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The Chemical Weapons Convention Hits a Snag
The global effort to ban chemical weapons runs into a diplomatic disturbance.
You could be forgiven for not knowing much about a recently concluded major international conference dedicated to the elimination of chemical weapons. As far as I can tell, precisely zero media outlets covered the Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference in the Hague. A Google News search reveals a few think tank reports here and there, but nothing from any english language media outlet.
Still, the outcome of this conference is critically important to the prohibition of one of the worst weapons humans ever created! It was an opportunity for the parties to the convention to assess progress and plan ways to strengthen the treaty going forward.
The Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997 and is one of the most widely adopted multilateral treaties. Only four countries have not yet ratified: North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt and Israel. And in just a few months, the Chemical Weapons Convention will hit a major milestone when the world’s last remaining declared stockpiles (in Colorado and Kentucky) are destroyed. The scheduled destruction is slated for the end of September.
But there has been some backsliding, too. In the context of the Syrian civil war, the Assad government used chemical weapons multiple times — the first breach of the global ban since 1997. And in the last five years, Russia has been accused of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention when a banned nerve agent was used in assassination attempts against regime opponents Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny.
So, this is all to say that this should have been an interesting and worthwhile conference for journalists to cover. But as far as I can tell, I’m the only one to do so.
On the podcast today you can hear my interview with a conference participant, Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch. We kick off discussing the history and some successes of the Chemical Weapons Convention. We then have a longer discussion about the complicated diplomatic dynamics of maintaining an an effective ban on chemical weapons use and development. This includes the fact that Russia and its ally Syria are both credibly accused of violating the treaty in recent years.
If you have 25 minutes and want to better understand the promise of the Chemical Weapons Convention and why this international conference hit a diplomatic snag, have a listen. (The link will let you listen on your preferred podcast listening app). The episode is freely available where ever you find podcasts.
Also: the other Global Dispatches episode this week takes a deep dive into the unfolding political crisis in Ecuador. Ecuador’s President invoked a decree known as Muerte Cruzada (a.k.a. “Mutual Death”) in which he dissolved the parliament and called for new national elections. This political upheaval comes during an unprecedented surge in violent crime linked to cocaine trafficking. The International Crisis Group’s Glaeldys Gonzalez explains what’s happening. Tune into that one as well!
As always, feel free to recommend to me topics I should cover or people I should interview. And encourage others to sign up for the newsletter.
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