Scientific Advisory Board updates OPCW on emerging chemical technologies

The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held its thirty-second session from 15 to 17 June. The three-day online meeting, chaired by Dr Christophe Curty with Vice-Chair Dr Andrea Leisewitz, discussed the most recent scientific and technological advances relevant to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The SAB Chair Dr Christophe Curty stated: “Science and technology are constantly evolving. In this challenging time, the ability to meet virtually is essential to ensure progress of the SAB’s work in reviewing the science and technology relevant to the Convention. In doing so, we ensure that the SAB is able to continue to provide the best advice to the Director-General while keeping our focus on the preparation of the report on ‘Developments in science and technology’ for the next Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

In her opening address to the SAB, the Director of OPCW’s Verification Division, Ms Carolyn Browne, noted some of the ongoing and upcoming scientific topics of interest to the Verification Division, including how to best utilise and update various streams of technical data and manage transfer discrepancies.

The session focused on SAB activities, including preparations for the scientific review and advice to the Fifth Review Conference of the CWC and planning for upcoming workshops with chemical industry and other relevant entities. Presentations from SAB members and guest experts provided insights into emerging technologies for the detection and dissemination of chemical agents, use of artificial intelligence in chemistry, and new computational methods for the estimation of properties of pure organic compounds, among other topics.

Members of the SAB also received an update on the initial work of the newly established Temporary Working Group (TWG) on the analysis of biotoxins. The TWG is mandated to review the science and technology relevant to the analysis of biotoxins that need to be considered during investigations into their alleged use.

Background

The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), comprised of 25 independent experts from OPCW Member States, advises the Director-General on science and technology issues relevant to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Every five years, the SAB also prepares a larger report on developments in science and technology for submission to Review Conferences of the Convention.

In January 2021, the SAB established a temporary working group (TWG) on the analysis of biotoxins to undertake an in-depth review of the methods and technologies used in the analysis of biotoxins and provide expert advice on the questions set out in the terms of reference of the Group. The TWG’s mandate was set for two years with a possibility of extension, pending the needs of the Organisation and available funding.

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.

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