The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supported Cameroon’s chemical emergency response planning and delivery in anticipation for the country’s hosting of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. The hybrid national workshop was held in-person in Yaoundé, Cameroon and facilitated online by experts from the United Kingdom and the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW, from 1 to 3 December. The event was hosted by the Government of Cameroon.
In his opening speech, representative of Cameroon’s Minister of External Relations, Mr Billy John Eko, noted: “This workshop not only gives us the opportunity to gain expertise in emergency response mitigation measures against chemical threat to major public events. It also serves OPCW’s core objective of assistance and protection against chemical weapons, as enshrined in Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
A Programme Officer from the OPCW’s Assistance and Protection Branch remarked: “With events like this, the OPCW strives to help forge networks of relationships between relevant agencies, which is a crucial element of managing major public events. One cannot underestimate the role of such meetings in the exchange of information and best practice.”
During the workshop, 54 emergency planners and mangers from civil defence, fire and rescue departments, police, and military CBRN units deepened their knowledge about emergency response and mitigation against chemical incidents at major public events. The topics included command-and-control, protection capability scenarios around chemical threats focused on toxicity, persistency, indicators, environmental impacts, self-analysis of vulnerabilities, as well as residual risk, inherent risk and impact of risk controls.
The participants also took part in a scenario-based tabletop exercise to inform drafting of Cameroon’s chemical capability development processes and programmes that will address the current gaps.
The workshop, conducted in the framework of OPCW’s Africa Programme, complemented a webinar on chemical security and response measures and emergency response arrangements for major public events held from 22 to 23 September 2021, also in support of Cameroon’s preparations before the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on the Chemical Weapons Convention – known as the Africa Programme – focuses on the needs of OPCW Member States on that continent, including the promotion of uses of chemistry for peaceful and authorised purposes to support a developed, safe, and secure Africa.
The Africa Programme is based on triennial planning and has completed four phases since its inception. A fifth phase was launched in January 2020 and covers the period 2020-2022. The design of this phase is based on a need assessment followed by wide and inclusive consultations with the African Member States. The Programme benefits from voluntary contributions of a number of OPCW Member States.
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.