Bangladesh has been elected as the chair of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
This is a huge step forward for Bangladesh in terms of international diplomacy, as this is the first time that the country has been elected in such a high position at the OPCW.
Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the OPCW Sheikh Mohammad Belal, who is also the Bangladesh ambassador to the Netherlands, was elected as the chairperson of the Executive Council on Thursday for the term of May 12, 2017 – May 11, 2018.
Belal was unanimously elected during the 84th session of the council that is taking place in The Hague, Netherlands on March 7-10.
He is the 20th chairperson of the OPCW since it was established in 1997.
Earlier on Monday, the 53-member States Parties belonging to the Asian Group nominated Belal as the candidate for the position through straw poll, in which Belal defeated his contender, the Pakistani ambassador to the Netherlands.
Belal is also the fifth Asian representative to head the Executive Council since, under the rotational system, the opening for a chairperson from the Asian Group comes every five years.
Among the other four chairpersons from the Asian Group, two were from India – including the first OPCW chairperson Prabhakar Menon – and one each from Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
The Executive Council is the governing body of the OPCW and comprises States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Its mandate is to promote the effective implementation of and compliance with the CWC.
The council consists of 41 member states sitting for a two-year term, on a rotational basis, with due regard paid to fair geographical distribution, the importance of the chemical industry, and political and security interests.
The chairperson of the Executive Council assumes greater importance as the council oversees the appointment of the new director-general of the OPCW in addition to more frequent exchanges with the UN Security Council over the reports of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, as well as the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the OPCW, regarding the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian territory.
Considering the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq and the significant increase in their usage, this year's election has added importance as the UN Security Council routinely refers these matters to the OPCW for investigation before taking action.
The organisation implements the CWC with 192 states as its members.
Bangladesh is an inaugural signatory to the convention, having signed it on January 14, 1993 and ratified it on April 25, 1997.
The CWC is a global disarmament agreement that bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and provides for the destruction of existing chemical weapon stockpiles and related facilities within a specified time frame.
The OPCW won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013 for its contribution in ridding the world of chemical weapons to an extent never seen before.