By Yaw Ansah, GNA
Accra, Aug. 13, GNA - Chemical weapons, aside from being considered the most dangerous of all known weapons of mass destruction, also causes extensive damage to biodiversity, making it inhabitable to human.
They are used to cause epidemics among humans; destroy nature and its services including water, air, soil, crops and livestock.
To prohibit its development, production, acquisition, retention, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons, first responders (selected security agencies) from the Economic Community for West Africa States (ECOWAS) have commenced a four-day intensive training in Accra to enhance their capabilities.
With the acquired knowledge, skills and abilities, first responders would be able to conduct necessary operations in the aftermath of a chemical weapon attack or any incident involving toxic industrial chemicals.
Madam Patricia Appiagyei, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) speaking at the opening of the workshop on Tuesday in Accra said, issues concerning chemical weapons were worrying due to the danger it posed to countries including Ghana.
The basic training course is within the framework of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and was jointly organized by the Government of Ghana, the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with funding from the Government of the United Kingdom.
Under the Convention, signatories including Ghana are to destroy Chemical Weapons and the Chemical Weapons Production Facilities (CWPFs) under its jurisdiction or control as well as abandoning chemical weapons on their territory.
States Parties are prohibited from engaging in military preparations to use chemical weapons, from assisting or encouraging anyone to engage in activities prohibited by the CWC and from using riot control agents as a method of warfare.
Madam Patricia Appiagyei said Ghana was ready to collaborate with all Member States and the Technical Secretariat of OPCW to prevent, prepare, mitigate and respond to chemical weapon attacks or incidents involving toxic industrial chemicals.
She said the National Authority of Ghana had submitted some proposed amendments on the Chemical Weapons Convention draft Bill to the Office of the Attorney-General.
The Minister assured that Ghana would soon enact a legislation to guide the implementation of the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Most countries do not have adequate security around such areas. Attacks using explosives and chemicals endanger public safety on a large-scale, and can severely impact the economic and political stability of countries.”
The Minister noted that the high-profile incidents of chemical weapon attacks had affected all regions of the world including Brussels, Abuja, Boston, London, Madrid, Moscow, Mumbai, Syria and Iraq over the past decade.
Threats of chemical weapons, she said, presents a collective responsibility to prevent or minimize the threat of a chemical weapons attack or accidents on civilian populations.
“We therefore need to establish active, well-trained emergency response teams and equip them with the requisite technical know-how to identify chemical agents, be able to decontaminate affected areas and people exposed to chemical weapons, and also be able to coordinate rescue operations,” she said.
A statement delivered on behalf of Iain Walker, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, expressed optimism that the training would help form lasting capabilities and urged the trainees to impart the knowledge they would acquire to their colleague officers.
He said earlier this year, the United Kingdom announced a voluntary contribution of 1.1 million pounds to support OPCW, and that had helped the ECOWAS to benefit from such support.
Mr Walker said globally, the resurgence in the use of chemical weapons posed a threat to international peace and security and urged all to support the OPCW in its mission to implement the CWC and achieve a world free of chemical weapons.