Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

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Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
OPCW - Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons logo.png
Logo of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
CWC Participation.svg
Member states of the OPCW (green)
Formation29 April 1997 [1]
Headquarters The Hague, Netherlands
Coordinates 52°05′28″N4°16′59″E / 52.091241°N 4.283193°E / 52.091241; 4.283193 Coordinates: 52°05′28″N4°16′59″E / 52.091241°N 4.283193°E / 52.091241; 4.283193
Membership
193 member states (all states party to the CWC are automatically members. 4 UN Member States are non-members: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan)
Official languages
English, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish
Fernando Arias
Official organs
Conference of the States Parties
Executive Council
Technical Secretariat
Budget
€69.69 million/year (2019)
Staff
approximately 500 [2]
Website www.opcw.org

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997. The OPCW, with its 193 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavour for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.

Contents

The organisation promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. Verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by member states and onsite inspections.

The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons". Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said, "The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law".

History

The headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons HQ of OPCW in The Hague.jpg
The headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

The Hague was chosen as the location for the seat of the organisation after a successful lobby of the Dutch government, competing against Vienna and Geneva. [3] The organisation has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Centre (where it holds its yearly Conference of States Parties) and an equipment store and laboratory facility in Rijswijk. The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998. [4] and consist of an eight-story building built in a semi-circle. A permanent memorial to all victims is present at the back of the building and is open to the public. [5]

The OPCW headquarters building was designed by American architect Gerhard Kallmann of Kallmann McKinnell & Wood. [6]

The first Director-General only served about one year of his second term, after which, in April 2002, he was removed from office on grounds of lack of confidence by the member states. [7] [8] It was argued by The Guardian 's columnist George Monbiot that Director-General José Bustani was being forced out by the U.S. government, despite the convention insisting the OPCW "shall not seek or receive instructions from any government"; the US had tried to persuade Brazil to recall Bustani. Monbiot wrote that the U.S. had tried other measures, although the convention also indicates that states should "not seek to influence" staff. In line with his mandate, Bustani wanted Iraq to sign the convention thus allowing international chemical weapons monitors into Iraq and thus potentially impeding the U.S. push for war against Iraq. [9] [10] [11] The U.S. gave three main arguments for the removal of Bustani's from his position: "polarising and confrontational conduct", "mismanagement issues" and "advocacy of inappropriate roles for the OPCW". [12] The removal was subsequently determined to be improper by an Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization and consequently Bustani was awarded €50,000 in moral damages, his pay for the remainder of his second term, and his legal costs. [13]

On 11 October 2013, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the OPCW had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize [14] for "extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons". [15] [16] The committee further indicated how "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons." [14] [15] [17] [18] In the year ending September 2014, the OPCW had overseen the destruction of some 97 percent of Syria's declared chemical weapons. [19]

In 2014, The OPCW–The Hague Award was established to honour select individuals and institutions by highlighting their exceptional contributions towards the goal of a world permanently free of chemical weapons. The award was created as a legacy of the OPCW winning the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. The OPCW—The Hague Award fund was created using the approximately €900,000 monetary prize which accompanied the Nobel Peace Prize, and is also supported financially by the City of The Hague, where the OPCW is based.

In June 2018, the OPCW voted to expand its own powers, allowing itself to assign blame for a contravention of its regulations.

In November 2019, a unanimous agreement of OPCW member states allowed the addition of the Novichok agents to "list of controlled substances" of the CWC "in one of the first major changes to the treaty since it was agreed in the 1990s" in response to the 2018 poisonings in the UK. [20]

Organisational structure

Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties (2018) OPCW's Fourth Special Session of the Conference of States Parties (42967010592).jpg
Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties (2018)

The activities of the OPCW and its core organisational structure are described in the Chemical Weapons Convention (whose members are all in OPCW). The principal body is the Conference of the States Parties (CSP), which normally is convened yearly, and in which all countries can participate, with equal voting rights. Countries are generally represented in the conference by a permanent representative to the organisation, which in most cases is also the ambassador to the Netherlands. The conference decides on all main topics regarding the organisation (for example, taking retaliation measures) and the convention (approving guidelines, imposing retaliating measures against members). [2]

The Executive Council (EC) is the executive organ of the organisation and consists of 41 states parties, which are appointed by the conference on a two-year term. The council amongst others oversees the budget and cooperates with the General Secretariat on all matters related to the convention. [2]

The Technical Secretariat (TS) applies most of the activities mandated by the council and is the body where most of the employees of the organisation work. The main activities of the OPCW are performed by the inspection and the verification divisions.

