Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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  As I said at yesterday's evidence session, we have been concerned about the OPCW's recent record of financial and administrative management. In particular, in 2001 the Executive Council was belatedly informed that the Organisation was facing a financial crisis, caused primarily by a failure to match spending to a realistic assessment of actual income. The drastic measures proposed to cope with the deficit centred on severe cutbacks in the OPCW's verification work—which lies at the core of its activity in support of implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. These cutbacks have resulted in a fall in programmed inspection activities of almost 50 per cent. Together with our EU partners, we made representations to Mr Bustani on several occasions last year to express our concern about this decline, but without success. The Director General cannot escape responsibility for allowing this financial crisis to develop.

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  Other Member States have raised other issues. But the key point I would like to underline is that it became clear early this year that the Director-General had lost the confidence not just of the US but also of the majority of the OPCW's other leading contributors. At a meeting of the OPCW's Executive Council in March, 17 members supported a motion of no confidence in Mr Bustami's leadership only five voted against. We had hoped that the Director-General would understand that message and step down in the interests of the OPCW as a whole. However, he chose not to do so, preferring that the issue should be tested by a Special Conference of States Parties to the CWC. That Conference has just met. In a vote on 22 April, 48 states expressed no confidence in Mr Bustani's leadership; only seven (Russia, Belarus, China, Iran, Cuba, Brazil and Mexico) supported him. These figures speak for themselves.

  The Government's policy has been guided throughout by our judgement of the best interests of the OPCW and the CWC. It is clearly untenable if the Director-General has lost the confidence of the countries collectively contributing over 75 per cent of the Organisation's funding. The priority now must be to draw a line under this unfortunate passage and appoint a new Director-General who can command the support of the entire membership. We can then begin to address the urgent financial problems facing the OPCW.

Ben Bradshaw MP,

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State,

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

24 April 2002

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