A world free of chemical weapons - this is our common goal since 1997, when the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was signed. Thanks to the dedicated work undertaken in the framework of the OPCW, 98% of the declared chemical weapons have been destroyed since then. However, the CWC also regulates the peaceful use of chemistry. Some chemicals have important peaceful purposes, such as production of medicine, but in the wrong hands, they can represent a terrible threat to humanity. In addition, if used without respecting professional safety and security standards, they can trigger horrible accidents, as we have seen with the dreadful explosions in Beirut this summer. Only if all States handle chemicals in a responsible and skillful way, humanity can benefit from the development of chemical substances and at the same time be safe from potentially devastating side effects. To this aim, experts have to be ready worldwide to ensure a professional handling of possibly dangerous chemicals.
In order to achieve this goal, the Federal Foreign Office (FFO) finances since 2009 an annual course on safety & security in chemical industry. This three-week course is organized and implemented by the Bergische Universität Wuppertal in cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for participants from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. This year, 24 participants - representatives of governments and national authorities, but also practitioners from industry and academic researcher - underwent a virtual program, enlarging their knowledge and becoming “ambassadors of chemical security in their home countries”, as expressed by the representative of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the closure of this year’s course.
The Wuppertal course is characterized by its highly practical orientation, including case studies organized in laboratories. Therefore, this year, in a context of multiple COVID-19 travel restrictions and health protection requirements, the organizers had to show a lot of flexibility and creativity, using modern technology to offer a meaningful virtual program: various e-learning formats and interactive live-sessions covered topics as diverse as explosion risks, attributes of dangerous substances or classification of hazardous areas. The “Wuppertal mini-plant”, a model of a chemical reactor, supported the experts and helped to visualize the theoretical knowledge. Another highlight were two seminars concerning individual and organizational error management held by the Ludwigsburg-based research institute “Human Factors Research & Training”.
The CWC enshrines not only the ban on chemical weapons, but also calls upon all States Parties to help enhancing the peaceful and safe use of chemistry. This is why the Federal Foreign Office and the German Permanent Representation to the OPCW will continue to support the “Wuppertal course” and funding for next year has already been confirmed.
 They came from Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Gambia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Zimbabwe