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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

Annual Report 2000-2001

Promoting Regional Cooperation under the Chemical Weapons Convention

ASNO, in collaboration with DFAT, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), co-hosted a Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Regional Workshop held in Melbourne from 30 April to 3 May 2001 (see media release page 91). The Workshop underlies Australias commitment to the promotion of international cooperation and assistance under the Convention especially in South East Asia and the South Pacific. Support was provided by AusAID and the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association.

The Workshop brought together participants from South East Asia and South Pacific Island Countries with primary objectives of raising awareness of the CWC, promotion of universality to the Convention and of fostering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry in the region. It was the first such Regional Workshop to have been co-hosted by a national Chemical Society with attendance by representatives from government and chemists from academia and industry. Participants attended from New Zealand, the Philippines, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and Australia.

The specific themes of the discussions were: international cooperation; practical implementation issues for industry, including inspections; and protection assistance and cooperation. Participants noted the importance they attached to the objectives of the Convention and the challenges facing their ability to implement it. For many of the participants it was the first opportunity for substantive CWC discussions with either the OPCW (through its representative at the Workshop) or with regional countries more experienced in the implementation of the Convention. In this regard, a number of participants requested assistance on CWC implementation from the OPCW and also from regional countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. There was genuine appreciation of previous bilateral assistance including for example implementation assistance provided to Vietnam by ASNO and Singapores help in setting up the Philippines National Authority.

Participants also had the opportunity to take part in a demonstration inspection of a discrete organic chemical (DOC) production facility. The demonstration inspection was a key activity of the Workshop, providing valuable insights into the practical aspects of a routine inspection under Article VI of the Convention and the provisions under Parts II and IX of the Verification Annex. This was particularly useful for those participants who have yet to experience OPCW inspections and provided opportunities to clarify aspects of routine inspection procedures which may assist in preparing National Authority staff and industrial sites for future inspections.

The Workshop also focussed on Assistance and Protection against Chemical Weapons under the Convention and included a guided tour of Australias Schedule 1 Protective Purpose Facility. The visit to the research laboratories provided a contrast to the DOC demonstration inspection, in that its focus was defence against CW agents, including detection, protection, medical countermeasures against CW attack and CWC verification analysis. Participants also had the opportunity to examine first hand protective purpose equipment such as NBC suits and masks, analytical and technical means for detection of scheduled chemicals and safety procedures for staff who work with highly toxic Schedule 1 chemicals.

Following on from the Workshop was a one-day CWC symposium on 4 May which was open to Workshop participants and to Australian chemists from academia and industry. As well as sensitising Australian participants to the CWC and extending networks for chemists in the region, the symposium provided a forum to explore options for regional cooperation, building upon ideas proposed during the Workshop, including in the areas of education and research chemistry. As a result of those discussions, ASNO expects there will be follow up activity in the areas of green chemistry, curriculum development, possible equipment exchanges and the establishment of a regional information centre on CWC Issues.

Participants rated the Workshop and symposium as being highly successful with the key objectives achieved. Participants were able to share implementation experiences through lectures, panel sessions and group discussion; to identify areas for enhancing international cooperation in the region including bilateral CWC implementation assistance; to develop a network of regional CWC contacts; and to highlight to the OPCW the unique difficulties found in the South Pacific Region in promoting universality. The participants suggested that further regional CWC-related meetings be held, with Hanoi and Suva being nominated as possible venues.

 

Figure 9 Group discussion during CWC Regional Workshop
Photograph courtesy of DSTO

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade