Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC)
Opened for Signature: January 13, 1993.
Entered into Force: April 29, 1997.
Membership: 190 State Parties, 2 Signatories.
Signatories: Israel and Myanmar.
Depositary: UN Secretary-General.
Obligations: States Parties are required not to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons (CW), or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone; not to use chemical weapons; not to engage in military preparations for use of chemical weapons; not to assist, encourage, or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under the convention.
Each State Party is required to destroy all chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities it owns or possesses or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of another State Party no later than 10 years after entry into force of the Convention or as soon as possible in the case of States ratifying or acceding more than 10 years after entry into force. Each State Party also undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare (Article I). The Convention defines a chemical weapon as the following, together or separately:
a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under the Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes; b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in Subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices; c) Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of munitions and devices specified in subparagraph (b).
The Convention identifies and categorizes toxic chemicals and precursors according to their potential for chemical weapons application and extent of industrial applications. Schedule 1 lists chemicals with high potential weapons utility and little or no industrial utility. Schedule 2 singles out chemicals with some degree of commercial application and significant potential for use in weapons. Schedule 3 chemicals are generally produced in large quantities for industrial purposes and have some potential for chemical weapons application. Declarations and verification requirements are the most stringent for Schedule 1 and the least so for Schedule 3 (Article II).
Verification and Compliance:
Verification: Verification is conducted through a combination of reporting and routine on-site inspections of declared sites. To ensure the implementation of the Convention's provisions, including those on verification and compliance, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was established upon the entry into force of the Convention (29 April 1997). In addition to routine verification and recourse to a procedure for consultations, cooperation, and fact-finding, each State Party has the right to request an on-site challenge inspection of any facility or location in any other State Party for the purpose of clarifying and resolving questions concerning possible non-compliance. The challenge inspection team is designated by the Director General of the OPCW and dispatched as quickly as possible.
Compliance: Compliance measures under the OPCW include: the OPCW may request that a party take measures to redress a situation in a specific period; the OPCW may restrict or suspend a party's rights and privileges; the OPCW may recommend collective measures to States Parties, including sanctions; the OPCW may ask for an advisory opinion from the ICJ. There is also the option to refer serious violations to the UN General Assembly and Security Council. Incentives to comply with the CWC include assistance and protection against attack, such as the dispatch of emergency aid; economic and technological benefits, including the fullest possible exchange of chemistry information and technology, removal of trade and other restrictions.
Declarations: Eleven countries have declared possession of existing or former CW-production facilities: Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, France, India, Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States, and Yugoslavia. Four countries have declared CW stocks: India, Republic of Korea, Russia, and United States. Nine countries have declared old CW on their territory: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States. Four countries have declared abandoned CW on their territory: China, Italy, Panama, and Poland.
Other Main Provisions: The Convention provides for the rendering to States Parties of protection against chemical weapons and assistance in the event of a chemical attack. States Parties undertake to facilitate the fullest possible exchange of chemicals, equipment, and scientific and technical information relating to the development and application of chemistry for purposes not prohibited under the Convention. States Parties are obliged to provide data on the import and export of scheduled chemicals, as well as on facilities and chemical production. Restrictions on transfers of Schedule 1 and 2 chemicals to States not party to the Convention entered effect at entry into force and on 29 April 2000, respectively. Those on Schedule 3 transfers will be considered effective five years from entry into force. Each State Party is required to enact national implementing legislation to, inter alia, prohibit individuals under its jurisdiction or control from engaging in activities prohibited by the Convention. Each State Party is obligated to designate or establish a national authority to serve as the focal point for liaison with the OPCW and with other States Parties.
Integration with Other Treaties and Agreements: Several agreements exist that overlap with the mandate of the CWC. The Australia Group (AG), for example, coordinates CW-related export controls and encourages related intelligence sharing among its 32 member countries. The Proliferation Security Initiative strives to prevent the transfer of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including chemical weapons. More broadly, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requires all states to take all possible measures to prevent the proliferation of WMD. In some cases, such as with the Australia Group, countries perceive a conflict between mandates. For example, some states complain that the AG restricts the free trade in chemicals and chemical process equipment to CWC members in good standing with the OPCW and the CWC.
