Organisation For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997. The OPCW,  with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. 

  • The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. 
  • The OPCW Member States share the collective goal of preventing chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security. 

Goal 

The OPCW Member States share the collective goal of preventing chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security. To this end, the Convention  contains four key provisions: 

  1. Destroying all existing chemical weapons under international verification by the OPCW.  
  2. Monitoring the chemical industry to prevent chemical weapons from re-emerging. 
  3. Providing assistance and protection to States Parties against chemical threats.  
  4. Fostering international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the Convention and promote the peaceful use of chemistry.  

MISSION 

  • The OPCW’s mission is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons  Convention to achieve our vision of a world free of chemical weapons and the threat of their use, and in which chemistry is used for peace, progress, and prosperity. 

Policies and Programmes  

  • The Technical Secretariat proposes policies for the implementation of the Chemical  Weapons Convention to the Member States of the OPCW, and develops and delivers programmes with and for them. 

Programme Aims  

  • Credible and Transparent Regime  

o To ensure a credible and transparent regime for verifying the destruction of chemical weapons and to prevent their re-emergence, while protecting legitimate national security and proprietary interests. 

  • Protection and Assistance  

o To provide protection and assistance against chemical weapons. 

  • International Cooperation 

o To encourage international cooperation in peaceful uses of chemistry. 

  • Universal Membership  

o To bring about universal membership of the OPCW by facilitating international cooperation and national capacity building. 

OPCW's Aim  

  • The ultimate aim of the OPCW is to achieve a world permanently free of chemical weapons and to contribute to international security and stability, general and complete disarmament, and global economic development.

Our Approach 

  • Two fundamental principles underlie our approach. The first is the centrality of the  Convention’s multilateral character. The second is the equal application of the provisions of the Convention to all States Parties. 
  • We do this with integrity, in an efficient, competent and cost-effective manner, and in a  healthy working environment. Our work is guided and supported by the internal vision of our Organisation. 

ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE 

Fernando Arias Gonzalez, Director General of OPCW
  • 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). 
  • 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. 
  • 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. The OPCW budget for 2019 is €69,689,837 

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits: 

  • Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons. 
  • The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons. 
  • Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use. 
  • Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
  • The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.” 

POWERS 

  • The OPCW has the power to say whether chemical weapons were used in an attack it has investigated.  
  • In June 2018, it granted itself new powers to assign blame for attacks.

OPCW AND UNITED NATIONS 

Relations with the United Nations 

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

MEMBERSHIP 

  • All 193 parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention are automatically members of the  OPCW. 
  • 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. 
  • Palestine was the most recent state to submit its instrument of accession to the treaty.

Need for review- challenges ahead: 

  • There are daunting challenges ahead such as the discovery of new toxic chemicals,  advancements in deployment and dissemination techniques. 
  • There is an increasing threat of use of chemical weapons by non-state actors such as IS  and other terror outfits. 
  • The growing complexity of the global security environment calls for greater vigilance and continued efforts by both OPCW and the member states towards achieving general and complete chemical disarmament. 
  • Despite best efforts, there has been an increase in allegations and incidents of use of chemical weapons in different parts of the world such as Malaysia, UK and Northern  Ireland, the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq. 

Way ahead: 

  • The use of these weapons anywhere, at any time, by anybody, under any circumstances is unjustifiable.  
  • The efforts in the OPCW should be aimed at eliminating all the possibilities of any future use of chemical weapons. 
  • The need of the hour is constructive engagement, dialogue and unity of purpose.  
  • This is the only way forward.  
  • India remains willing and open for discussions with all States Parties to find ways and means to strengthen the Convention and its effective implementation within the  framework of the Convention.

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor