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Executive Council Statement - 30th OPCW Meeting

Executive Council Statement

Ambassador Ralph Earle II Remarks to the Thirtieth Regular Session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) The Hague, The Netherlands September 10, 2002

As delivered

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director General, Distinguished Delegates:

First Mr. Chairman, I would like to welcome you back to the Chair and tell you that the United States will do all it can to support your efforts.

This is indeed an historic day for the Council. The U.S. Delegation will do all in its power to support the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) because we have the new Director-General on the dais, making his first formal report to this body. My delegation, like others, took the opportunity last July to congratulate Ambassador Pfirter on his appointment. But, I d like to add on to that on a personal note, as a veteran of almost all the Executive Council sessions since Entry Into Force, and of the preceding meetings of the Preparatory Commission. I would like to extend a special and, if I may, personal welcome to the new Director-General and assure him he will have the cooperation and the support of the United States in the future.

The Council was conceived and designed as a sort of "board of directors" for the OPCW. It should play an extremely active role in the life of the Organization. Setting policy, developing guidance should be a dynamic process. The Council should promote the best possible thinking, the greatest energy and effort from all the parts of our Organization, States Parties and Technical Secretariat alike. The preparations for the Council's meetings, the meetings themselves, and the subsequent implementation of the Council's decisions are all natural moments of encounter and, one hopes, cooperation between the Technical Secretariat and the member states.

It is true, the Council has not always realized its full potential. Our meetings sometimes have seen bitter confrontation, but I won t cite specific examples. We have set off afresh with the right positive and collegial spirit and great deal of credit belongs to John Gee, who, in three difficult months as Acting Director-General, guided the Technical Secretariat onto the healing path. Thank you Mr. Gee.

Ambassador Pfirter's remarks this morning confirmed, I believe, the very positive impressions that he has made in the early weeks of his tenure. The Director-General's job is a difficult one at any time, and we remain in what is still a very exceptional period in the Organization's history. The Director-General must recognize the authority of the policy-making organs, but must also make courageous recommendations on difficult issues. He (or she) must be mindful both of the limits and the breadth of the Director-General's authority under the Convention, acting appropriately and vigorously for the benefit of the Organization. The Director-General must work well with the States Parties, while maintaining the genuine independence that makes it possible to balance the many competing demands and expectations. Make no mistake -- it is a very tough job. Again, congratulations and best wishes, Ambassador Pfirter.

The agenda for this session of the Executive Council is a long one. At this point, I will mention only a few especially crucial items. As already indicated, a revised draft Budget and Program of Work for 2003 was issued several months ago. While we still have work to do, I am confident that we can reach consensus at this Council session on a level which all members can agree meets the vital needs of the Organization. It would be highly desirable for this session of the Council to reach such an agreement and forward the document to the Conference of the States Parties. I hope we can all agree it is a vast improvement over the draft budgets we have seen in the past. It reflects a spirit of realism and pragmatism that is most welcome, and can serve as a solid basis for us to move forward.

To help ensure that the Organization can meet its Program of Work for 2002, and to help provide expert advice that the OPCW may need in the future, my government has initiated a required notification process to the United States Congress, with an eye to making a substantial voluntary contribution to the Organization during the current calendar year. I cannot, indeed I must not, predict what action the Congress will take on the Administration's request, but the U.S. Delegation will keep the members of the Council apprised of developments.

A series of facility agreements, plans for destruction and verification of chemical weapons production facilities, and conversion plans occupy a major part of the Council's agenda. In the interests of efficiency and of respect for the other members of the Council, United States and Russian experts began meeting here in The Hague last Thursday. Without going into the details at this time, and not wishing to pre-empt anything the representative of the Russian Federation may wish to say, I would note that we made progress in resolving outstanding questions. The Russian Federation's request for extension of its destruction deadlines was also discussed.

One of the documents up for consideration at this Session of the Council is the report on the EC's activities in 2001 and 2002. It includes, among other things, a list of the issues facing the Council. If our lengthy agenda for the Session were not intimidating enough, the report's much longer list of issues looks like cause for despair. But I think we should accept the fact that the Council cannot do everything at once, and that setting priorities is an essential part of our work, and of our responsibilities. Indeed, the Director-General has today expressed some ideas on these priorities that help point the way forward. A better division of labor between the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat, more thoroughly consistent with the letter and spirit of the Convention, will certainly help. In the past, the Council had to step into matters more appropriately the precinct of the Director-General, and the Director-General at times encroached on the authority of the policy-making organs. We have the chance to correct those trends, and should seize that opportunity.

Many items on this Session's agenda involve documents on administrative, managerial, and financial issues. These are matters of great importance for the future of the Organization, and can sometimes stir strong emotions. In the United States view, a well-managed, efficient organization, marked by transparency and full accountability, is in the interest of all States Parties. We do not believe there are any opponents of sound management in this room. There is not a "good management party" and a "bad management party" in the OPCW. It is natural that States Parties will propose different measures, different approaches, but all in pursuit of a shared, overarching objective. The point of analyzing management practices is not to identify heroes and villains, but rather to promote a common reflection on how best and most efficiently to accomplish the objectives we have set for ourselves in the Convention.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates: I would like to conclude as I began, by pointing out that today is truly a new beginning. We have the opportunity to start again with renewed energy and vigor and it is our responsibility to make the most of this opportunity. Thank you very much.


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