All states parties make contributions to the OPCW budget, based on a modified UN scale of assessments. [21] The OPCW budget for 2020 is €70,958,760 [22]

Powers

The OPCW has the power to report on whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated. [23]

"The OPCW has the power to send inspectors to any signatory country to search for evidence of production of banned chemicals. It also can send experts to help countries to investigate crime scenes where chemical agents may have been used." [20]

In June 2018 following the Skripal poisoning the UK convinced other members despite the Russian opposition that the OPCW needed to grant itself new powers to assign blame for attacks. [24] [23] The vote was won by a margin of 82 to 24, which exceeded the two-thirds majority needed for the motion to pass. [23]

Inspections

Chemical weapons destruction facilities

At all operational chemical weapons destruction facilities, 24/7 inspections by the OPCW take place on site to verify the success of the destruction as well as the amounts of weapons being destroyed. [25] In light of the hazardous environment in which the inspections take place, they are generally performed by evaluation via CCTV-systems. [26]

Industry inspections

Inspections are designed to verify compliance of States Parties with the requirements imposed on production and use of scheduled chemicals and to verify that industrial activities of member states have been correctly declared according to the obligation set by the CWC. [27] The intensity and frequency of the inspections is dependent on the type of chemical produced (in descending order: Schedule 1, Schedule 2, Schedule 3 or DOC, see Scheduled Chemicals), [28] but is regardless of the standing of the member state. For Schedule 1 and 2 facilities, a mass balance is prepared to identify whether all produced chemicals can be accounted for and whether the amounts are consistent with the declarations made by member states. [29] Furthermore, at Schedule 2 and 3 facilities clues are investigated whether, contrary to the declaration and to the rules in the convention, Schedule 1 chemicals are produced. At Schedule 3 and DOC, the main aim is to check the declaration and to verify the absence of Schedule 2 and Schedule 1 production units. [29] The time limit Schedule 2 inspections is 96 hours while Schedule 3 and DOC inspections can take a maximum of 24 hours. There is no time limit on Schedule 1 inspections. [30]

Challenge inspections and investigations of alleged use

In case of allegation of use of chemical weapons or the prohibited production, a fact-finding inspection can be employed according to the convention. None of those activities have taken place, although the OPCW contributed to investigations[ when? ] of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as part of a United Nations mission. The OPCW only undertakes these inspections on request of another member state, after verification of the presented proof. To avoid misuse, a majority of three-quarters can block a challenge inspection request. [31]

Relations with the United Nations

While the OPCW is not a specialised agency of the United Nations, it cooperates both on policy and practical issues as a related organisation. On 7 September 2000 the OPCW and the United Nations signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they were to coordinate their activities. [32] The inspectors furthermore travel on the United Nations Laissez-Passer in which a sticker is placed explaining their position, and privileges and immunities. [33] The United Nations Regional Groups also operate at the OPCW to govern the rotations on the Executive Council and provide informal discussion platform. [2]

Membership

All 193 parties to the Chemical Weapons convention are automatically members of the OPCW. [34] Other states which are eligible to become members are UN member states: Israel is a signatory state that has not ratified the Convention, and Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan, which have neither signed nor acceded to the Convention. [35] Palestine was the most recent state to submit its instrument of accession to the Convention. [36] On 21 April 2021, Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the OPCW after Syrian forces were found to have repeatedly used poison gas during the Syrian civil war. A two-thirds majority of members voted to immediately revoke Syria's privileges at the agency. [37]

Leadership

Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW OPCW Pays Tribute to All Victims of Chemical Warfare at Day of Remembrance (44241103380).jpg
Fernando Arias, Director-General of the OPCW

The Organisation is currently led by Director-General Ambassador Fernando Arias of Spain. [38]

The Director-General is directly appointed by the Conference for a maximum of two four-year terms. [39] A historical list of Directors-General is shown below.

CountryNameStart of term
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil José Bustani 13 May 1997 [40]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Rogelio Pfirter 25 July 2002 [41]
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey Ahmet Üzümcü 25 July 2010 [2]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Fernando Arias (Current)25 July 2018 [42]

The appointment of Ambassador Arias followed a consensus recommendation by the OPCW Executive Council in October 2017.

