The EU, the OPCW and the future of the CWC

The Twentieth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) will be held in The Hague from 30 November to 4 December 2015. Among the many challenges to the OPCW and to the States parties to the Treaty, the future of the CWC is one that the Organization has been put on its agenda for several years, as the post-chemical weapons destruction stage is approaching. In particular, the March 2015 OPCW note titled «The OPCW in 2025: ensuring a world free of chemical weapons» (document S/1252/2015) shall be examined during the Conference.

As a regular contributor to the OPCW activities (six voluntary contributions have been made by the EU to the OPCW since 2005, the latest being Council Decision 2015/259/CFSP for the years 2015-2017 adopted on 17 February 2015), the EU has a role to play in the recent debate about the future of the Treaty.

While focusing on the traditional priorities, which are also among the OPCW priorities, such as completing the destruction of existing stockpiles or promoting universality (the number of States parties is currently 192), the EU and its Member States have launched a reflection on the future relevancy of the chemical weapons prohibition regime.

The re-emergence of chemical weapons, their use by non-state actors and terrorists, convergence with biology, or the future effectiveness of the Convention in an evolving strategic context are elements of this new debate. It has to be pursued not only within the OPCW competent organs but also between States parties to the Treaty. Particularly among its more ardent supporters.

Benjamin Hautecouverture
EU Non-Proliferation Consortium / Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS)

September/October 2015, Issue No. 20

The risk of proliferation is perceived as an obstacle to disarmament

The Humanitarian Initiative has changed the dynamics of the discussion on nuclear weapons and identified a legal gap that should be addressed.
Camilla Waszink is Programme Director for The International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI)´s Arms and Disarmament Programme. She has worked on disarmament, arms control and humanitarian affairs for the past 15 years, including for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre and the Small Arms Survey. She holds an MA in international policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
ILPI has recently joined our Consortium’s network. How do you perceive the usefulness of European civil society networking in the field of international security?

ILPI is an organisation that operates at the intersection of research, legal analysis and policy. We aim to ensure that the research and analysis we provide will be relevant for and used by policymakers. From this perspective, networking is most useful to the extent that it can contribute to building a shared agenda of work, not only in terms of research, but also for the purpose of influencing policy development. A tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise resides in civil society organisations, but it is a challenge to coordinate efforts, build a cumulative evidence base to inform policy on security issues, and ensure that this reaches the right decision-makers. This is all the more relevant in our age of information overload where policy-makers are inundated with analysis and advice from a large number of more or less credible sources. We therefore find it important to be able to participate in a network that facilitates dialogue and cooperation among key actors in the European research and policy community on issues of international security. And we also believe this is useful for our work to reach a wider audience among European decision-makers and civil society.

The ILPI WMD project seems to be very much focused on nuclear disarmament. To what extent do you think the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the E3/EU+3 and Iran can support the disarmament process?

As long as there is a risk of proliferation, it will be perceived as an obstacle to disarmament. By addressing the main proliferation concern of recent years, the Iran agreement could thus remove a key argument against further arms reductions. The process has also shown that the nuclear-weapon states are able and willing to come together to find diplomatic solutions. If this has served to build trust, it might positively influence the prospects for progress on nuclear disarmament. On the other hand, the Iran case has highlighted some of the obvious shortcomings of the existing control regime, including the need to make the IAEA Additional Protocol universally applicable. To prevent cheating, all states must accept the same level of transparency and inspections. Secondly, non-proliferation will remain a challenge as long as some states maintain a right to keep these weapons. As was declared in Vienna last year, there is a legal gap with regards to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. The fact that 119 states have committed to the Humanitarian Pledge with a view to filling this gap appears to be one of the most promising avenues for further progress towards elimination of nuclear weapons at the moment.

How to overcome the longstanding deadlock at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva in order to eventually launch a negotiating process for a future FMCT?

It will be difficult to break the deadlock in the CD as long as its members fundamentally disagree on its aims and priorities and decision-making is done by consensus. As concluded by UNIDIR, it is not an absence of political will that hinders progress, but the fact that there are opposing political wills. Again, I would like to highlight the Humanitarian Initiative as an attempt to change the dynamic of discussions on nuclear weapons. When Norway launched this by hosting a conference in Oslo in 2013, the aim was to initiate a facts-based discussion about the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons. Through three conferences in Norway, Mexico and Austria, the initiative has succeeded in framing the nuclear weapon issue in a way that moves it away from the usual security paradigm, and the politicized discourse that has prevailed in the CD and other forums where nuclear weapons are discussed. It has also opened the issue up to a broader group of States, international organisations and civil society. By bringing in new thinking and new players, this initiative can hopefully contribute to progress also in existing forums, both on an FMCT and on disarmament.

Interview conducted by Benjamin Hautecouverture