ICCA has from the outset been a strong supporter of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its effort to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Since 2015 the relationship has gained a new quality. In a brief interview, Rene Van Sloten, Cefic Executive Director for Industrial Policy, explains the rationale behind it.
“Improved cooperation with the OPCW offers ICCA a unique opportunity to have a structured dialogue with the organization and to reach out to industry and governments in emerging economies to further promote Responsible Care. This opportunity fits well with the ICCA objective of expanding the Responsible Care ethic in particular regions and countries”, he states.

In a nutshell: what does OPCW stand for?

“The OPCW was set up to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997 after long and difficult negotiations. Particularly the issue of industry inspections proved sensitive. ICCA declared its willingness to open chemical plants for inspections ‘anytime anywhere’ which led to a breakthrough in the negotiations and enabled their successful conclusion. Based in The Hague, it’s aim is to ensure that all chemicals weapons stockpiles are destroyed and no new ones are developed. It is governed by the Conference of State Parties, which comprises 192 member states, an Executive Council and a Technical Secretariat. On 27 April 2017 it celebrates twenty years of existence. We particularly like the near universality of the CWC which ensures a level playing field and enhances its effectiveness.”

Why is it so important for the chemical industry?

“In the chemical industry we produce chemicals for many daily applications, for peaceful purposes. We do not accept chemicals being used for illicit purposes. This is in line with our Responsible Care commitment and therefore we supported the Chemicals Weapons Convention from the very start. Commitment to the CWC is even a requirement for membership of ICCA”.

How has the relationship between industry and OPCW developed over time?

“We have been providing technical expertise on issues related to the implementation of the Convention and actively supporting the OPCW. For us it was important to be involved to ensure that the declaration and inspection regime would not pose undue burden on chemical companies. From 2015 ICCA has entered into a formal dialogue with OPWC and is representing the chemical industry via a Joint Steering Committee and the Chemical Industry Coordination Group.”

What has been achieved so far in concrete terms?

“About 2000 inspections have been carried out at industry plants since 1997. These inspections are done on a regular basis, involving OPWC inspectors and national authorities. So far, no relevant infringements have been registered.
Moreover, ICCA participates in regional workshops organized by the OPCW, and is represented on the Advisory Board on Education and Outreach, the Scientific Advisory Board and addresses the States Parties at the annual Conference of the States Parties.  We furthermore participate in events dealing with chemical safety and security, green chemistry and chlorine industry. I am particularly proud of the Technical Assistance provided via the OPCW’s Associate Program which gives chemical engineers from developing or emerging countries the opportunity to familiarize themselves with state of the art practices in chemical companies. Originally only European companies hosted these trainees but to date chemical companies around the world participate in the Program”.

What about the next twenty years?

“Today, most of the chemical weapons stockpile has been destroyed. However, some countries still have chemical weapons and have not ratified the Chemicals Weapons Convention. The recent use of chemical weapons in Syria has been strongly condemned by ICCA but it shows that the goal of ridding the world of chemical weapons has yet to be achieved. Of concern for ICCA is the fact that roughly one third of the OPCW States Parties still have to adopt implementing national legislation. Additionally, international terrorism has entered a new dimension which requires continued monitoring and control. This new dimension has been picked up by ICCA in the form of a security code in Responsible Care.

On 26 April, Marco Mensink, the ICCA Council Secretary represented the global chemical industry at the 20th Anniversary Celebration. We helped developing the Chemicals Weapons Convention and we want to ensure its continuation through our close cooperation.”