Chemical weapon disarmament

The CWC: a unique and preferred instrument for complete prohibition

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), signed in Paris in 1993, entered into force in 1997. The CWC provides for the complete prohibition of chemical weapons and the destruction of all of the arsenals declared by possessor States.

Its provisions are subject to an international verification regime that is implemented by the OPCW.

It provides the preferred framework for France’s action on chemical disarmament and on combating chemical weapons proliferation. This text is unique in the field of multilateral disarmament.

The CWC therefore combats every aspect of the chemical weapon risk and is a global instrument for ensuring the complete destruction of declared chemical weapons and guaranteeing their non-proliferation.

It is in fact the only international Convention that provides for the complete eradication of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, coupled with a binding verification system.

The CWC has been ratified by 192 States Parties and is gradually moving closer to its goal of universality. Only four States have not yet joined the Convention (North Korea, Egypt, Israel and South Sudan).

In addition to expanding the number of States Parties, the universalization of the Convention’s implementation should be sought; States are working to transpose all CWC provisions into their domestic legislation.

At this time, the chemical weapon disarmament process has still not been completed. Four States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have not completely finished destroying their declared chemical weapons: the United States, Libya, Iraq and Syria. A total of 98% of the 72,304 tonnes of chemical agents declared in the world have been destroyed. In October 2017, Russia announced that it had destroyed all of its former stocks.

The OPCW: an organisation in charge of enforcing and protecting the Convention

Creation

The OPCW was created in 1997. It is tasked with conducting the mission set out in the Convention and ensures the application of its provisions, including the verification of compliance with the Convention. It provides a forum for consultations and cooperation of States Parties.

The headquarters of the OPCW are in The Hague. The current Director General, Ahmet Üzümcü (Turkey), took up his duties in 2010; his second term of office will end in July 2018.

In 2013, the OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its body of work.

How it works

The Organisation is made up of three main organs: the Conference of States Parties, the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat. The Executive Council is the executive organ of the OPCW and is accountable to the Conference. It meets three times a year.

Traditionally, the OPCW operates on the basis of consensus and the texts have always been adopted according to this rule. The Executive Council (41 States serve in regional groups; rotation every two years) was divided in October 2016 during discussions regarding conclusions on the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s investigative and appointment powers. It resorted to a vote on this occasion; a text can only be adopted with a two-thirds majority of 28 votes.

In addition to its disarmament action, i.e. destruction of existing chemical weapons, French policy in the OPCW is focused on the fight against their proliferation.

Updated: October 2017

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