2015: On January 6, the OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria briefed the UNSC. OPCW reported “with a high degree of confidence” that chlorine gas had been used in attacks in at least three villages in Syria in 2014, in violation of the CWC to which Syria is party.
In March, the OPCW carried out a series of seminars and workshops concerning national implementation of the CWC. From March 2-6 in Pretoria, South Africa and the African Union jointly hosted a “Workshop on Security, the Implementation of the CWC and Cooperative Threat Reduction in Africa.” On March 30-31, Oman hosted a seminar on the “CWC and Chemical Incident Management” attended by representatives of military, industry, and government sectors.
2014: On February 4 Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz made a statement confirming the destruction of Libya’s remaining Category 1 Chemical Weapons, which consisted of supplies of mustard gas used for artillery projectiles and aerial bombs.
On June 11-13 representatives from 22 states met for a workshop on Article XI of the CWC, hosted by the OPCW at The Hague. The group of states discussed regional and global implementation of Article XI, and drafted recommendations for the OPCW’s Policy Making Organs.
On June 23 OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü announced the final removal of Syria’s chemical stockpile, which will be destroyed at facilities in Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. The Director-General acknowledged international efforts toward completing the mission, and expressed hopes of proceeding with “the destruction of certain structures [in Syria] that were used as chemical weapons production facilities.”
On September 30, the OPCW-UN Join Mission on the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons successfully fulfilled its mandate and completed its operations in Syria. Further clarification on the Syrian declaration and destruction of chemical weapons productions facilities will be continued by the OPCW mission in Syria.
2013: On February 22 a team of senior OPCW officials completed a 3-day technical assistance visit to Nay Pyi Taw upon the request by the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The visit consisted of a National Awareness workshop for senior decision-makers and was aimed at providing practical assistance to relevant agencies and stakeholders on issues relating to national implementation of the CWC.
On April 8 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon became the first UNSG to attend a review conference of the CWC.
From April 8-9 the Third Review Conference of the CWC took place, culminating in the adoption of a two-part final document by consensus. The first part dealt with a political declaration, confirming the "unequivocal commitment" of the States Parties to the CWC. The second part was a comprehensive review of CWC implementation since the last Review Conference in 2008. There was also concern about possible chemical weapons usage in Syria. The Third Review Conference was attended by delegates from 122 of the 188 States Parties, 8 international organizations, and 3 States not Party and was chaired by Ambassador Krzystof of Poland.
On April 26 the OPCW co-organized two workshops in Angola designed to support Angola's accession to both the CWC and BTWC. The Foreign Minister of Angola affirmed Angola's commitment to accede to both conventions.
On May 6 Libya completed the destruction of its Sulfur Mustard stockpile, increasing its total declared stock to 85% destroyed and completed the destruction of its remaining Category 3 weapons, leaving its supplies of Category 2 weapons to be destroyed.
On May 27 the ninth regional assistance-and-protection course for Asian State Parties was conducted jointly by the OPCW and the Republic of Korea.
On May 29 Somalia became the 189th State Party to the CWC.
On June 1 Al Qaeda operatives were arrested in Iraq after attempting to create chemical weapons to be used in attacks against Europe and the United States. Five men were arrested by Iraqi security with aid from foreign intelligence.
On June 4 an UN report confirmed four uses of chemical weapons during attacks on Khan Al-Asal, Aleppo, March 19; Uteibah, Damascus, March 19; Sheikh Maqsood neighbourhood, Aleppo, April 13; and Saraqib, Idlib, April 29. However, the precise weapons used, delivery systems, or perpetrators were not clear and remain under investigation.
On June 4-6, the 11th Regional Meeting of African National Authorities was co-hosted between the Republic of Congo and the OPCW with 60 participants from 27 State Parties to discuss issues relating to the CWC implementation in Africa and for States Parties to exchange information.
On June 7, the 16th International Chemical Weapons Disarmament Conference opened. The Director-General of the OPCW opened the event with an update on the current stockpiles of chemical weapons. According to the OPCW almost 81% of Category 1 chemical weapons, 52% of Category 2 weapons, and all Category 3 weapons have been destroyed.
On June 13 officials from the Hague, Geneva, and Vienna visited OPCW headquarters to strengthen cooperation among the three cities, as they are the bastions of large diplomatic communities and international organizations dealing with disarmament and nonproliferation issues.
