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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2002

Twenty-ninth Regular Session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Ambassador Donald A. Mahley, United States Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Statement to the Executive Council
The Hague, The Netherlands
June 25, 2002

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Acting Director-General, Distinguished Delegates:

The twenty-ninth session of the Council that begins today is an exceptional one. At the last regular session, in March, we addressed probably the most difficult challenge an international organization can face. Since that time, the Conference of the States Parties (CSP) convened in its first Special Session, voted overwhelmingly to dismiss the former Director-General of the Technical Secretariat, and mapped out a way to select and appoint a new Director-General. The CSP Special Session is still open, and will require a recommendation by the Council to reconvene and fulfill its vitally important task.

All of us in the Organization -- the States Parties, as well as the members of the Technical Secretariat -- have questions about the transition and are seeking answers. This is natural and to be expected. There are certain decisions that, according to the Convention, are clearly the responsibility of the Director-General to be appointed by the Conference of the States Parties. However, the Organization can not simply go into a state of suspended animation, or a prolonged period of inactivity.

I'd like to thank the Acting Director-General for his statement, and support his call for a return to the business of implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention. In particular, my delegation agrees with the Acting Director-General's list of key priorities for the Council. There are other issues that are also very important, but those he has identified are the issues that must be successfully addressed if the Organization is to function.

The Acting Director-General mentioned that the draft budget for 2003 assumes an 80% collection rate for Article IV and V payments. That's far higher than the historical record -- but it's the bare minimum necessary if the Organization is to carry out a meaningful program of work.

The Acting Director-General and the Technical Secretariat, while mindful of the special circumstances and resulting limits on new initiatives, have acted seriously and responsibly, taking steps that were necessary for the health and efficient functioning of the Organization. I would note, as an example, that the Draft Budget for 2003 presented at the end of May was a very significant improvement over the previous version presented during the former Director-General's tenure. Is it a perfect document? No. Will further work be necessary before the Council can approve it. Yes. But the real question is this: is the revised 2003 Draft Budget a realistic basis for dialogue and collaborative work by the Technical Secretariat and the States Parties? Yes, most definitely. And there stands the difference. The new draft budget is not a rhetorical document, an unrealistic provocation, a gauntlet thrown down before the States Parties. It reflects the philosophy that this Organization belongs to all of us, and that States Parties, the Policy-Making Organs, and the Technical Secretariat must work well together, respecting each others' authority and responsibility, to ensure that the OPCW moves forward. This is the right philosophy.

Let's be frank. The Convention imposes great demands on the States Parties and the Council. Too often in the past, the States Parties left the initiative to the then-Director General and the Technical Secretariat. And, while we sometimes then complained about the results, did we use all the instruments at our disposal to correct the situation? I would say no.

Mr. Chairman, this session of the Council gives us the chance for a fresh start. This session can become a model for the future work of the Council. We have serious challenges in front of us, but we should try to face our tasks with a sense of common purpose. We should also proceed with the aim of restoring the Council to its full and proper place in setting policy and guiding the work of the Technical Secretariat, as the Convention provides.

We all know that the former Director-General was not dismissed via consensus. We took a number of votes in the Council, and voted later at the Special Session of the Conference. But those were truly exceptional circumstances. Later in the Conference, and again at the Council meeting on May 31, we returned to the path of consensus. We should remain on that path. We need a new Director-General who has the support of all States Parties. The basic principle of consensus will guide the work of my delegation in the Council and when the Conference reconvenes to address the appointment of a new DG, and as we address the many other challenges before us. We are glad that States Parties have stepped forward and nominated highly qualified candidates for the position of Director-General, and are confident that the Council will, after appropriate consideration, be able to make a recommendation to the Conference, on the basis of consensus.

