ICCA and the Chemical Weapons Convention

ICCA Council Secretary Speaks at the 21st Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in the Hague.

Mr. Chairman, Ambassador Űzűmcű, Distinguished Delegates and Guests: I am Cal Dooley, the President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council.  I have the privilege of serving as the Council Secretary of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), on whose behalf I am pleased to make these remarks.

ICCA and its member associations particularly appreciate the commitment of the Conference of States Parties (CSP) to regularly engage the chemical industry and scientific organizations.  Your decision several years ago to extend industry a standing invitation to address the CSP plenary is an important indication of your continued interest in partnering with the chemical industry to promote the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and ensure that chemistry is used for legitimate, peaceful purposes.

The chemical industry and the States Party to the CWC share a mutual interest in seeing that the international norms established by the Convention are applied fully by all governments.  In September of this year, the American Chemistry Council and the American Chemical Society wrote a joint letter to the Director General condemning the use of chlorine as a weapon against civilian populations in Syria.  CEFIC, on behalf of the European industry, and other industry colleagues around the world similarly condemned this use of chlorine in communications to the Director General.

Chlorine has arguably been responsible for the single largest public health advancement in history, bringing clean water to millions.  To see it used as an indiscriminate weapon is most troublesome.  Our industry has offered to the OPCW technical assistance in chlorine chemistry if such assistance can be helpful to the Organization as its work continues.

Our mutual interest in the CWC also extends to the effort to enhance and expand our industry’s collaborative work with the OPCW.  In his note to the CSP on engaging chemical industry associations (C-21/DC.15), the Director General has outlined the structured dialogue and activities that have been taken to foster a better understanding of our respective interests and the opportunities for leveraging those interests in support of the CWC.  The member organizations of the ICCA welcome that dialogue and look forward to identifying additional opportunities for cooperation.

As ICCA has noted at prior meetings of the CSP, it is important that we share a strategic vision of our collaborative relationship.  From the industry’s perspective, there is a strong link between the goals of the CWC and the goal embodied in our Responsible Care ethic.  Support for the CWC is, in fact, a condition of membership in the ICCA.  Industry’s implementation of the Responsible Care ethic is a priority focus for our industry, particularly in countries with large and growing chemical sectors.  We have specific outreach activities underway in both China and India, in particular, and I am pleased to note that we are making important progress toward adoption of the program on an international basis.

The chemical industries in 65 countries participate in the Responsible Care program, including the expansion of the initiative in countries such as Egypt and Kenya.  As an industry, we are committed to seeing the best practices embodied in Responsible Care as the basis for environmental, health, and safety performance.  Responsible Care is thus an important capacity-building mechanism – one that complements the efforts of the OPCW to build national capacities to meet the obligations and responsibilities of the CWC.

While the industry places a high value on capacity building, we also believe that our remit provides an inherent limit on those activities.  The industry’s capacity building effort is directed at general best practices, rather than compliance with the details of national law.  We believe the remit of the OPCW in capacity building is similarly limited by the terms of the Convention itself.

As an example, the Secretariat has undertaken work in the areas of chemical safety and security, but the link between that work and the implementation of the CWC should be made clearer.  Some of this work can be viewed as implying that the chemical industry is fundamentally unsafe, that national regulatory structures are insufficient to protect health and the environment, and that the OPCW necessarily has a role in remedying these problems.

The reality of work in the chemical industry is quite different, of course:

  • Chemical manufacturing is a least four times safer than other major manufacturing industries in worker and process safety. Responsible Care companies have reduced their lost-time injury rate by over 25%, and we have reduced chemical related transportation incidents by nearly 40% since 2006 alone.  Last year, our industry adopted the world’s first globally harmonized approach to process safety performance tracking and reporting to ensure a greater level of transparency about our practices.  Chemical safety and security remain a top industry priority for the future, of course.
  • National chemical regulatory structures are fundamental to the chemical industry’s license to operate, and the industry has worked hard to ensure that they fulfill their environmental and health mandates.
  • A number of international intergovernmental organizations and activities, such as the U.N. Environment Programme’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, have a recognized and established role in promoting chemical safety.

Together, we can and must leverage our respective activities at the intergovernmental, regional, and national levels to avoid duplication of effort, maximize the use of available resources, and ensure that CWC compliance is integrated into a thoughtful approach to chemical regulation.

ICCA believes that the CWC does have an important role in promoting the security of all nations, of course.  Through our cooperative mechanism with the OPCW, we have identified an industry security expert to provide expert advice on the security precautions the industry takes to protect its physical plant, products, distribution channels, and cyber activities.  It is important that the States Party have an understanding of what measures industry takes, on its own and in compliance with regulatory requirements, to safeguard our processes and products from misuse.

ICCA has completed a side-by-side analysis of the requirements of our Responsible Care program and The Hague Ethical Guidelines endorsed by the OPCW.  ICCA intends to disseminate this analysis to all member organizations to promote our mutual interest in high ethical standards, accountability, education and engagement through adherence to the CWC.

ICCA also looks forward to a role in recognizing the 20th Anniversary of the OPCW in April, 2017.  We believe that the collective efforts of the Secretariat, States Parties and the industry to date translate into a living embodiment of the OPCW motto:  “Working Together for a World Free of Chemical Weapons.”

ICCA is fully committed to implementing the cooperative agreement described in the Director General’s note, and we are fully committed to working with States Parties, the Secretariat and other bodies of the OPCW to realize the objectives of the CWC.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Conference.  My colleagues and I would be happy to address any questions delegations might have, either now or on the margins of the meeting.