Chemical Weapons on states’ radar as a pandemic and war consume recent years

The statue outside of The International Disarmament Institute, on Pace University’s NY Campus. The statue outside of The International Disarmament Institute, on Pace University’s NY Campus. National Today / Accessed from

19 October 2022

While nuclear threats gain the most attention, other weapons of mass destruction loom in the background, impacting civilians across the globe. 

The UN Member states continued their thematic discussions, transitioning into the topic of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—with a focus on chemical and biological weapons. As we emerge from the height of a global, deadly pandemic, the power of biological pathogens are clear as ever. The representative from the Netherlands explained how these methods can have prolific impacts, “As the pandemic illustrated, it mattered little whether pathogens were spread deliberately or naturally. Diseases did not respect international borders.”

Worldwide developments in science and technology are celebrated, offering new ways to fight disease, but are also used maliciously, as Mr. Göbel, representing Germany, stated. Blame was pointed towards chemical weapon attacks, namely Syria, whose target was their own people. This nation was repeatedly called out in the discussion, as other states expressed sympathy towards the civilians impacted by hundreds of instances of Syrian chemical weapon usage over the past several years.

Pleas to fight against impunity when it comes to WMD were heard in a multitude of statements. Mr. Vongnorkeo, speaking on behalf of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed that these weapons, whether used intentionally or accidentally, can lead to drastic losses of life, damages to civilian property, and harm to biodiversity, which poses long-term threats to humanity. Hence, the mere possession of these weapons must be reprimanded. 

Canada’s representative expressed frustration that “the legal frameworks established to ban the possession, development, and use of chemical and biological weapons were increasingly being undermined.” As explained by multiple representatives, to tackle impunity and promote accountability, the guidelines pointed toward nuclear weapons must also be considered for other WMD, including biological/chemical weapons. 

Kazakhstan’s representative reminded the First Committee of the proposal he introduced in the General Debate, which called for the establishment of an “international agency for biological safety.” This idea was received positively, and Kazakhstan urged states to support them in their proposal of a working group at the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference. New Zealand, along with other states, emphasized the need to support the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as well as the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. To protect innocent lives, it is imperative that the UN addresses these weapons and develops a stronger framework for upholding accountability. 

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by Nicole Piusienski

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