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Statement to the First Session of the Conference of the State Parties of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The Hague, The Netherlands

Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address this first session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and to convey the congratulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For some 30 years the Agency has been the only international organization performing on-site verification of arms control commitments. We are gratified that a good deal of our experience - positive and negative - has been of interest in the construction of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW. This Convention, in turn, inspires innovation in the IAEA.

The entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention is evidence of the continued relaxation of tensions in overall international relations. Detente has also made it possible to achieve tangible progress in the area of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. A cutting of American and Russian arsenals by two thirds is foreseen in the START treaties, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been extended indefinitely and more than 140 States have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). These are all important steps towards lifting the threat imposed by weapons of mass destruction.

These promising global developments and several regional co-operative security arrangements - like the various nuclear-weapon-free zones, and measures in the area of limiting conventional weapon arsenals - should further increase security and mutual confidence. However, so important to States' security are most of these agreements and arrangements that the States cannot simply trust that the commitments made will be respected. Verification is required to strengthen confidence. Verification can be bilateral or regional, but is increasingly seen as a task to be performed impartially by organs of the international community. In a way it is like the functioning of laws in the national States. In most of our doings we act on trust that laws will be respected by our fellow human beings but we do require State institutions to detect, deter and intervene against possible violations.

The CWC provides for verification by on-site inspections - both routine and challenge; it provides for investigation of alleged violations and for inspection of both military and civilian facilities; and it contains specific provisions for multilateral verification of destruction of chemical weapons production facilities. It marks a considerable achievement in arms control and disarmament. Successful implementation of the CWC will have an impact beyond the scope of the Treaty. Conversely, developments outside the Convention will have an impact on the prospects of fully achieving the aims of the Convention. To be more specific: the ability of your organization to effectively verify compliance with undertakings under the CWC will contribute to the further development and strengthening of a nascent broader international regime to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and give confidence about their elimination. For a fully effective implementation of the Convention and the achievement of its universality, however, a number of international security problems outside the framework of the Convention itself need to be resolved. The most obvious example is the "linkage" made by some States between the CWC and other international security issues - such as the resolution of the "nuclear issue" in specific regions of the world.

Despite great progress on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament significant global and regional challenges remain. Effective safeguards verification through the IAEA is one such challenge. I am glad to tell you that in the field of nuclear verification there have been very significant developments within the IAEA in the last few years - not least in this 40th anniversary year of the organization. As many aspects of this IAEA verification have a more general relevance, I shall briefly describe the developments.

The 1995 NPT Conference recognized the Agency as a centre for international co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and as the competent authority responsible for verifying compliance with safeguards agreements. Recalling the lessons of Iraq and the challenge posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the 1995 Conference called for support of the Agency's efforts to strengthen safeguards and to develop its capability to detect possible undeclared nuclear activities; support was also expressed for an expanded IAEA role in the field of verification; namely, that nuclear material released from military use should be placed under IAEA safeguards as soon as practicable, and that safeguards should be universally applied once the elimination of nuclear weapons has been completed. These recommendations, not much noticed by media, are moving toward realization.

After discovery of the clandestine nuclear weapons programme in Iraq, the Agency has incrementally strengthened its safeguards system and a series of additional verification measures have been introduced. New measures which are applied under current safeguards arrangements include a much expanded collection and analysis of information and the collection and analysis of environmental samples which will improve the Agency's capacity to detect the presence of undeclared nuclear activities at specific locations. Even more important, in addition to the measures already implemented, the Agency's Board of Governors is expected to adopt, at a special session - next week - a Model Protocol additional to existing Safeguards Agreements which - when accepted by States - will provide the Agency with complementary legal authority to implement a number of new important safeguards verification measures.

The strengthened safeguards verification system of the IAEA will focus on three elements:

The new measures include no-notice inspections, greater freedom of movement for inspectors and use of the most modern means of detection and communication. Acceptance of the new measures will not be limited to non-nuclear-weapon States with comprehensive safeguards obligations. The five Nuclear-Weapon States have also expressed their intention to apply those measures provided for in the Model Protocol that each of them identifies as capable of contributing to the non-proliferation and efficiency aims of the Protocol and as consistent with their obligations under the NPT. In addition, it is hoped that other States not parties to comprehensive safeguards agreements will accept, to the extent they are able to do so, measures described in the Protocol.

