As a small island developing state and the first nation to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, Fiji will continue to support the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in its global efforts to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons.
This was highlighted recently by the Ministry of Defence and National Security Permanent Secretary, Mr Osea Cawaru when he delivered Fiji’s statement to the Review Conference for the OPCW. The Review Conference occurs once every five years and is an opportunity for all States Parties to review the operations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and set a strategic direction for the OPCW for the next five years and beyond.
Speaking in his capacity as Fiji’s head of delegation to the meeting, Cawaru said that Fiji’s commitment is aligned closely to her foreign policies as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and in particular, SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
“Fiji is working towards signing the Privileges and Immunities Agreement with the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW in the coming year. Fiji has also benefited from the Technical Secretariat in facilitating the sub regional workshop for the implementation of the Convention a few years back and stands ready to assist our Pacific Island States in this regard”, Cawaru said.
“Like other developing countries, Fiji fully recognizes and understands the importance of establishing partnership with regional and sub- regional States Parties to ensure effective implementation of the Convention. Fiji believes that close engagement with other States Parties in areas of information sharing and common interests could assist States Parties in the full enactment of the Convention.”
In conveying Fiji’s commitment to both the Convention and the OPCW, Cawaru briefly spoke on the challenges it faced when it comes to the different implementation process of the chemical convention.
“While Fiji is regarded as a hub in our region, we remain susceptible to the illicit trade of chemicals, other than its peaceful means, given the porous nature of our borders and limited resources. Fiji, like many other small developing island States is further limited in its ability to specifically address the challenges of effective implementation of the Convention”, Cawaru said.
“Though we are faced with limited resources and competing legislative demands, Fiji will continue to strive for effective implementation of the Convention within these challenges, as it fully subscribes to the aspirations of the Convention.”
Cawaru used this opportunity to also call on the OPCW to support smaller states in their attempts to implement the various processes required in the Convention.
“We would call on enhancement of implementation support for small island States to ensure that we effectively carry out our role, both nationally and as a group at the sub regional level, without placing unnecessary burdens on ourselves and restricting growth and development in our small vulnerable economies.”
“Fiji reiterates its full support to the Secretariat for the OPCW for its commitment towards fulfilling the ambitions and obligations of the Convention let alone its prime objective to eradicate stockpiles of chemical weapons and ensuring a world free of chemical weapons in the future”.
The Review Conference is preceded by the Conference of the Twenty Third Session of the Conference of States Parties which consists of all 193 members of the OPCW. As the ‘principal organ of the Organisation’, it has the general power to oversee the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and to act to promote the object and purpose of the Convention. The Conference oversees the implementation of the CWC, promotes the treaty’s objectives and reviews compliance with the treaty. The Conference is composed of representatives of all Member States of the OPCW, each of which has one vote.
Cawaru is supported at both meetings by Silina Navoka from the Ministry of Defence in Fiji and Taniela Gavidi from the Fiji Embassy in Brussels.