Dstl hosts international Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation conference

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is once again hosting the international Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation (CWD) conference.

The conference, which returns to the UK for its fifteenth and final year, is taking place this week in Glasgow. It marks the passing of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) deadline of 29 April 2012 for possessors of chemical weapons to eliminate their stockpiles, and will mark the global progress in chemical weapons destruction, providing an opportunity for experts from all over the world to discuss their ongoing international co-operation in the effort to eliminate chemical weapons.

The CWD conferences have been held annually around the world for the last 14 years - the first took place in 1998 in Bournemouth, Dorset, in the UK. This year’s event will be attended by more than 170 delegates from 16 countries.

There will be more than 90 speakers, with keynote speeches being made by the UK’s Armed Forces Minister, Nick Harvey and the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Mr Ahmet Uzumcu, and representatives from USA, Japan, The People’s Republic of China, Iraq and Germany.

Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said:

The 29 April 2012 marked another landmark for our efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons. Our goal has always been a world without chemical weapons, so we are obviously delighted that the possessor states have either completed destruction of their stockpiles or have made significant progress in destruction.

I hope the 15 years of CWD Conferences has helped in this endeavour in some way. Delegates from over 25 different countries, who face the task of destroying chemical weapons - including old and abandoned chemical weapons - have attended the conference over the years to exchange information, experience and expertise to benefit us all.

We cannot claim that all problems have finally been solved, but most of the key technical challenges have been resolved and the likely scope of new problems is reducing. It is my firm hope that the networks of experts that this conference has helped to build, will remain in place to support the completion of destruction of chemical weapons.

Discussions will include a long-term review of the progress made by national CWD programmes, focusing on successes, lessons learned and an exchange of best practice. Participants will also look at explosive detonation technology, given that many countries’ plans are now to acquire such equipment. In addition, they will look at chemical safety and security, recovery of chemical weapons from rivers and seas and innovative technologies.

Mr Ahmet Uzumcu, Director General of the OPCW, said:

The Chemical Weapons Convention set out to completely eliminate chemical weapons from the world and to prevent their re-emergence in any form. Today nearly three quarters of all declared chemical weapons stand destroyed under OPCW verification.

Although not all chemical weapons were destroyed by the final extended deadline, States Parties have dealt with this issue with characteristic wisdom and sagacity. Our members have remained focussed on the mission and what is best to accomplish it.

The Technical Secretariat has been pleased to support the CWD Conference for the last fifteen years, as a means of promoting safe destruction of chemical weapons. In this regard, I would like to thank the UK for the support it has provided through these Conferences, and its commitment to work closely with the OPCW in the coming years.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK. It supplies sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government, and leads and undertakes those activities that it would be inappropriate to carry out in the private sector.

Dstl is a trading fund of the MOD and is run on commercial lines. It has a turnover of some £550m, much of which is spent in industry and academia.