United Kingdom Current Affairs

OPCW given powers to identify those behind chemicals arms attacks in Syria

The world’s foremost chemical weapons watchdog, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as granted itself new powers to help identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria. 82 members (exceeding required two-thirds majority) of the OPCW voted in favour of this proposal tabled by United Kingdom at special session of Conference of States Parties in The Hague. 24 countries including Russia, Iran and Syria voted against it.

With enhanced powers, OPCW now can put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of use of chemical weapons in Syria. It is considered as important step forward for arms control. It strengthens unravelling consensus against use of chemical weapons.

Background

Until now, OPCW was only able to say whether chemical weapons were used – but not who had used them. It had limited power to only send teams to alleged chemical weapons attack, collect samples and draw their conclusions. They were having only limited power of determining whether attack is chemical weapons or not. But whatever evidence they turned up, they were not having powers to point finger at particular country or non-state actor as the perpetrator for the attack.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

OPCW is an intergovernmental organization that promotes, administers and verifies the adherence to the Convention on Prohibition of Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC). This convention outlaws production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. 190 member-states have signed and ratified this convention including India. Six states- Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan are still outside the CWC. OPCW was established April 1997 and it is headquartered in Hague, Netherlands. It was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for overseeing global endeavour for permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.

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Commonwealth Cyber Declaration adopted by Commonwealth countries

The Commonwealth countries at the end of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London have adopted Commonwealth Cyber Declaration to take action on cybersecurity by 2020. The declaration is considered as world’s largest and most geographically diverse inter-governmental commitment on cybersecurity cooperation.

Key Facts

Under this declaration leaders of 53 commonwealth countries agreed to work closely to evaluate and strengthen their cybersecurity frameworks and response mechanisms. It also aims to tackle criminal groups and hostile state actors who pose a global threat to cybersecurity.

The declaration sets out common vision for ensuring internet remains free and open across Commonwealth. It commits members to raise national levels of cyber security and increased cooperation to counter those who seek to undermine our values, security, even integrity of elections.

The funding under it will support Commonwealth partners to prevent and respond to cyber security risks affecting governments, businesses and citizens.  It will enable low and middle income Commonwealth members to carry out national cyber security capacity reviews before next CHOGM in 2020. It will underpin projects across Commonwealth to provide technical assistance, training and advice to address wide range of cyber security and cybercrime threats.

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