On June 28 the CWC entered into force for Somalia. The country became the CWC’s 189th State Party.
On September 12 Director General of the OPCW Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü received a letter from Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, to inform him that the Syrian Government had made the decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and transmitted a legislative decree to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
On September 13 Syrian Deputy Minister Faisal Mekdad requested technical assistance from the OPCW, under a provisional application of the Convention prior to the country’s formal entry into force. Director General Ahmet Uzumcu confirmed to Mekdad that his request for a provisional application of the CWC, as well as for technical assistance from the OCPW, was forwarded to States Parties of the CWC to consider.
On September 14 Syria deposited its instrument of accession to the CWC with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
On September 16 Director General of the OPCW Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü stated that the confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria in the UN Mission’s report was “a tragic development” and strongly condemned any use of chemical weapons in the country.
On October 14 the CWC entered into force for Syria. The country became the 190th Member State of the OPCW.
On December 2 the Eighteenth Session of the Conference of States Parties commenced in The Hague under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Dr. Sa’ad Abdul Majeed Ibrahim Al-Ali of Iraq. A total of 130 States Parties participated in the Conference. Several States Parties made statements discussing the universality of the treaty as well as the verification of the treaty. Most countries also commented on the accession of Somalia and Syria and hoped that the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons will continue to take place in a timely fashion.
New Zealand made a statement urging all the States Parties to contribute to the international effort to help eliminate chemical weapons from Syria. In regards to their efforts on Article X, both New Zealand and Australia contributed to two regional exercises: Indonesia and Malaysia on the national response to acts of chemical terrorism.
Other countries also made statements reporting on their assistance to the OPCW. For example, Serbia organized four courses and training at their Training centre. Croatia has also contributed to the OPCW by hosting two important regional events such as the Annual Meeting of National Authorities of the Eastern European Group.
South Africa, on behalf of the Africa Group underlined the importance of the full implementation of Article XI. The Africa group urges the States Parties to consider the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s evaluations of the concluded activities of Article XI with a view of enhancing Article XI in its entirety.
On December 5 the Final Report of the Eighteenth Session was adopted.
2012: On January 17-19 the OPCW sent inspectors to Libya to verify chemical weapons stockpiles that were disclosed after the fall of the Qadhafi regime. Libya must now present a comprehensive plan and date for the destruction of the stockpiles.
On January 26 the Technical Secretariat conducted a briefing for OPCW Permanent Representations in Brussels. The briefing included details on the legal framework required for the national implementation of the CWC, and on the international assistance provided by the OPCW to assist states in capacity building to improve their implementation of the CWC.
On March 1 OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Director-General Üzümcü updated the Secretary-General on the status of undeclared stockpiles of mustard agent found in Libya, and noted with concern the possibility of chemical weapons in Syria.
In March, OPCW inspectors inspected their 1,000th “Other Chemical Production Facilities” (OCPFs) site as classified under Article VI of the CWC. The 1000th site inspection was conducted at an industrial plant in France.
On March 23 OPCW Executive Council and Director-General met with officials in Moscow concerning issues related to the CWC. The delegation also toured a new chemical weapons destruction facility being built at Kizner, Udmurtia oblast. The Russian Federation has destroyed more than 60% of its stockpiles, according to the Kremlin. This is faster than initially expected.
From April 16-19 the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) met in its 18th session at OPCW headquarters. The SAB discussed scientific and technological elements of verification methodologies, emerging technologies and new equipment, and Scheduled chemicals and the Annex on Chemicals. The Board also began work in preparation for the Third Review Conference to be held in April 2013.
April 29, 2012 marked the passing of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) deadline for possessors of chemical weapons to eliminate their stockpiles. However, the United States maintains that it has destroyed 90 percent of its stockpile and will destroy the remaining 10 percent “as soon as practicable.”
On May 22 OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü addressed the 15th and final international Chemical Weapons Demilitarisation (CWD) Conference, hosted by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. This event marked the passing of the April 29, 2012 deadline for possessors of chemical weapons to eliminate their stockpiles, and celebrated the global progress in chemical weapons destruction.
On June 7 the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) for preparation of the Third Review Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention to review the operation of the Convention held its first meeting. The Third Review Conference will be held from April 8-19, 2013 in The Hague.
