies to perform their roles during a chemical incident.
The online meeting was attended by 21 representatives of the National Authorities, national institutions, and Permanent Representations to the OPCW from seven Member States: Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
As the only mechanism in OPCW’s Technical Secretariat tasked exclusively with assisting States Parties in fully realising the protections and benefits of the Convention at the domestic level, the International Cooperation and Assistance Division (ICA), manages the Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Africa Programme, launched in 2007 and now in its fifth phase, assists the participating Member States in achieving defined goals and proffering sustainable development for a peaceful and secure Africa.
ICA’s Assistance and Protection Branch contributes to the efforts of Africa Programme with targeted projects falling under the ambit of Article X, which focuses on assisting States Parties in strengthening national programmes for the development and improvement of protective capacities against chemical weapons.
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.