Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

OPCW logo

Member states of the OPCW (green)
Formation 29 April 1997
Headquarters The Hague, Netherlands
52°05′28″N 4°16′59″E / 52.091241°N 4.283193°E / 52.091241; 4.283193Coordinates: 52°05′28″N 4°16′59″E / 52.091241°N 4.283193°E / 52.091241; 4.283193
Membership 188 member states
All states parties to the CWC are automatically members.
7 states are non-members: Angola, Burma, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, Somalia and Syria.
Official languages English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic
Director General Ahmet Üzümcü[1]
Official organs Conference of the States Parties
Executive Council
Technical Secretariat
Budget €74 million [2]
Staff approximately 500[2]

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an intergovernmental organization, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The organization promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits of the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. The verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by members states and on-site inspections.


Organizational structure

Conference of States Parties in 2007

The activities of the OPCW and its core organizational structure are described in the Chemical Weapons Convention (whose members are all in OPCW). The principal body is the conference of states parties, which normally is convened yearly, and in which all countries participate and have equal voting rights. Countries are generally represented in the Conference by a permanent representative to the organization, which in most cases is also the ambassador (to the Netherlands). The conference decides on all main topics regarding the organization (e.g. taking retaliation measures) and the convention (approving guidelines, imposing retaliating measures against members.[2] The Executive Council is the executive organ of the organization and consists of 41 States Parties, which are appointed by the Conference on a 2-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 applies most of the activities mandated by the Council and is the body where most of the employees of the organization work. The main activities of the OPCW are performed by the verification and the inspection division.


Chemical weapons destruction facilities

At all operational chemical weapons destruction facilities (as of August 2010 only in Russia and the United States), 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.[3] In view of the hazardous environment in which the inspections take place, they are generally performed by evaluation via CCTV-systems.[4]

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 declarations made by member states. 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),[5] but is regardless of the standing of the member state. For Schedule 1 and 2 facilities (chemical weapons, and those precursors mainly used for chemical weapons production), a mass balance is produced to identify whether all produced chemicals can be accounted for and whether the amounts are in conformation with the declarations made by member states.[6] Furthermore, at schedule 2 facilities clues are investigated whether contrary to the declaration (and/or 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.[6] The time limit Schedule 2 inspections is 96 hours while Schedule 3 and DOC inspections can take at maximum 96 hours. There is no time limit on Schedule 1 inspections.[7]

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 yet taken place. The OPCW only undertakes these inspections on request of an other member state, after verification of the presented proof. To avoid misuse, a majority of two thirds can block a challenge inspection request.[8] Furthermore, the OPCW can only be involved after bilateral diplomatic solutions have failed.

Relation with the UN

The organization is not an agency of the United Nations, but cooperates both on policy and practical issues. On 7 September 2000 the OPCW and the United Nations signed a cooperation agreement outlining how they were to coordinate their activities.[9] The inspectors furthermore travel on United Nations Laissez-Passer in which a sticker is placed explaining their position, and privileges and immunities.[10] The United Nations Regional Groups also operate at the OPCW to govern the rotations on the Executive Council and provide informal discussion platform.[2]


Headquarters of the OPCW

The Hague was chosen as the location for the seat of the organization after a successful lobby of the Dutch government, competing against Vienna and Geneva.[11] The organization has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Center (where it holds its yearly Conference of States Parties) and storage/laboratory facilities in Rijswijk (on the premises of TNO). The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998[12] and consist of a eight-story building built in a semi-circle. A permanent memorial to all victims is present at the back of the building and open to the public.[13]


The Organization is led by the Director-General, which is directly appointed by the Conference. An overview of Directors-general is shown below

Country Name Start of Term
 Brazil José Bustani 13 May 1997[14]
 Argentina Rogelio Pfirter 25 July 2002[15]
 Turkey Ahmet Üzümcü 25 July 2010[2]

The second term of the first Director-general only served for circa one year, after which he was removed from office on grounds of financial mismanagement.[16] This decision was highly controversial and deemed improper by the International Labour Organization.[17]

See also

  • Agreement on Destruction and Non-production of Chemical Weapons and on Measures to Facilitate the Multilateral Convention on Banning Chemical Weapons
  • Chemical Weapons Convention
  • Member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons


  1. ^ Oliver Meier and Daniel Horner (November 2009). "OPCW Chooses New Director-General". Arms Control Association. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "OPCW". Center for Non-Proliferation Studies. NTI. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Destruction of Chemical Weapons and Its Verification Pursuant to Article IV. [CWC], Verification Annex
  4. ^ "list of new inspection equipment and revised specifications for approved inspection equipment". OPCW. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Australia's National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention". Australian Government, department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Verification Annex, part VI,VII, VIII and IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention. OPCW
  7. ^ "An inspector calls! Your company site and the Chemical Weapons Convention". Department of Energy of Climate Change (United Kingdom). Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Tom Z. Collina. "The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) at a Glance". Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  9. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution session 55 (retrieved 21 August 2007)
  10. ^ OPCW, The Legal Texts TMC Asser Press, p336
  11. ^ "An Expat's View: Peter Kaiser". city of The Hague. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands opens the purpose-built OPCW building.". OPCW. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Secretary-General calls chemical weapons memorial ‘a symbol of suffering and hope’". United Nations. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  14. ^ A Stanič (2004). "Bustani v. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons". The American Journal of International Law 98 (4): 810. JSTOR 3216704. 
  15. ^ "Speech of dr. Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the OPCW 16 September 2008". Netherlands Institute for International Relations. 22 September 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  16. ^ "Chemical weapons body sacks head". BBC News. 22 April 2002. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  17. ^ The ILO called the decision an unacceptable violation of the principles on which international organisations' activities are founded ..., by rendering officials vulnerable to pressures and to political change. Bustani was awarded €50,000 in moral damages, his pay for the remainder of his second term, and his legal costs; see the ILO decision

External links

  •, organisation's official website

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