2011: On March 11 OPCW Director-General Ambassdor Ahmet Üzümcü met with the Permanent Representative of Libya, who notified Ambassador Üzümcü that "in accordance with the information he has received from Tripoli," plans to destroy Libya's chemical weapons remain "unchanged and under control."
On May 16 Libya requested an extension of the destruction deadline of its mustard agent cache.
On May 31 Russian State Duma international affairs committee head Konstantin Kosachyov said Moscow has set December 31, 2015, as the target date for elimination of the nation's entire arsenal of chemical warfare agents. The CWC requires that Russia destroy its chemical arsenal, which originally weighed in at roughly 40,000 metric tons, by April 2012. Moscow has declared that operations would be completed at an unidentified point in 2015.
The Russian government announced that, as of May 30, it had eliminated slightly more than half of its original chemical stockpile of approximately 40,000 metric tons of chemical warfare materials.
On June 24 five inspectors from Slovakia, Russia, Netherlands, Mongolia and China confirmed the culpability of the weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky and assured their compliance with the CWC.
On June 30 a conference on implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention was held in Nassau and was attended by 14 representatives of Caribbean states. The goal of the conference was to help amplify the regions enforcement policies and procedures on the ban of chemical weapons. A particular point that was brought up was the region's compliance with export and import clauses of the CWC and the necessity for rigorous port control to avoid illicit smuggling.
During the OPCW's (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Executive Council meeting in July, Iran's ambassador to the Netherlands Kazem Gharibabadi highlighted the crucial need for the abolishment of all chemical weapons by the indicated deadline of the CWC. He specifically referred to the United States and Russia as countries with the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons.
On November 28 - December 2, the 16th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention took place.
On December 9, the OPCW released a statement concerning the outcomes of the 16th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Libya, the Russian Federation, and the United States announced they would not meet the deadline of April 29, 2012 for destruction of declared chemical weapons. The number of industrial chemical inspections will be expanded from the current number of 209 to 241 in 2014 and will use a new selection method which focuses on facilities of most concern to the CWC. The Conference also requested that the Executive Council look for additional measures to ensure international cooperation under the CWC.
2010: As of July 2010, only three declared CW states have completed dismantlement: Albania, South Korea, and India. Russia and the United States will likely not complete dismantlement by their extended 2012 deadline. Some experts have estimated it may take until 2021 for the United States to fulfill their treaty obligations. Other countries also sought and won extensions of the 2007 deadline: South Korea until 2008, Libya until 2010, and Japan until 2012 to clean up CW left in China during World War II.
2009: Iraq acceded to the Convention on January 13, and the Bahamas ratified the Convention on April 21.
With the addition of the Bahamas as a State Party, the number of remaining states not Party to the Convention is reduced to seven: Angola, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia, and Syria.
2008: Congo's status as a member state was made official on March 1.
The Second Review Conference took place on April 7-18 2008 with the participation 114 States Parties. Angola, Iraq and Lebanon were accorded observer status. The conference was chaired by Ambassador Waleed Ben Abdel Karim El Khereiji of Saudi Arabia.
The conference report noted that since the first review conference of 2003, the total number of States Parties had risen from 151 to 183, leaving only 12 states still to join the convention. It also noted that by April 1, 2008, over 38% of the total stockpiles of 70,000 tons of Category 1 chemical weapons initially declared by States Parties had been destroyed. However, the Second Review Conference expressed its concern that more than 60% of stockpiles still remained to be destroyed.
Guinea-Bissau acceded to the convention on May 20. Lebanon acceded to the CWC on 20 November, and the instrument of accession entered into force 30 days later.
2007: Barbados acceded to the Convention on March 7. Congo deposited its instrument of ratification on 4 December. As of December 2007, there were 183 state parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In January, Turkey reported that its implementing legislation had entered into force on December 2006. On March 27, 2007, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced that it had destroyed all old chemical weapons stocks declared to the OPCW.
From April 23-29, Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, attended the destruction of old chemical weapons in Germany by the government-owned company, GEKA, charged with the destruction of the last two old chemical weapons munitions stockpiles from World War II.