The matter of replacing the Director-General has consumed the attention and energy of delegations for several months. That was to be expected: the very survival of the Organization was at stake. But we must also recognize that many other significant issues did not receive the attention they needed. It is a simple fact that we arrive at this Council session unable to take decisions on many items and documents referred to in the draft annotated agenda. The causes are varied: documents that were not distributed far enough in advance as had been previously requested by the Council, intersessional consultations that did not take place or were unable to reach conclusions, and insufficient dynamism on the part of the Council. The 2001 Report of the Office of Internal Oversight, for example, is an important document that merits careful attention. But there has not been enough time between its dissemination and the start of the EC to allow for sufficient review in capitals. There are almost as many reasons for our inability to take decisions as there are items to be deferred from consideration. So the point is not to assign blame. It is rather that we should take the occasion of this session to make a fresh start.

Mr. Chairman, Council reports that become long lists of failures to take action have a demoralizing effect, and contribute to a sense that much of the time we just defer things to the next meeting, and then they are deferred again. Beginning with this session, and for all future sessions, we should address only those matters where there are real prospects for taking decisions, or that genuinely require substantive discussion by the Council. As for the many important items that will currently remain unaddressed, we should commit ourselves -- individually and collectively -- to a busy and active upcoming intersessional period.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, let me turn to the other main issue regarding the future of the Organization -- finances. The way in which the States Parties, Policy-Making Organs, and the Technical Secretariat work on these matters is vitally important. It must be a collegial and collaborative approach, not a confrontational one. As I've already indicated, there are important signs of improvement in that sector. The United States, as the largest financial contributor, has special responsibilities. For the record, I would like to recall that the United States has paid its entire assessed contribution for 2002, totaling over 12.8 million Euros. We also recognize the increasing importance to the Organization's budget of timely reimbursements for verification activity under Articles IV and V of the Convention. We have worked closely with the Technical Secretariat on a new system to expedite receipt of invoices for this activity and facilitate rapid U.S. review and payment of those invoices. That new system, implemented here under the leadership of the Acting Director-General, is already demonstrating its benefits.

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to announce that Washington recently authorized payment of nearly one-million Euros, which will be in the hands of the OPCW in a matter of days. This payment includes full reimbursement of every invoice received to date for 2002, as well as the vast majority of our outstanding 2001 invoices. We are actively working with the Technical Secretariat to resolve the issues relating to the remaining invoices from previous years so that they can be paid. This is real progress.

It is significant that we have been able to make such progress on reimbursement since the dismissal of the former Director-General. I would, however, underline that this is not a "political" decision. Rather, we have found a huge improvement in the quality of the information we have received and in the ability of the Technical Secretariat to work with us when clarification and additional information is necessary.

All of this bodes well for the future. The Technical Secretariat and States Parties cannot be in a position of extending "loans" to the possessor states to cover Articles IV and V inspection costs.

With the increase in destruction activity expected over the next few years, these costs will grow rapidly unless more efficient inspection procedures can be put in place. But as we streamline procedures, we must ensure that the level of confidence in verification is maintained at a high level. We are in active consultation with the other possessor states, and in fact with all States Parties, in the search for additional steps to address the challenge of Articles IV and V reimbursements. We members of the Executive Council recognized at our last Session that there is a shortfall in the 2002 budget. For our part, the United States recognizes that significant voluntary contributions are needed this year to carry out the OPCWs responsibilities. We are working hard to help address this need, although no decisions have yet been made. The United States looks forward to being able to demonstrate with real resources our commitment to assist the OPCW out of its current difficulties. I would caution the Council and other Member States, however, that they should not anticipate -- nor expect -- that the United States is going to correct the current financial shortfall of the OPCW alone.

Nevertheless, the United States believes the Organization needs to be in a position to implement this year's Program of Work to the fullest extent possible. Timing is important. While we have several months left in 2002 to help the OPCW, no State Party that wants to help, and is in a position to help, should wait for a signal. We congratulate Japan and The Kingdom of the Netherlands for their respective voluntary contributions.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would simply reiterate my country's hope that this Council Session can mark a fresh start and contribute to solving the great questions before us. I also extend special good wishes to you Mr. Chairman, and am certain you will prove a worthy successor to Ambassador Fatih, who made such notable contributions to the Council's work during his year as Chairman of the Executive Council. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Released on July 1, 2002

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