Ambassador Arias is a career diplomat with extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy. Previously, he served as Ambassador of Spain to the Netherlands and the Permanent Representative of Spain to the OPCW. He also has served as Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in New York and Ambassador of Spain to Mali, Mauritania, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

Conviction by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization

In 2002, the United States convened an extraordinary session of the Conference of the States Parties of the OPCW to request the dismissal of José Bustani, then Director General of the OPCW. [43] Bustani was dismissed following the vote, held on 22 April 2002, with 48 states voting in favor, 7 against and 43 abstaining. [43] [44] Subsequently, Bustani accused the United States of having provoked his impeachment because he had succeeded in convincing Saddam Hussein to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, which implied inspection of the Iraqi arsenal by OPCW investigators and would have thwarted the American plan of an invasion of Iraq. [43] [45] He also lodged a complaint before the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization, which, by a judgment of 16 July 2003, quashed the dismissal and condemned the OPCW to compensation for material and moral damage. [46] Bustani did not seek to be reinstated in office.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Chemical warfare (CW) involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from nuclear warfare, biological warfare and radiological warfare, which together make up CBRN, the military acronym for nuclear, biological, and chemical, all of which are considered "weapons of mass destruction" (WMDs). None of these fall under the term conventional weapons which are primarily effective due to their destructive potential. In theory, with proper protective equipment, training, and decontamination measures, the primary effects of chemical weapons can be overcome. In practice, they continue to cause much suffering, as most victims are defenseless. Many nations possess vast stockpiles of weaponized agents in preparation for wartime use. The threat and the perceived threat have become strategic tools in planning both measures and counter-measures.

Chemical Weapons Convention 1997 treaty that outlaws producing, stockpiling, and using chemical weapons

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), officially the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, is an arms control treaty administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The treaty entered into force on 29 April 1997, and prohibits the large-scale use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons and their precursors, except for very limited purposes. The main obligation of member states under the convention is to effect this prohibition, as well as the destruction of all current chemical weapons. All destruction activities must take place under OPCW verification.

José Bustani

José Maurício de Figueiredo Bustani is a Brazilian diplomat who was the first director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons until he was ousted after pressure from the US government in April 2002 over disagreements about how to address Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Chemical weapon proliferation Prevalence and spread of chemical weapons

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Chemical weapon Device that uses chemicals to harm or kill people

A chemical weapon (CW) is a specialized munition that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm on humans. According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), "the term chemical weapon may also be applied to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves."

Ahmet Üzümcü

Ahmet Üzümcü is a Turkish career diplomat, who previously served as the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

2013 Nobel Peace Prize Award

The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for their "extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons". The award citation indicated the organization was awarded the prize, because they “have defined the use of chemical weapons as taboo under international law. Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons.” The committee criticized Russia and the United States for not meeting the extended deadline for destruction of its chemical weapons, and noted that certain countries "are still not members". The OPCW was the 22nd organization to be awarded the prize.

Spiez Laboratory

The Spiez Laboratory is the Swiss institute for the protection of the population against nuclear, biological and chemical threats and dangers. It is part of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) and is located in Spiez. The Spiez Laboratory is one of the five labs in the world permanently certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

There have been very many reports of chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian Civil War, beginning in 2012, and corroborated by national governments, the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and media organizations. The attacks occurred in different areas of Syria, including Khan al-Assal, Jobar, Saraqib, Ashrafiyat Sahnaya, Kafr Zita, Talmenes, Sarmin and Douma. The deadliest attacks were the August 2013 sarin attack in Ghouta and the April 2017 sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun. The most common agent used is chlorine, with sarin and sulphur mustard also reported. Almost half of the attacks between 2014 and 2018 were delivered via aircraft and less than a quarter were delivered from the ground, with the remaining attacks having an undetermined method of delivery. According to a February 2019 study by researchers at the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute, chlorine was used in 91.5% of chemical attacks since 2012.

Syria's chemical weapons program began in the 1970s with weapons and training from Egypt and the Soviet Union, with production of chemical weapons in Syria beginning in the mid-1980s. For some time, Syria was believed to have the world's third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons, after the United States and Russia. Prior to September 2013 Syria had not publicly admitted to possessing chemical weapons, although Western intelligence services believed it to hold one of the world's largest stockpiles. In September 2013, French intelligence put the Syrian stockpile at 1,000 tonnes, including Yperite, VX and "several hundred tonnes of sarin". At the time, Syria was one of a handful of states which had not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. In September 2013, Syria joined the CWC, and agreed to the destruction of its weapons, to be supervised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), as required by the convention. A joint OPCW-United Nations mission was established to oversee the destruction process. Syria joined OPCW after international condemnation of the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack, for which Western states held the Syrian government responsible and agreed to the prompt destruction of its chemical weapons, resulting in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declaring on 20 July 2014: "we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out." The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons that the Assad government had declared was completed by August 2014, yet further disclosures, incomplete documentation, and allegations of withholding part of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile since mean that serious concerns regarding chemical weapons and related sites in Syria remain. On 5 April 2017, the government of Syria allegedly unleashed a chemical attack that killed 70 civilians. A suspected chemical attack on Douma on 9 April 2018 that killed at least 49 civilians has been blamed on the Syrian Government.

