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Chemistry International
Vol. 24, No. 1
January 2002

 

IUPAC Projects


Impact of Scientific Developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention

A workshop titled the Impact of Scientific Developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention will be the focal point for the development of advice by IUPAC to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The workshop, to be held in Bergen, Norway, 1-3 July 2002, is expected to bring together about 80-100 experts to discuss novel methods of organic synthesis and chemical processing, new analytical chemistry technology, and other areas relevant to the production and detection of chemical weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force in 1997 and has been ratified by 143 nations. This treaty prohibits the use of chemicals as weapons of war and requires the destruction of existing stockpiles of such weapons. This treaty is implemented by the OPCW, which is responsible for monitoring the destruction of weapons, monitoring international transfers of chemicals that are recognized as weapons or their immediate precursors, and inspecting chemical production facilities in member countries.

The operation of the CWC is to be reviewed at a conference of all Member States in October 2003. In recognition of the many scientific developments since the drafting of the treaty, OPCW has arranged with IUPAC to provide advice on such topics as new methods of synthesis, changes in chemical processing that could significantly affect the design and appearance of chemical production facilities, new analytical methods (currently available and on the horizon) that may facilitate OPCW inspections, newer methods of destruction of chemical weapons, etc. In addition, IUPAC will consider aspects that may be relevant to the prevention of the use of chemical weapons by terrorists.

An International Advisory Board, chaired by IUPAC Past-President Alan Hayes, with representation from 17 countries, has been formed to aid the Program Committee in formulating the program and obtaining the best international scientific input. Following the workshop, proceedings will be published, and a report provided to OPCW.

With support from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences [ IUPAC's NAO in the USA], IUPAC held a planning meeting at OPCW headquarters in The Hague in July. In opening remarks, John Gee, Deputy Director-General of OPCW, pointed out that " IUPAC, through its constituent national chemical societies and science academies, is well placed to draw to the attention of the OPCW, developments in scientific knowledge, understanding, and methodology that have a direct bearing on the Convention. As a truly independent international association with an indisputable scientific reputation and a history of accomplishments in the furthering of chemistry and chemical technology, your contribution to the CWC review process will be of great value indeed."

Mr. Gee went on to say, "Perhaps more than any other international legal instrument in the field of international security and disarmament, the Chemical Weapons Convention has strong scientific foundations. It reaches into such activities as scientific research and development, and the use of chemicals for peaceful purposes. The Convention therefore needs to mirror accurately the capabilities of chemistry, technology, and manufacturing. At the same time, governments and the international community as a whole, need to be reassured that new scientific developments are not going to undermine the prohibitions in the Convention."

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