Seventy-Seventh Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York
Statement on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
Delivered by H.E. Robert in den Bosch, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Conference on Disarmament and Ambassador at large
Mr. Chairman, colleagues,
In addition to the statement delivered by the EU, the Netherlands would like to make the following remarks in its national capacity.
The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’s opening for signature and the 25th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s (CWC) entering into force.
As it stands now, we’ll witness the complete destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles in a year’s time. The elimination of an entire class of WMDs is a unique achievement; one that has been made possible by the tireless and years-long efforts of the OPCW.
Regrettably, we cannot yet breathe easy as we have witnessed a disturbing re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons in the past decade. Syria repeatedly used chemical weapons against its civilian population and still needs to resolve, in full compliance with the OPCW, the pending issues. We should also not forget the assassination of Kim Jong-nam and the attempts on the lives of Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny.
On top of that, Russia has been conducting a disinformation campaign — which includes unfounded allegations about possible Ukrainian use of chemical weapons — while Russia itself is waging an unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.
Chair, not all is doom and gloom though. The Netherlands congratulates the OPCW for its important efforts to prevent the use and re-emergence of chemical weapons and we look forward to further strengthening its work. To continue the crucial work of the OPCW, we urge all OPCW Member States to vote in favour of the current budget proposal at the upcoming Conference of States Parties.
Looking ahead, the Netherlands will be chairing the Fifth Review Conference of the CWC in 2023. We hope that the RevCon will lay further groundwork for and give direction to the important work of the Technical Secretariat.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, it matters little in practice whether pathogens are spread deliberately, accidentally, or due to natural causes. After all, diseases do not respect international borders. This is one more reason that the international community should take serious steps to address biological threats.
The Netherlands attaches great importance to the BTWC and considers it the fundamental pillar for biosecurity and biosafety. Therefore, the Netherlands is deeply disappointed by the Russian Federation’s attempts to impeach important and legitimate biological threat reduction programs in Ukraine. Following the conclusion of the Article V Formal Consultative Meeting held in Geneva in September, the Netherlands considers that this matter has now been concluded.
In the spirit of international cooperation, the Netherlands continues to take concrete steps to advance bio security and bio safety. We are open to collaborate on projects and initiatives that increase health security, biosafety or biosecurity and are actively looking for new partners in this respect.
Furthermore, the Netherlands is determined to contribute to a successful outcome of the Ninth Review Conference and we call upon all States Parties to work together in a spirit of constructive cooperation.
We would like to underscore the importance of the UN Secretary General’s Mechanism, as it is the only independent international mechanism to investigate alleged uses of biological weapons.
The differential gendered impact in bio-chemical safety and security is frequently overlooked. Research has suggested that women and girls face different, and sometimes greater, risks of physical, psychological, and social harm when faced with chemical and biological accidents or weapons use. Concurrently, women remain underrepresented in arms control and disarmament diplomacy, which leads to exclusion of their perspectives and knowledge. Just, sustainable, and effective policy responses in the field of bio-chemical safety and security are, therefore, dependent on the application of a gender lens in our work as well as equitable gender representation.
Mr. Chairman, in concluding,
The CWC and the BTWC are as indispensable as ever in our collective pursuit of a safe and healthy world. To this end, we call on states outside the Conventions to accede to them without delay and we urge States Parties to the Conventions to continue to work towards their success.
Thank you Chair.