The Hague, 9 March 2017: Bangladesh scored big in diplomacy when Bangladesh was elected as Chairperson of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This is for the first-time Bangladesh was elected to a high post like the Chairperson of the Executive Council in the OPCW.
Bangladesh’s election as the Chairperson of the Executive Council of the OPCW manifests appreciation by the international community of our contribution to the world peace and signifies international recognition of her efforts to attain global disarmament and stem proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This historic win, in the month of our independence, will surely boost Bangladesh’s global standing further.
This historic win was registered when Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the OPCW Sheikh Mohammed Belal was elected on 09 March 2017 as the Chairperson of the Executive Council of the OPCW for the term 12 May 2017 – 11 May 2018. The Ambassador of Bangladesh was unanimously elected by the 41-member strong Executive Council of the OPCW comprising of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) during the 84th Session of the Executive Council of the OPCW being held in The Hague, Netherlands from 7-10 March 2017.
Ambassador Belal would be the twentieth Chairperson of the Council since its establishments in 1997. Under the rotational system, the term for Chairperson from Asian group is available after every five years and so far only four Chairpersons from Asian group represented this august body. Among the four, twice the Chairperson was awarded to India while once each to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Legendary Ambassador Prabhakar Menon of India (1997–1998) was the first Chairperson of the OPCW.
Earlier on 6 March 2017, 53-member States Parties belonging to the Asian group nominated Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal as the consensus candidate of the group for the position of Chairperson of the Executive Council for 2017-2018 through straw poll, in which Ambassador Belal easily nullified his contender Ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands.
The straw poll preceded months-long unprecedented global campaign by Pakistan soliciting support for their candidate. Bangladesh, on her part, highlighted Bangladesh’s credential as a promoter of peace and credential of her candidate, Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal. Given his high profile engagements in the immediate past with the OPCW as Chair of Committee of the Whole, Credential Committee, etc, Ambassador Belal has always been a front runner to this race.
The Executive Council is the governing body of the organization. Its mandate is to promote the effective implementation of and compliance with the CWC. It is also required to supervise the activities of the Secretariat, to cooperate with the National Authority of each State Party, and to facilitate consultations with and cooperation among States Parties, at their request. The Executive Council consists of 41 members sitting for a two-year term, on a rotational basis, with due regard being paid to equitable geographical distribution, the importance of the chemical industry, as well as political and security interests.
The new Chairperson of the Executive Council has assumed greater importance as it would oversee the appointment of the new Director-General of the OPCW in addition to more frequent exchanges with the UN Security Council over the reports of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) as well as the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the OPCW regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syrian territory. Considering significant increase in the alleged use of chemical weapons in places like Syria and Iraq, this election assumed added significance as the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) routinely refers matters to this august body for investigation and report before taking action.
Bangladesh is an inaugural signatory to the CWC. The CWC is a global disarmament agreement that bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and provides for the destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiles and related facilities within a specified time frame. The OPCW in The Hague is the implementing organization, which monitors the status of implementation measures by Member States, as well as the conduct of verification measures by the Secretariat of the organization through compulsory annual national declarations by States Parties, controls on the transfer of certain chemicals listed in the Convention, and a system of routine visits and challenge inspections by inspectors of the OPCW Secretariat.
The OPCW won Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013 for its contribution in ridding world of chemical weapons to an extent never seen before. The organization implements 1993 CWC with 192 States as its members. Bangladesh signed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 January 1993 and ratified it on 25 April 1997. It may be noted that Bangladesh re-elected to the Executive Council, after a gap for about a decade, in 2015 for the term 2016-18.