In the News: UN Resolution on Sea-Dumped Chemical Munitions

The United Nations this month passed a resolution put forward by the Lithuanian government.  The resolution calls on Member States and international organizations to cooperate more closely in assessing the environmental threats related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea.  Member States agreed to voluntarily exchange practical knowledge about the sites where chemical munitions were dumped at sea, to increase public awareness of this issue, and to seek the views of Member States on issues related to the environmental effects of the waste. The resolution, however, does not propose to discuss the removal or destruction of chemical munitions. We have been deeply involved in this effort. Dr. Paul F. Walker, Director, and Finn Longinotto, Research Fellow, of the Security and Sustainability Program, are members of the International Scientific Advisory Board on Dumped Chemical Weapons. Dr. Walker and Mr. Longinotto worked closely with Lithuanian diplomats in drafting the resolution. Dr. Walker testified twice at the UN in support of the resolution, once in front of the First Committee in 2009, and again in front of the Second Committee in November, 2010 in New York.

Walker commented that “this resolution is a badly needed first step toward broader international recognition of the massive scope of the sea-dumped chemical weapons problem.  Fishermen, beachgoers, oil and gas workers, and other potential victims are being injured every month somewhere around the world with old, leaking chemical munitions.  It’s time we begin to address this major threat to marine and human life rather than continuing to believe it doesn’t exist.”

The international community has been reluctant to address this issue, as nearly every major power of the early 20th century produced chemical weapons that were then either dumped into oceans or buried, once it became clear that these weapons were not humane or effective tools of war.  Since then, these chemical munitions have posed a health and environmental hazard to marine wildlife and to humans.  The 1993 international Chemical Weapons Convention, joined by 188 countries today, banned dumping and burial of chemical weapons and mandated safe and secure elimination of all deadly chemical agents.

Dr.  Walker’s November 2010 presentation can be found here