The 16th regional meeting of the national authorities of state parties in Asia, which started yesterday in Thimphu, will discuss and share experiences regarding national implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The three-day meeting, participated by 21 countries, would also focus on issues related to trade in chemicals, role of customs in enforcing the convention transfers regime for scheduled chemicals, and how to strengthen cooperation among relevant stakeholders to improve the control of cross-border movements of chemicals.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, commonly known as the CWC, is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons.

Senior coordination and planning officer of implementation support branch with Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Chizu Matsushita, said that it is important to discuss the role of customs authority in the implementation of the convention as customs are at the front line of regulating the transfer of the chemicals. “That’s where transfer of goods including chemicals happen and unless they are aware about the risk of importing and exporting of the scheduled chemicals under the convention, it is very difficult to regulate the transfer.”

She said that it is important to adopt the convention to regulate the use, transfer, production and other activities related to chemicals as most chemicals have dual use. “Chemical could be used to make weapons of mass destruction but at the same time it could be used in the daily lives such as soaps or pesticides.”

Although many do not fall under CWC schedule, Bhutan imports about 4 percent chemical or allied industries products.

Chizu Matsushita said that the current challenge Bhutan is facing is in adopting a national legislation which is applicable to the national situation for the implementation of the international convention. “Legislation is the starting point of other regulations to come. Other Bhutanese authorities already have an established framework. It is only a matter of putting it in line with the requirements of the Convention.”

Foreign affairs ministry, which is the National Authority of Bhutan for the CWC, is in the process of drafting the national legislation.

Bhutan signed the Convention on April 24, 1997 and ratified it on August 18, 2005 as the 171st country.  The Convention entered into force on September 17, 2005.

Karma Cheki