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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2003

Statement to the Thirty-second Session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Ambassador Eric M. Javits, Head of U.S. Delegation
Opening statement to the Executive Council of the OPCW
The Hague, The Netherlands
March 18, 2003

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

 I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to welcome you back to the chair.  Since this is the last time we will meet in regular session with you in the chair, I want to offer my personal thanks, as well as to thank you on behalf of the United States Government, for your excellent stewardship of the council over this past year.  We wish you great success in all of your future endeavors.  On that note, Mr. Chairman, I pledge the full support of my delegation in making this a successful Executive Council meeting.

Mr. Chairman, this will also be the last regular session of the council before the CSP convenes the first review conference at the end of April.  Under the capable chairmanship of Ambassador Daverede of Argentina, a great deal of excellent work has already taken place in preparation for the conference.  We strongly support having the working group continue its work under Ambassador Daverede.  I would like to offer my personal thanks, and that of my delegation, to Ambassador Daverede for his dedication to this important task.

We note that Ambassador Daverede has begun releasing draft text intended to serve as a basis for final documents to be considered by the review conference.  While we are still reviewing the draft language in capital, we believe Ambassador Daverede has made an admirable preliminary effort at addressing the issues.

In regards to organizational matters for the review conference, the council should take action on the draft provisional agenda to facilitate the remaining preparations.  We continue to believe that a thematic approach would result in a more productive conference.  It would allow states parties to focus on key issues, many of which overlap between Articles and parts of the Verification Annex.  Given the presence of a permanent treaty organization, the conference should not feel compelled to conduct a front-to-back review of all articles in the convention.  Regarding other organizational issues, the United States believes past practice for organizing the Conferences of States Parties should serve as a guide.

In the context of the review conference, I would like to highlight the issue of National Implementation Measures.  The United States believes this will be a key issue for the conference.  Delegations should be familiar with the disturbing data that the Technical Secretariat has made available regarding states parties’ efforts to adopt national measures to implement the CWC.  I will not repeat that information here.  I will say, however, that this state of affairs must not be permitted to continue. National Implementation Measures are a required element of a state party’s compliance with its CWC obligations, crucial to the effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and are an important tool in the fight against chemical terrorism.  Our delegation has circulated to the Review Conference Working Group a paper that calls upon the conference to take concrete, meaningful steps to address the problem of non-compliance in this area.  I urge other delegations and the Technical Secretariat to consider this paper and the issue carefully.  I would also add that the United States is prepared to provide bilateral assistance, upon request or assistance to states parties in cooperation with the Technical Secretariat.  To this end, the United States already has earmarked $500,000 in voluntary contributions for 2002 to support International Cooperation activities specifically to assist States Parties in adopting National Implementation Measures.

We have also received the Technical Secretariat’s paper on optimizing the verification regime and look forward to working closely with the Technical Secretariat and other states parties to ensure a thorough assessment of current verification methodologies employed by the technical secretariat with a view toward making improvements In efficiency and cost effectiveness.  This subject will be an important item for the review conference to consider.

On another important issue before the council, we note that chemical weapons destruction has begun in the Russian Federation and that Russia is moving toward destroying 1% of its category one chemical weapons.  While much work remains to be done, this is a very welcome and important development.  We encourage the Russian Federation to pursue the 20%, 45%, and 100% chemical weapons destruction deadlines with an equal sense of purpose.  The United States urges continued efforts to be transparent regarding Russian chemical weapons destruction and notification of changes to its converted chemical weapons production facilities.

Mr. Chairman, I now come to perhaps the most urgent issue before the council this session -- setting the date for commencement of the organization’s 7-year tenure policy.  I would like to personally thank Ambassador Schmid for all the time and energy that he has dedicated to this very difficult task. 

In reviewing the options for starting the tenure clock, the United States has taken careful account of the potential financial impact on states parties, the ability to legally defend the various options, the operational impact of staff turnover on the organization, and the principle adopted by the conference of states parties that the OPCW Technical Secretariat is not a career international organization.

Underpinning all these issues, Mr. Chairman, is the requirement that any decision be taken exclusively with the needs and interests of the organization and its effective functioning in mind.  On one end of the spectrum is July 1997.  In our view, this date will seriously disrupt the operations of the Technical Secretariat, cause a sharp jump in the annual assessment, and prompt numerous staff complaints at the International Labor Organization.  On the other end is March 2003.  That option, to put it simply, just “kicks the can down the road,” forcing a potential crisis in the future for the Director-General and the Executive Council.

Mr. Chairman, the United States firmly supports July 2, 1999 as the fixed date from which to calculate the 7-year length of service limit in the Technical Secretariat.

We understand the concerns expressed by many delegations over the potential costs of this decision.  We believe, however, that with judicious and timely application by the Director-General of the July 2, 1999 date and authorization by the CSP to grant or withhold some extensions based on the needs of the organization that a phased transition plan can be established.  In our view this approach is legally defensible, minimizes the operational impact on the OPCW, is affordable, and is consistent with the basic principle that a regulation enters into force on the date that it is promulgated unless stipulated otherwise.  The longer the uncertainty about a start date continues, Mr. Chairman, the greater the overall cost to the credibility of the council and to morale in the Technical Secretariat.  The United States urges that a sound and well-deliberated decision on tenure be taken at this meeting of the council.

Mr. Chairman, this organization cannot reach the goals ascribed to it if each member state pursues their independent interests unmindful and uncaring of the essential requirements and interests of the OPCW.

Our delegation will strive to lead the way in placing the needs and interests of the organization uppermost in all areas where the effectiveness of the organization is at stake.  In closing, with your leadership Mr. Chairman, I am confident that the council will be able to address the tenure issue and many of the other issues before us this session as we all pursue our common objective and purpose, a world without chemical weapons.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Released on April 3, 2003

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