BY Kebba AF Touray

The 15th edition of the convention of Organization for prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded 20th July, 2017. The three days event provided participants with a platform among other things to discuss the activities, achievements and challenges face by the organization.

The convention took the form of panel discussions and presentations on topics such as; status of implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC); National Authority; Technical secretariat and on the new phase of Africa Program 2017-2019.

The new phase of Africa Program 2017-2019, has two main objectives.

Objective one is to ensure that a greater number of African state parties have comprehensive national CWC implementing legislation, whilst objective two aims at ensuring national capacity for control of transfer of scheduled chemicals in order to avert non state actors from accessing such chemicals.

Lack of strong National Authorities, absence of or partial domestication of CWC, absence of national action plan and weak control of movement of dual use of chemical across the borders, were tabled as challenges of the organization

Recommendations such as the need to come up with a base line survey to have the needed information for the protection of chemicals, to ensure monitoring and provide information to the customs, to ensure continuity in the flow of information, the need to have more laboratories and strong National Authorities (NA) among other recommendations were made at the meeting.

Training of industry verification, assist in legal drafting of secretariat techniques (ST), creation of sub regional and other centers for national development, were highlighted as the possible measures.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Hamza Khelif, Director of International Cooperation and Assistance Division, OPCW, said they have good discussions related to the implementation of the convention. He called on the participants to work together to compact the challenges that lay ahead. He said this is shared responsibility between state parties and the technical secretariat to provide in order to fulfill their responsibilities and move forward the implementation as a convention.

Omar Bah, thanked The Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Defense and the OPCW Technical Secretariat for their valuable support and called for the need for sensitization of the policy makers to curb lack of awareness to fast tract the ratification of the convention in countries that have not yet ratified it.

Mr. Momodou Jama Suwareh, the Executive Director of National Environmental Agency, in his closing remarks, said since 1990s, Gambia signed the protocol on the convention of the OPCW and was ratified in 1998. He acknowledged the sacrifice that the country has done with a view to establishing the National Authority. He revealed that when the authority was established, the country put ten (10) strong institutions to be members of the Authority.

He revealed that the OPCW have provided lots of training for The Gambia, thereby strengthening the country’s capacities. He thanked the Ministry of Defense and OPCW for their contributions to the event.

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