by Maureen Reed
These folks from the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are a happy lot, and with good reason. Inside of a century, mass use of chemical weapons has experienced its birth and, because of the OPCW, is now likely experiencing its death.
With General Secretary Ahmed Üzümcü at the helm, the Organisation is led by a man who is open, friendly and thoughtful. That personality pervades the OPCW staff, who come across as talkative and transparent and who lead professional lives infused with commitment to the cause. Take Eric Vander Borght, the film maker whose job it is to portray the story of a shameful chemistry experiment called chemical weapons in a way that will educate and edify. Or Bob Fairweather, Mr. Üzümcü’s assistant, who sports a kilt and keeps his boss on the front edge of an impossibly hectic schedule. Or Mike Luhan, one of the few public affairs directors in the world who has such confidence in OPCW staff that he allows them to talk with journalists at their discretion.
When Paul Pribbenow and I caught up with them following Tuesday’s Nobel Ceremony in City Hall, they were eager to speak about OPCW’s work. Now we at the Forum are hatching a plan to bring some aspect of that work to the 2014 Forum as a prelude to the 2015 Forum. 2015. It’s an important year – the 100th anniversary of the first mass use of chemical weapons during World War I. Might it also be the year that marks their demise?
Photo L to R: Mr. Eric Vander Borght, Pres. Paul Pribbenow, Mr. Michael Luhan