New Zealand welcomes the opportunity to participate in this timely event, 15 years after the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force. The Convention has made – and continues to make – a substantial contribution to disarmament, non-proliferation, and international peace and security. We can all regard its success with sober satisfaction.
Through our joint endeavours we have reached the point where the complete elimination of declared global stockpiles of chemical weapons is in sight.
While there is much to celebrate, important challenges remain. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must continue its efforts to ensure that chemical weapons do not re-emerge, and that the Convention’s prohibitions continue to be upheld around the world.
The goal of universality of the Convention continues to be of central importance; and we call for adherence by the few remaining states. It is essential that the international community presents a strong and united resolve against the use of such weapons, particularly given the manner in which they inflict indiscriminate suffering. In that regard, we must place on record our horror at the recently threatened use of chemical weapons by one state, Syria. While it is one of the few states not party to this Convention, we remind Syria of its obligations under international humanitarian law relating to the protection of civilians in non-international armed conflicts. We particularly urge its early adherence to this Convention.
The objectives of the Convention remain as relevant today as they were in 1997. New Zealand therefore joins with other States Parties in emphasising the Convention’s importance and in re-stating our strong support for the OPCW’s efforts to adapt to future opportunities and threats.
New Zealand records its appreciation for Director-General Üzümcü’s leadership and particularly supports his efforts to lead the OPCW from being a body primarily focused on achieving the destruction of existing stockpiles of chemical weapons to one that acts decisively to prevent the future re-emergence of such weapons.
The April 2013 Third Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention will be an important opportunity to look ahead and consider how the OPCW can best address future challenges. We look forward to engaging in that Session.
This occasion is, however, a time to reflect on the achievements to date. There is much to be proud of. Through collective efforts, the Convention has demonstrated that efforts to promote disarmament and non-proliferation can succeed; and we should commit ourselves to ensuring continuation of that success in the years ahead. That success will, however, depends on the unwavering support of all States Parties, and on the continued professionalism and commitment of the OPCW Secretariat.
New Zealand therefore re-states its full support for the Convention and for the OPCW, as we work towards a world that is genuinely free of all chemical weapons.