Destruction of Syrias chemical weapons Part of the Syrian peace process

The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons began on 14 September 2013 after Syria entered into several international agreements which called for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles and set a destruction deadline of 30 June 2014. On the same day, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to its provisional application pending its entry into force on 14 October. Having acceded to the CWC, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council on 27 September approved a detailed implementation plan that required Syria to assume responsibility for and follow a timeline for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons and Syrian chemical weapon production facilities. Following the signing of the Framework Agreement on 14 September 2013 and after the OPCW implementation plan, on 27 September the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 which bound Syria to the timetable set out in the OPCW implementation plan. The joint OPCW-UN mission was established to oversee the implementation of the destruction program.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 was adopted unanimously on 27 September 2013, in regard to the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons during the Syrian civil war. It recalled United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1540, 2042 and 2043 and occurred on the sidelines of the General debate of the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Under the Resolution, Syria had until mid-2014 to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal; and the Resolution also outlines plans for a transition. Despite a few hiccups, the OPCW reported that the destruction was largely on schedule.

Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare

The Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare is an annual event held November 30 as a "tribute to the victims of chemical warfare, as well as to reaffirm the commitment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the elimination of the threat of chemical weapons, thereby promoting the goals of peace, security, and multilateralism." It is officially recognised by the United Nations (UN) and has been celebrated since 2005. On the 2013 observance day, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech where he stated:

On this Remembrance Day, I urge the international community to intensify efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons, along with all other weapons of mass destruction. Let us work together to bring all States under the Convention and promote its full implementation. This is how we can best honour past victims and liberate future generations from the threat of chemical weapons.

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria was jointly established on 16 October 2013 by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations (UN) to oversee the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program. The Joint Mission continued the work of the OPCW-UN advance team that had arrived in Damascus on 1 October 2013.

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria is a mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate some possible cases of the use of toxic chemicals in Syria during the civil war, including chlorine. The 21 August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack used sarin. The OPCW-Director General Ahmet Üzümcü announced the creation of the mission on 29 April 2014. This initial mission was headed by Malik Ellahi. The Syrian Government agreed to the Mission.

The OPCW–The Hague Award is an annual award founded by the OPCW as a result of their being presented with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. The purpose of the Award is to honour and recognize individuals and institutions that have significantly contributed towards the goal of a world free of chemical weapons.

A-232 Chemical compound

A-232 is an organophosphate nerve agent. It was developed in the Soviet Union under the FOLIANT program and is one of the group of compounds referred to as Novichok agents that were revealed by Vil Mirzayanov. A-232 is reportedly slightly less potent as a nerve agent compared to some of the other compounds in the series such as A-230 and A-234, having similar potency to the older nerve agent VR. However it proved to be the most versatile agent as it was chemically stable and remained a volatile liquid over a wide temperature range, making it able to be used in standard chemical munitions without requiring special delivery mechanisms to be developed.

Douma chemical attack military operations of the Syrian Civil War involving chemical weapons

On 7 April 2018, a chemical warfare attack was carried out in the Syrian city of Douma. Medics and witnesses reported that it caused the deaths of between 40 and 50 people and injuries to possibly well over 100. The attack was attributed to the Syrian Army by rebel forces in Douma, and by the United States, British, and French governments. The Syrian and Russian governments asserted that a widely circulated video allegedly showing the aftermath of the attack was staged.

A-242 Chemical compound

A-242 is an organophosphate nerve agent. It was developed in the Soviet Union under the FOLIANT program and is one of the group of compounds referred to as Novichok agents that were revealed by Vil Mirzayanov. Mirzayanov gives little specific information about A-242, stating that it is highly toxic but no figures are given to compare it to other related agents. It is reportedly a solid rather than a volatile liquid as with most nerve agents, and in order to weaponise it successfully, it had to be milled into a fine powder form that could be dispersed as a dust.

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Awards and achievements
Preceded by
European Union
Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize
2013
Succeeded by
Kailash Satyarthi
Malala Yousafzai