„Working tirelessly to rid the world of chemical weapons“ – Paul Walker

By Moritz Petersmann

Yesterday evening, one of the world’s most respected experts on disarmament of chemical weapons – Paul Walker – was in Hamburg to give a lecture.

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On 2nd December 2013, Paul Walker received the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm for his tireless work to rid the world of chemical weapons. Just one week later, he traveled to Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. His colleagues from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with whom he worked closely for years, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2013.

An interesting parallel from my point of view is Wangari Maathai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2004 – 20 years after she received the Right Livelihood Award – you may recognize a development of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s direction of thought? Both prestigious prizes focused global public interest on the abolition of chemical weapons, that’s for sure!

A fascinating insight to this topical subject was given by Paul Walker yesterday evening. Interested listeners were paying attention to his lecture with following title:

„From Ypres to Damascus: The Quest to Abolish Chemical Weapons Globally“

After giving an interesting overview of salient events in the history of the use of chemical weapons, Paul Walker drew attention to the incredible large amount of chemical weapons that was stored or in some cases is still being stored in a few countries round the world. The largest known stockpiles are situated in Russia und the USA. Visiting the Russian chemical weapons stockpile in Shchuch‘ ye 1994, Paul Walker mentioned to be a formative incident. The Shchuch‘ ye stockpile was dilapidated. The security precautions were primitive and the huge stockpile was easily accessible for everyone. Shocked by this visit, but encouraged at the same time, Paul Walker became very involved in the process of ridding the world of chemical weapons in the following years until today.

The destruction of Syrian chemical weapons was of course a topic of great interest, and that’s why Paul Walker mentioned some details on this process, which is occuring currently. Roughly half of Syria’s chemical weapons have already been destroyed. Complete destruction is scheduled for the end of 2014. The abolition of chemical weapons is a complex process and Paul Walker’s mission is not yet finished. He has already reached a lot of milestones, but there are still challenges to cope with. In particular, there is this enormous financial burden resulting from the destruction of chemical weapons that needs to be addressed. But it’s also very important to ensure transparency and ensure broad stakeholder involvement. Chemical weapons belong to the category of weapons of mass destruction. If it’s successful to abolish this, a whole class of weapons of mass destruction, it would be a great achievement on the way to a more peaceful world. By the way a contribution was made at Munster, a base of the German army. Parts of Syrian chemical weapons were destroyed there…

The Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) invited Paul Walker in cooperation with the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker – Centre for Science and Peace Research (ZNF) to this colloquium on „peace and security“.

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