Monitoring the international transfer of certain toxic chemicals is required by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). To enhance the capacity of customs officials to enforce the Convention’s chemical transfer regime, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) co-organised a training course for customs officials from OPCW Member States from 16 to 18 May 2022.
Designed specifically for customs officials, the course provided an introduction to the OPCW and the CWC as well as the role played by National Authorities and customs administrations in each Member State. It took an in-depth look at the CWC’s verification regime, the activities and scheduled chemicals that require monitoring under the CWC and tools that can be used to identify those chemicals. Discussions also covered common problems in reporting the import and export of scheduled chemicals as well as practical issues in controlling chemical trade.
The Head of OPCW’s Implementation Support Branch stated in her opening remarks: “Monitoring the transfer of scheduled chemicals takes place in a dynamic trade environment, involving multiple actors and a complex working framework. It is essential to regularly review and update the practices, knowledge, and skills of those directly involved in this work.”
The WCO course trainer, Ms Vesna Vračar, emphasised: “Training courses that consistently build the capacities of customs offices are required for the effective enforcement of the CWC transfers regime. Implementing the regime requires a robust understanding of steps involved in the customs-level control of chemicals, how to deal with suspicious shipments, and safe and secure storage of chemicals.”
The training included presentations, hands-on exercises, and quizzes to check knowledge sharing between the trainers and customs officers. Participants shared best practices from their own authorities, including around the handling of scheduled chemicals and procedures governing the control of scheduled chemicals.
Mr Simon Carr, a Senior Advisor at the New Zealand Customs Service, stated: “The training gives participants a baseline appreciation of the CWC in the context of customs control of scheduled chemicals and knowledge that can be passed onto our frontline colleagues. The training has also provided information and tools that are easily accessible and could assist personnel in making determination on shipments that qualify for import or export.”
To be prepared for continual growth in international trade and in response to requests from Member States, OPCW will continue to provide training for frontline customs officers. OPCW’s train-the-trainers programme for customs training institutions will be held this year from 6 to 9 September 2022 in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The course was attended by 58 participants from 34 Member States from all OPCW regional groups: Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Serbia, Siri Lanka, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, 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 99% 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.