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Vol. 34 No. 1
January-February 2012

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/indexes/Conferences

Chemical Safety and Security

As the International Year of Chemistry has unfolded, a steady flow of new organizations, societies, companies, and individuals have joined in and contributed to the celebration of the chemical sciences. This has increased the scope and perspective of the celebration, and over and over again we have seen how important chemistry is everywhere throughout the world. On 12–13 September 2011, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, became a celebrant as well, by organizing a Conference on International Cooperation and Chemical Safety & Security in The Hague, Netherlands.

The meeting was well attended, with some 350 participants on site and several hundred following the presentations through a webcast. The purpose of the conference was to promote the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) by highlighting the achievements of OPCW, but more importantly, by analyzing the challenges that lie ahead and discuss with important stakeholders how these challenges can be dealt with through coordinated actions and collaboration. All the most important players on the international scene were there, and those representing IUPAC were pleased to experience the significant standing the Union has within OPCW and among the State Parties to CWC.

Stills from videos of the OPCW conference. From left: David Black, IUPAC secretary general; Berhanu Abegaz, executive director of the African Academy of Sciences; and Nancy Jackson, 2011 president of ACS.

The opening of the conference and the program before lunch the first day was held in the conference section of the Peace Palace, a great venue in the middle of the city. In his opening address, the Director General of OPCW, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü from Turkey, emphasized the importance of working in partnership: “only by working together as multiple stakeholders [] can we accomplish the goals of the CWC, especially in relation to national implementation, assistance, and protection against chemical weapons and the achievement of universality.” The same message was in essence presented by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs from a political position and by Professor Paul J. Crutzen, recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, on the basis of an analysis of the global impact of chemicals in our times, the age of Anthropocene.

The rest of the conference was held at the OPCW headquarters. The sessions after lunch the first day were devoted to a series of plenary presentations about three topics: International Cooperation, Chemical Safety, and Chemical Security. IUPAC’s involvement was mentioned with appreciation several times. The second day, the same themes were discussed in parallel sessions on the basis of more specialized presentations delivered by specialists from all parts of the world. There was ample time for discussion, and in at least two of the groups, the interventions were vivid and constructive. Rapporteurs took thorough notes, not only to be able to give a summary of the discussion in plenum at the end of the conference, but also to use the material as basis for further discussions within OPCW.

IUPAC’s presence was quite visible. In the opening session, Secretary General David StC. Black gave a thorough presentation of IYC; he argued convincingly for why there should be an international year of chemistry, and told about how the year was celebrated. Later the same day, Professor Alastair Hay from Liverpool University, UK (an active member of several task groups on chemical weapons, code of conduct, and education within IUPAC) talked about “Ethics in Chemistry”, which is an issue of significant interest to OPCW. His presentation was in part based on material developed in an IUPAC project a few years back, and he also brought the audience’s attention to the report on a Code of Conduct that a task group led by Graham Pearson has published (see Nov-Dec 2011 CI).

The second day, the Union’s next vice president, Mark Cesa, gave a thorough presentation of the IUPAC Safety Training Program, which he has been very much engaged in for many years. The presentation was very well received, and in the plenum session at the end of the conference, the Safety Training Program was specifically mentioned as the sort of activity that should be expanded and given priority in the future.

On top of all this, IUPAC was also given a booth at the exhibition during the whole conference. All the material exhibited was picked up by the participants, which is encouraging.

Look up “opcwonline” on YouTube to watch an Introduction to the OPCW Conference on International Cooperation and Chemical Safety and Security. The video includes various interviews with participants, including David Black; Berhanu Abegaz, executive director of the African Academy of Sciences; and Nancy Jackson, 2011 president of the American Chemical Society.

www.youtube.com/user/opcwonline
www.opcw.org/index.php?id=1138


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