Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

OPCW logo

Member states of the OPCW (green)
Formation 29 April 1997[1]
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
192 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 language
English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic
Turkey Ahmet Üzümcü[2]
Official organs
Conference of the States Parties
Executive Council
Technical Secretariat
€71 million/year (2012)[3]
approximately 500[3]

The Organization 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 the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. The verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by member states and on-site inspections.

The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize because it had, with the Chemical Weapons Convention,[4] "defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law" according to Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.[5][6]

Organizational structure

Conference of the 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 (for example, taking retaliation measures) and the convention (approving guidelines, imposing retaliating measures against members).[3] 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.[3] 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.

All States Parties make contributions to the OPCW budget, based on a modified UN scale of assessments.[7]


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.[8] In light of the hazardous environment in which the inspections take place, they are generally performed by evaluation via CCTV-systems.[9]

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.[10] 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),[11] 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.[12] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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 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.[14] Furthermore, the OPCW can only be involved after bilateral diplomatic solutions have failed.

Relations with the United Nations

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.[15] The inspectors furthermore travel on United Nations Laissez-Passer in which a sticker is placed explaining their position, and privileges and immunities.[16] The United Nations Regional Groups also operate at the OPCW to govern the rotations on the Executive Council and provide informal discussion platform.[3]


The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

The OPCW headquarters building was designed by American architect Gerhard Kallmann of Kallmann McKinnell & Wood.[17]

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.[18] The organization has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Centre (where it holds its yearly Conference of States Parties) and storage/laboratory facilities in Rijswijk. The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998[19] 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 open to the public.[20]


All 192 parties to the Chemical Weapons convention are automatically members of the OPCW.[21] Other states which are eligible to become members are UN member states Israel, which is a signatory state that has not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, and Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan, which have neither signed nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as UN observer state Palestine, which has also neither signed nor acceded to the CWC.[22][23] Angola was the most recent state to submit its instrument of accession to the treaty.[24]


Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW

The Organization is led by the Director-General, who is directly appointed by the Conference for a maximum of two four-year terms.[25] An overview of Directors-General is shown below.

Country Name Start of term
 Brazil José Bustani 13 May 1997[26]
 Argentina Rogelio Pfirter 25 July 2002[27]
 Turkey Ahmet Üzümcü 25 July 2010[3]

The first Director-General only served about one year of his second term, after which he was removed from office on grounds of lack of confidence by the member states.[28][29] Some suspect that Director-General Bustani was forced out by the U.S. government because Bustani wanted international chemical weapons monitors inside Iraq and thus was seen as impeding the U.S. push for war against Iraq.[30][31][32] The US 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".[33] 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.[34]

2013 Nobel Peace Prize

On 11 October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the OPCW had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons". In the announcement, the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention were praised. 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.”[4][6][35][36] In the year ending in September, 2014, OPCW had overseen destruction of some 97 percent of Syria's declared chemical weapons.[37]

The OPCW-The Hague Award

Main article: OPCW-The Hague Award

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.

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Chemical Weapons - Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  2. Oliver Meier and Daniel Horner (November 2009). "OPCW Chooses New Director-General". Arms Control Association.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)". Nuclear Threat Initiative. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  4. 1 2 Cowell, Alan (11 October 2013). "Chemical Weapons Watchdog Wins Nobel Peace Prize". New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  5. "Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize". BBC News. 2013-10-11. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  6. 1 2 "Official press release from Nobel prize Committee". Nobel Prize Organization. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  8. Destruction of Chemical Weapons and Its Verification Pursuant to Article IV. [CWC], Verification Annex
  9. "List of new inspection equipment and revised specifications for approved inspection equipment". OPCW. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  11. "Australia's National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention". Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  12. 1 2 Verification Annex, part VI,VII, VIII and IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention. OPCW
  13. "An inspector calls! Your company site and the Chemical Weapons Convention" (PDF). Department of Energy of Climate Change (United Kingdom). Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  14. Tom Z. Collina. "The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) at a Glance". Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  15. United Nations General Assembly Session 55 Resolution A/RES/55/283 Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  16. OPCW, The Legal Texts TMC Asser Press, p336
  17. Hevesi, Dennis (2012-06-24). "Gerhard Kallmann, Architect, Is Dead at 97". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-16.
  18. "An Expat's View: Peter Kaiser". city of The Hague. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  19. "HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands opens the purpose-built OPCW building.". OPCW. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  20. "Secretary-General calls chemical weapons memorial 'a symbol of suffering and hope'". United Nations. 9 May 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  21. "OPCW Member States". Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  22. "Non-Member States". Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  23. O’Brien, Patricia (2013-02-06). "EU Council Working Group on Public International Law - COJUR" (PDF). United Nations Office of Legal Affairs. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  24. "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction". United Nations Treaty Collection. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  26. A Stanič (2004). "Bustani v. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons". The American Journal of International Law. 98 (4): 810. JSTOR 3216704.
  27. "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.
  28. "Draft decision of the First Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties of the OPCW". Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  29. "Chemical weapons body sacks head". BBC News. 22 April 2002. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  30. The Guardian, 2002 April 16, "The War against the Peacemaker,"
  31. The Institute for Public Accuracy, 24 April 2002, "Chemical Weapons Agency 'Coup'"?,
  32. The New York Times, 13 October 2013, "To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq,"
  33. "Preserving the Chemical Weapons Convention: The Need For A New Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director-General". US Bureau of Arms Control. 2002-04-01. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  34. The ILO called the decision "an unacceptable violation of the principles on which international organizations' activities are founded ..., by rendering officials vulnerable to pressures and to political change." See the ILO decision
  35. "Chemicals weapons watchdog OPCW wins Nobel peace prize". Times of India. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  36. "Global chemical weapons watchdog wins 2013 Nobel Peace Prize". Fox News. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  37. Eaves, Elisabeth. "Ahmet Uzumcu: Getting Rid of Chemical Weapons in Syria and Beyond". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. SAGE. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
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Awards and achievements
Preceded by
European Union
Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize
Succeeded by
Kailash Satyarthi
Malala Yousafzai
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