Already, it is clear that the 3rd Review Conference is far more focused on engaging civil society than either of the past two review conferences. While there are still improvements to be made, it seems that the OPCW and many of the member states have recognized the important contributions that civil society can make. By the end of the morning plenary session on the 2nd day of the conference, statements by Director-General Üzümcü, the EU, the UK, Costa Rica, Hungary and Belgium all noted the importance of engaging civil society as a partner to achieve the goals of the Convention. In addition, a working paper by Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria on sea-dumped chemical weapons notes the work of NGOs in this area and suggests that the OPCW serve as a coordinating hub between states parties, industry, academia and civil society on this issue.
Panelists at NGO side events have already brought up important questions and considerations for the future of the CWC. Details of many issues discussed (as well as several additional issues) can be found in the full ISS report on The future of the CWC in the post-destruction phase. Many states parties have attended the side events hosted by NGOs, and the side event held Tuesday morning on the future of the CWC featured members of civil society, but was sponsored by a state party- Belgium. The Q&A exchanges of both side events which have taken place so far have also demonstrated the willingness of both states parties and the OPCW to engage in active discussions with civil society on these issues.
The OPCW itself has also been far more active in engaging with civil society on many levels, including making resources more accessible to all (civil society and otherwise) who cannot attend the conference in person. Notably, its website contains many more documents from the Third Review Conference than either of the last two review conferences. Documents are also being uploaded quite quickly: national statements in plenary from the 1st day of the conference were uploaded to the website by noon on the 2nd day of the conference. The OPCW is also live-streaming plenary sessions and some side events, and is also active on Twitter during the conference.
Most importantly, NGOs were approved by the Conference to give statements in a special plenary session (TBD). This motion was passed without any contestation- it finally appears that NGO active participation in review conferences has been accepted as legitimate.