October 18, 2017

Breaking News:

The search for the next Director-General of the OPCW

The above is a personal reflection of Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the OPCW.

The tenure of the incumbent Director-General of the OPCW E. Mr Ahmet Üzümcü is going to end in July 2018, when and how the new Director-General of the OPCW is going to be appointed?

Answer: The incumbent Director-General of the OPCW, H.E. Mr Ahmet Üzümcü was appointed in December 2009 by the Conference of the States Parties at its Fourteenth Session. Following his appointment, Mr Ahmet Üzümcü began his term of office for four years on 25 July 2010. He was reappointed for a second term for four years beginning on 25 July 2014 by the Conference of the States Parties at its Eighteenth Session in December 2013 following the recommendation of the Executive Council of the OPCW at its Seventy-Fourth Session in October 2013. The current tenure of the incumbent Director-General H.E. Mr Ahmet Üzümcü will be ending on 24 July 2018 and the new Director-General will assume office with effect from 25 July 2018.

According to Article VIII, paragraph 43, of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW shall be appointed by the Conference of the States Parties upon the recommendation of the Executive Council for a term of four years, renewable for one further term, but not thereafter.

The Eighty-Fourth Session of the Executive Council, held on 7-10 March 2017, considered and adopted a decision on the process for the appointment of the Director-General and in the context of the above decision, it requested that the Chairperson of the Council to invite, on Council’s behalf, States Parties to present their nominations of candidates by no later than 23 June 2017, to enable their consideration at the Eighty-Fifth Session of the Council.

The Council further requested the Chairperson of the Council to undertake, as soon as possible, consultations on issues related to the appointment of the Director-General and other actions that the Chairperson deems appropriate, with a view to assisting the Council in adopting its recommendation to the Conference at its Twenty-Second Session, in conformity with paragraph 43 of Article VIII of the Convention.

The Eighty-Sixth Session of the Executive Council to be held on 10-13 October 2017 is going to recommend a candidate to the Twenty-Second Conference of the States Parties to be held on 27 November – 1 December 2017 for the appointment of a new Director-General of the OPCW.

  • How the selection process has proceeded till now and what is ahead leading to the next Session of the Executive Council?

 Answer: The seven candidates made their presentations on 13 July 2017 during the Eighty-Fifth Session of the Executive Council. As Chairperson of the Executive Council, I issued a Statement before the Council on a road map for the appointment to the position of Director-General highlighting that the appointment process should be fair, open, and transparent in order to ensure widest support for the incoming Director-General; and that there should be a commitment to make every effort to adopt a decision by consensus during the Eighty-Sixth Session of the Executive Council to be held on 10-13 October 2017 for recommending a candidate to the Twenty-Second Conference of the States Parties to be held on 27 November-1 December 2017.

The road map has spelled out the Chairperson’s intention to use, with the support of the States Parties, a number of tools, including consultations, “confessional meetings”, and, when appropriate, straw polls, in order to identify, in successive cycles, early but clear trends that could allow the Chairperson to engage in constructive and respectful discussions, which may lead to a reassessment of the candidate’s standing vis-à-vis other candidates. Each cycle would be followed, in succession, by another, in order to reduce the number of candidates and/or to identify a trend that could lead to consensus in support of recommending a single, consensus-based candidate.

The first straw poll was held on 13 September 2017 and the second straw poll is scheduled on 20 September 2017. We will decide about the rest as we go from there within the provisions of the “Rules of Procedure” of the Executive Council.

  • What credentials are the States Parties looking for in the next Director-General of the OPCW?

Answer: State Parties are the best judges to decide on the credentials they want in a candidate. As the Chairperson of the Executive Council and as an ardent follower of the Convention, I am just trying to facilitate this process so that the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) may be made adequately aware of their candidates’ credentials in terms of their knowledge, skill and experience.

I humbly wish that the next Director-General of the OPCW would be a person capable of dealing with the ever-evolving challenges through astute diplomacy and negotiation while having the required skill of managing around 500 officials in the Technical Secretariat. Our next Director-General ought to be someone with impeccable integrity to uphold the CWC and protect the OPCW. Considering the very technical nature of the OPCW and the achievement of this Organization towards making the world free of chemical weapons, I hope, the States Parties would appoint the best candidate for this coveted position through a process of meritocratic search.

  • How do you foresee the roles of the next Director-General of the OPCW?

Answer: The mandate of the OPCW is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in order to achieve the OPCW’s vision of a world free of chemical weapons.Therefore, upholding the CWC, under any circumstances, is a promise we all have to remind ourselves. The Director-General of the OPCW is a very important conduit for us to do it in coordination with the 192 States Parties that have already ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention covering 98% of the global population.

As the chemical weapon is perhaps abhorred by each and every individual of the earth, the next Director-General of the OPCW would need to walk extra miles to bring the remaining States to accede to the Convention to make the world safer from the scourge of chemical weapons. On the other hand, approximately 95% of the world’s declared stockpiles of chemical agents have already been destroyed and the destruction of the remaining stockpiles is expected to be completed by 2023. However, the threat of re-emergence of such weapon is also a credible threat against which we will all have to remain on guard.

From this view point, the next Director-General would need to make the OPCW, with the support of the States Parties, a vanguard against the threat of the re-emergence of chemical weapons and the use of chemical weapons by ‘rouge’ States and the non-state actors including terrorist organisations.

4)   What would be your recommendations to the next Director-General of the OPCW?

Answer: First and foremost, we would like to see the next Director-General’s leadership in implementing the provisions of the CWC in ensuring that a global chemical weapons ban is achieved, threat of re-emergence adequately addressed and future challenges are duly thought out and dealt with.

Coming from a developing country like Bangladesh, we would also like to see an organisation like OPCW, while remaining a vanguard to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention, shall also provide for international cooperation among States Parties in the pursuit of chemistry for peaceful purposes. We would like to see the next Director-General promoting vigorous international cooperation in many areas: from sponsoring chemical research to capacity building in verification regime to guaranteeing legal assistance; from developing and improving laboratory capacity to specialised internships/fellowships. We would like to see his (regrettably we don’t have a female candidate this time) leadership in activating a trust fund for funding the interns/fellows from the least developed countries and addressing the problem of skewed geographical representations that we now have.

Metaphorically speaking, we would like to see a “third eye” in our Director-General to always remain ahead of the problems curve and thereby uplift this organisation as a successful model of disarmament. With ramping poverty and ravaging war in different parts of the world, the OPCW should be a source of solace to the victims as well as support to divert resources away from destruction to rehabilitation and new construction.

The OPCW was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2013 for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. It is Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, under whose leadership; the OPCW received such an international accolade with the support of all the State Parties. I would hope to see even more spirited cooperation from the State Parties to the new Director-General as he embarks at the helm of the OPCW to uphold our promise of “never again” to the chemical weapons.

I would urge all the State Parties to continue their best of cooperation to the OPCW and to its next Director-General towards our ultimate goal of ridding the world free of chemical weapons.

Disclaimer: The above is a personal reflection of Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the OPCW, in rendering his role as the Chairperson of the Executive Council of the OPCW. Therefore, neither the OPCW nor the Executive Council has anything, either explicit or implicit, to do with this reflection.

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