HRH Crown Princess Victoria's speech at the Ceremony of the 20th Anniversary of the OPCW
The Hague, Netherlands
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
At first, the gas smelled like green apples. A sweet scent – the kind that children like.
The Halabja gas attack in 1988 was the largest chemical weapons attack against civilians in history. It killed and injured thousands of men, women and children. Five years later, world leaders came together and agreed to chemically disarm.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the foundation of the OPCW. The gruesome chemical weapons attacks in Syria in the last couple of years show that the OPCW – unfortunately – remains essential in today’s world.
As a student I had the privilege of following Dr Hans Blix and his colleagues at the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, in their work at the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq. An experience, that inspired me in my further university studies. Chemical weapons disarmament remains something that I follow.
Twenty years is not a long time. Nevertheless, the OPCW has made great strides towards a world free of chemical weapons. This has been done in close cooperation with governments, chemical industry and military personnel. Let me point out just a few of these achievements:
First, the international norm against chemical weapons is stronger than ever before. The use of chemical weapons is now universally acknowledged as an international crime, potentially a war crime or a crime against humanity. During the height of the Cold War, more than 20 countries were producing chemical weapons. Today, almost all of the world’s nations have renounced such arms and become parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Second, chemical weapons arsenals are gradually becoming a thing of the past. The OPCW has verified the destruction of many thousands of tonnes of chemical-warfare agents and millions of munitions. In some States Parties, the OPCW has verified the complete destruction of stockpiles. And I understand that in only a few years, all stockpiles declared by the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention will be destroyed forever.
Third, as an Advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, I am heartened to know that the OPCW not only promotes peace, justice and accountability. It also contributes to other development goals through its international cooperation programme.
Your Majesty, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to have been invited to this event by Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü. In his Nobel Lecture in 2013, the Director-General observed that the award recognized the combined efforts undertaken by – and I quote – “the OPCW and its Member States, their ambassadors and secretariat staff, past and present… working towards a common good that serves all humanity”. End of quote.
Great things have been achieved through those efforts. I am humbled by the accomplishments. But, there is much more work to be done.
On this 20th anniversary of the OPCW – let us all resolve to continue working together for a world free of chemical weapons, having those affected in mind.
The world needs our continued and tireless work for a safer world.