Chemical weapons were first used on a massive scale in World War I and claimed nearly 100,000 lives and one million casualties. The implications of chemical warfare were pervasive and led to public outrage and disapproval. Consequently, chemical weapons were first prohibited for use in warfare by the Geneva Protocol, signed in 1925. Despite this, the use of chemical weapons continued in the Iran-Iraq war and the Syrian Civil War, and both the Soviet Union and United States stockpiled chemical weapons during the Cold War.
November 30 was established as the International Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Weapons by the 20th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Each year, this day memorializes victims of chemical warfare and serves as a reaffirmation and commitment to eliminate the threat of chemical warfare globally. This day offers the opportunity to reaffirm the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons commitment to eliminate chemical weapons and promote peace and multilateralism.
According to OPCW, 193 states committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, 98 percent of the world population lives under protection of the Convention and up to 99 percent of globally declared chemical weapons have been destroyed. The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction indicates that chemical weapons use persists in ongoing conflict to date in Northern Iraq and Syria. There also have been looming concerns about the threat of chemical weapons use in the Russia Ukraine conflict. In fact, the Department of State recently prohibited three Syrian regime military officials from entering the U.S., as well as their families, due to their abhorrent human rights violations which included the use of nerve agents in air strikes that killed many civilian, children included.
Chemical weapons are not only dangerous to humans but are also a significant threat to biodiversity. Eliminating chemical weapons must be done safely. Accidental or deliberate bombing of chemical weapons storage facilities can kill nearby civilians and cause environmental catastrophe.
The ICHRRF acknowledges victims of chemical weapons on 30 November and recommends governments continue efforts toward peace, safety, security, and multilateralism through global elimination of chemical weapons.