The test of any new measure is naturally whether it enhances the effectiveness - i.e. the reliability - of the verification system and is cost-effective. Experience gained in the implementation of some of the IAEA's new measures suggests that these can be implemented without much additional intrusion or cost to the States involved. However, the potential sensitivity associated with some of the new measures is recognized and the Agency is now updating its regime for the protection against disclosure of commercial, technological and industrial secrets as well as other confidential information coming to its knowledge. In this context it has studied the arrangements in the OPCW. Further, a system-wide training programme for IAEA safeguards inspectors is being implemented so that the inspectors will be provided with the knowledge and information required for the implementation of the new safeguards measures.

Cost-effectiveness is an important aspect of verification. It must be considered in the light of what degree of assurance the system is expected to provide. You get what you pay for. One must recognize that "no diversion" and "no undeclared nuclear activities" is something that cannot be positively detected. Such conclusions can only be inferred from the absence of evidence to the contrary. The strength of the inference - and thus the level of assurance and reliability of the verification - is obviously related both to the level of transparency of the inspected country and the amount and quality of the information and access available to the inspectors. Even if it were technically feasible, which is hardly the case, it would be prohibitively expensive to aim at 100% assurance. Rather the aim of a verification system - and certainly of the IAEA safeguards system - is to provide an acceptably high level of assurance of non-diversion and of the absence of undeclared material and activities. It may reasonably be assumed that such verification will also have a deterrent impact on any potential violators. At the IAEA we are confident that, with the new measures we are introducing, we shall be able to raise the level of assurance considerably. Following an increase in cost in the introductory phase, the new safeguards measures are expected to lead to some savings, particularly through the use of advanced technologies and a stronger concentration of the inspection activities on nuclear material directly relevant for weapons use. Over time, we expect the strengthening measures to be cost neutral.

Mr. President,

Let me also mention briefly a new verification role emerging for the Agency and associated with the vast amount of nuclear materials which are being released from former military programmes of the Nuclear Weapon States as a result of unilateral decisions or disarmament agreements. I mentioned that the 1995 NPT Conference urged the relevant Nuclear Weapon States to place nuclear materials no longer required for defence purpose under IAEA safeguards. Verification of some material released from the weapons programme of the United States was started three years ago. Since the end of 1996, the Governments of Russia and the USA have been exploring together with the Agency, in the framework of a trilateral initiative, the technical, legal and policy issues associated with the verification of commitments made regarding the peaceful use of nuclear materials no longer required for defence purposes. New verification approaches and arrangements may be required to give confidence that the nuclear material in question remains permanently removed from military use. The financing of such verification may also require new arrangements. These questions, although difficult technically, politically and financially, are exciting and welcome. They are really about verification of nuclear disarmament.

Mr. President,

While prior to 1990 many of the important arms control agreements were bilateral in nature, now, with the deepening of detente, there has been a shift towards multilateral regimes. The CWC and CTBT accomplished and a Cut-Off Convention yet to be concluded, exemplify this trend. In some situations and areas global regimes may need to be supplemented by regional regimes that provide tailor-made arrangements for special regional problems.

The growing number of agencies monitoring compliance with arms control and non-proliferation obligations under the different treaties suggests a need to identify areas where exchange of experiences and co-operation between them could result in increased effectiveness and efficiency. While some types of verification, for example in the nuclear, chemical and biological fields, are very specialized, it should be recognized that certain verification techniques and problems are common to many of the systems in operation or in prospect. Examples include the problem of dual use equipment, the authority for and organization of on-site inspections, the use of remote monitoring equipment, the management of airborne reconnaissance or the interpretation of overhead imaging.

The IAEA has been happy to provide some assistance to the Provisional Secretariats of the OPCW and the CTBTO in administrative areas. It might now be appropriate to examine how we can best learn from each other, and whether and how some synergy can be obtained among the differing verification activities to respond to States' demands for increased effectiveness and cost saving. There is clearly a prospect for us to work together to help us all move towards a world that is gradually freed from weapons of mass destruction. The IAEA welcomes the arrival of a new sister.

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Last update: 26 Nov 2019

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