Chemical weapons and the Responsibility of Chemists

Recent week’s events in Syria and UK have again taken chemical weapons to the headlines. Many will know about the central role that OPCW (Organisation for the ­Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2013 ) plays in overseeing the implementation of and adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC, Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.)

Professor Leiv Kr. Sydnes at our department has released an insightful comment on the various claims appearing the mass media, the difficulties in tracing the origins of a specific sample of a chemical, and what it would take to curb further production of chemical weapons. Please consult his Nature Comment here. Quoting, Research chemists, especially in universities, should work to raise awareness of the chemical challenges related to the CWC. A first step would be to make the convention mandatory reading for all chemistry students. Second, OPCW educational material should be used in university courses. Third, The Hague Ethical Guidelines should be used to improve the ethical framework of the chemical profession.[Sydnes, Nature 556, 293-295 (2018)]

Professor Sydnes has contributed strongly to the work of OPCW through twice chairing the revision of the CWC, mandatory to take place every five years. He reflects on this work in an interview with På Høyden (in Norwegian) here.