2006: The following states have ratified/acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention: Djibouti (January 25), Haiti (February 22), Liberia (February 23), Comoros (August 17), Central African Republic (September 20), and Montenegro (October 23 — the entry-into-force of the convention for Montenegro was retroactive to the country's date of independence on June 3).
In November, Bangladesh announced the approval of comprehensive implementing legislation, later confirmed to be in place in December. Saint Kitts and Nevis reported their Chemical Weapons (Prohibition and Control) Bill had been passed and was going through the necessary administrative processes before it enters into force. The United Arab Emirates submitted a copy of their recently adopted implementing legislation.
In December, during the eighth annual meeting of National Authorities, Andorra submitted a copy of comprehensive legislative measures to implement the Convention. Belize reported their enactment of implementing legislation; however, no submission under Article VII (5) has been received yet. Comoros reported that it has a National Authority in place; however, formal notification has yet to be received. Fiji announced that they have enacted implementing legislation pending a commencement order that will be issued when regulations are in place. Senegal submitted a copy of its implementing legislation which was adopted on October 16.
2005: The following states ratified/acceded to the CWC: Niue (April 21), Grenada (June 3), the Kingdom of Cambodia (July 19), the Kingdom of Bhutan (August 18), the Republic of Honduras (August 29), Antigua and Barbuda (August 29), the Republic of Vanuatu (September 16), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (October 12).
2004: The following states have ratified/acceded to the CWC: Libya (February 5), Tuvalu (February 18), Rwanda (April 30), Saint Kitts and Nevis (May 21), Marshall Islands (June 18), Solomon Islands (September 23), Sierra Leone (September 30), Madagascar (October 20).
2003: Afghanistan deposited its instrument of ratification to the Convention with the Secretary General of the United Nations on September 24, 2003
The First Review Conference of the CWC was held from April 28 to May 9, 2003 in The Hague. From the 151 States Parties to the CWC, 110 delegations attended the Conference. The States Parties adopted both a Political Declaration and a Review Document at the end of the Conference.
The Political Declaration evaluated the operation of the Convention. The declaration stressed the importance of the timely destruction of chemical weapons, a credible verification regime related to the chemical industry and other facilities used for purposes not prohibited under the Convention, and increased effectiveness and efficiency, to achieve the nonproliferation and confidence-building aims of the Convention. The CWC also recognized the role of the United Nations in the fight against global terrorism and emphasized the importance universal adherence to the Convention could play in preventing access to chemical weapons by terrorists. The States Parties also stressed the need for the OPCW to continue promoting the free trade of chemicals as well as international cooperation and the exchange of scientific and technological development.
The Review Document assessed the implementation of specific provisions of the Convention during its first six years. The document reviewed the CWC's role in enhancing international peace and security, universality of the treaty, declarations and verification, inspections of chemical weapons and industrial facilities, and the OPCW's ability to assist and protect States Parties from use or threat of use of chemical weapons attacks. It took into consideration economical and technological developments within the chemical industries. The document encouraged States Parties to provide assistance upon request to other CWC States Parties in the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles, while also stressing the importance of enhanced cost effectiveness of the verification measures applied to stockpiles and destruction facilities.
The Review Document also recognized the request of the UN Security Council that international organizations whose activities relate to the control of or of access to chemical and other deadly materials evaluate ways in which they can enhance the effectiveness of their activities against terrorism. The First Review Conference noted that a large part of the OPCW's verification resources had been spent on the verification of chemical weapons destruction operations. Given the increase in chemical destruction that will take place in the coming years, the Conference emphasized the importance of reviewing current verification methodology in an effort to optimize the CWC's verification regime. The First Review Conference noted that current confidentiality guidelines provide neither for the destruction of confidential documents and other data, including those kept on the Secretariat's Security Critical Network, nor for the downgrading of their classification levels over the long term. The First Review Conference encouraged the OPCW to take steps to reach agreement on developing and implementing guidelines regarding the long-term handling of confidential information. It also noted that no challenge inspections or investigations of alleged use had been requested of the OPCW since its entry into force.
Point of Contact
Director-General Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü (Turkey)
Johan de Wittlaan 32
2517 JR, The Hague
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2015.
The CWC requires State Parties not to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or retain, transfer, use, or make military preparations to use chemical weapons. It entered into force in 1997.