OPCW Chooses New Director-General
The Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month chose Ahmet Üzümcü of
The council made the decision by consensus during its Oct. 13-16 meeting in
Both decisions require formal approval by the Nov. 30-Dec. 4 conference of states-parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the annual meeting and highest decision-making body of the 188 CWC parties.
In addition to Üzümcü, six career diplomats had been put forward by their governments as candidates for the post of director-general: Benchaa Dani of
The director-general heads the OPCW Technical Secretariat, which implements the CWC. He is in charge of administering a €75 million ($105 million) annual budget and manages a staff of 500.
According to a diplomatic source close to the process, three straw polls conducted in the eight days before the Executive Council meeting quickly established Üzümcü as the front-runner. On Oct. 13, Pölhö and Thalmann were the first to withdraw. Sudjadnan was next on Oct. 14, after a fourth secret ballot, the source said. These three candidates had consistently received the lowest number of votes in the initial polls, the source said. Shortly before a fifth vote Oct. 15, Freeman also quit the race, the source said. On Oct. 16, the last day of the council meeting, Gottwald and Dani conceded to Üzümcü, who was then unanimously appointed by council members, the source said.
Üzümcü, 58, is currently
There had been fears that the election of a new director-general might be contentious, pitting the Nonaligned Movement against Western states. That was the case in the 2002 OPCW election of Pfirter and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) election this year of
According to the observers, there was relief that a lengthy selection process and formal vote could be avoided. Pfirter, who is scheduled to step down in July when his second four-year term ends, emphasized in the OPCW press release that the consensus appointment of Üzümcü reaffirmed that the OPCW is “an example of successful multilateralism” and described the outcome as “a proud moment” for the organization. Jorge Lomónaco Tonda of Mexico, who is currently chairing the council and facilitated the selection process, said in an Oct. 16 interview that he had worked “relentlessly to make clear that this process was not about regions and not about North and South.” The decision has proven that the OPCW is able to operate on a consensus basis “even in complicated situations,” Lomónaco said. During the whole selection process, there was consistent cross-regional support for all candidates, and council members made “no distinction whether a candidate came from one region or another,” he said. In an apparent reference to the IAEA process for selecting Amano, he said the OPCW decision showed “a level of cooperation and the ability to work as a team you rarely see in other international organizations.”
At the October meeting, the council, after some discussion, agreed to forward to the upcoming conference a request by
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