Memorandum of Understanding signed on 30 November 2018 in the Hague, Netherlands, between Protechnik Laboratories of South Africa and Applied Scientific Research Laboratory (TNO) of the Netherlands, as part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Twinning Laboratory Initiative, on the margins of the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of State Parties to Review the Operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention (RC-4) held from 21 to 30 November 2018.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, was created under the provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) as the implementing body of the treaty with the mandate to oversee the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons.

Since the entry into force of the Convention in 1997, the OPCW has strived to fulfil the Convention’s mandate to end the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons; to prevent their re-emergence; to ensure the elimination of existing stocks of such weapons; and, in so doing, to make the world safe from the threat of chemical warfare.

Today, 193 States have become State Parties to the Convention, including South Africa that ratified the treaty in 1995, making it the world’s most successful international disarmament treaty for eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Only four countries have yet to join the Convention.

The Conference of the States Parties (CSP) meets annually in The Hague to oversee the implementation of the Convention, promote the treaty’s objectives and review compliance with the treaty. In addition, a Review Conference occurs once every five years and it is an opportunity for all States Parties to examine and evaluate the operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and set a strategic direction for the OPCW for the next five years.

 

On 30 November 2018, on the margins of the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of State Parties to Review the Operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention or (Fourth Review Conference - RC-4), held in The Hague from 21 to 30 November 2018, South Africa and the Netherlands signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), on a Laboratory Twinning Initiative of the OPCW, between Protechnik Laboratories a division of Amscor SOC LTD of South Africa and the Applied Scientific Research Laboratory (TNO) of the Netherlands.

The MoU was signed by Ambassador VB Koloane, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the OPCW and Ambassador P van den Ijssel Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the OPCW. The signing ceremony was observed by the Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Fernando Arias.

The twining of laboratories of South Africa and the Netherlands is a concrete and tangible project that demonstrates the commitment of both countries to implement and fulfil the provisions of the Convention for cooperation and the transfer of technology. It also gives credibility to the work driven by the Directorate of International Cooperation and Assistance (ICA) of the OPCW for the promotion of the Laboratory Twining Initiative set by the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat in 2016 as part of the efforts to practically implement Article XI and Article VII of the Convention.

The new cooperation agreement confirms the fulfilment of the commitment to the transfer of technology, knowledge, material and equipment for peaceful purposes in the field of chemistry and ensures that developing countries such as South Africa, but in particular, as stated by Ambassador Koloane at the signing ceremony, “the Southern Africa region and the African continent at large”, share in the benefits of new technologies that will enable the African continent to be equipped and better prepared to respond to chemical incidents and testing, all while keeping with the provisions of Article XI and Article VII of the Convention.  

The signing of the MoU also gives credibility to the work driven by the Directorate ICA of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW for the promotion of laboratory twinnings as part of practically implementing and improving capacity-building in developing countries. In this regard, as an OPCW twinning project, the cooperation agreement will assist South Africa in improving the technical competence of its laboratories and improve their performance in the OPCW Proficiency Tests helping this laboratory in South Africa achieve the required OPCW designated status.

The OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Arias, congratulated the Governments of South Africa and the Netherlands, as well as the representatives of the two laboratories who were present during the signing ceremony, for the establishment of this cooperation. Ambassador Arias indicated that “this development establishes the first partnership” realised through the Laboratory Twining Initiative since its inception in 2016.  This project will therefore allow South Africa to join the current family of 22 laboratories from 18 Member States in the OPCW’s designated laboratory network for the analysis of environmental samples.  Ambassador Arias also underscored the importance of this collaboration for the continuation of the promotion of “capacity building efforts essential to expanding the geographical reach of the OPCW designated laboratories network and strengthening the analytical capability of Member States”.  In the same positive light, Ambassador P van den Ijssel indicated that “the event showed that a concrete example for cooperation” is possible and that countries can work together.

Enquiries: Mr Ndivhuwo Mabaya, 083 645 7838 or Mabayan@dirco.gov.za

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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