Chemical Weapons Convention

Chemical Weapons Convention
Chemical Weapons Convention
Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction
Drafted September 3, 1992[1]
Signed January 13, 1993[1]
Location Paris and New York[1]
Effective April 29, 1997[1]
Condition Ratification by 65 states[2]
Signatories 165[1]
Parties 188 (as of December 2010)[1]
Complete List
7 states are not party: Angola, Burma, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, Somalia, Syria
Depositary UN Secretary-General[3]
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish[4]

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. The agreement is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is an independent organization based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The main obligation under the convention is the prohibition of use and production of chemical weapons, as well as the destruction of all chemical weapons. The destruction activities are verified by the OPCW. As of July 2010, around 60% of the (declared) stockpile of chemical weapons has thus been destroyed.[5] The convention also has provisions for systematic evaluation of chemical and military plants, as well as for investigations of allegations of use and production of chemical weapons based on intelligence of other state parties.

As of August 2010, 188 states are party to the CWC, and another two countries have signed but not yet ratified the convention.[1]



Intergovernmental consideration of a chemical and biological weapons ban was initiated in 1968 within the 18-nation Disarmament Committee, which, after numerous changes of name and composition, became the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in 1984.[6] On September 3, 1992 the Conference on Disarmament submitted to the U.N. General Assembly its annual report, which contained the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The General Assembly approved the Convention on November 30, 1992, and The U.N. Secretary-General then opened the Convention for signature in Paris on January 13, 1993. The CWC remained open for signature until its entry into force on April 29, 1997, 180 days after the deposit of the 65th instrument of ratification (by Hungary). The convention augments the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for chemical weapons and includes extensive verification measures such as on-site inspections. It does not, however, cover biological weapons.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The convention is administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which acts as the legal platform for specification of the CWC provisions (the Conference of State Parties is mandated to change the CWC, pass regulations on implementation of CWC requirements etc.). The organisations furthermore conducts inspections at military and industrial plants to ensure compliance of member states.

Key points of the Convention

  • Prohibition of production and use of chemical weapons
  • Destruction (or monitored conversion to other functions) of chemical weapons production facilities
  • Destruction of all chemical weapons (including chemical weapons abandoned outside the state parties territory)
  • Assistance between State Parties and the OPCW in the case of use of chemical weapons
  • An OPCW inspection regime for the production of chemicals which might be converted to chemical weapons
  • International cooperation in the peaceful use of chemistry in relevant areas

Member states

Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention
  Signed and ratified
  Signed but not ratified

Almost all countries in the world have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. Currently 188 of the 195 states recognized by the United Nations are party to the CWC.[1] Of the seven states that are not, two have signed but not yet ratified the treaty (Burma and Israel) and five states have not signed the treaty (Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia, and Syria).

Key organizations of member states

Member states are represented at the OPCW by their permanent representative. This function is generally combined with the function of Ambassador. For the preparation of OPCW inspections and preparation of declarations, member states have to constitute a national authority.

World stockpile of chemical weapons

The total world declared stockpile of chemical weapons was about 30,308 tons in early 2010.[7] A total of 71,315 tonnes of agents, 8.67 million munitions and containers, and 70 production facilities were declared to OPCW before destruction activities began. In addition, several countries that are not members are suspected of having chemical weapons, especially Syria and North Korea, while some member states (including Sudan and the People's Republic of China) have been accused by others of failing to disclose their stockpiles.

Timeline of destruction

The treaty set up several steps with deadlines toward complete destruction of chemical weapons, with a procedure for requesting deadline extensions. No country reached total elimination by the original treaty date although several have finished under allowed extensions.

Reduction Phases
Phase % Reduction Deadline Notes
I 1% April 2000  
II 20% April 2002 Complete destruction of empty munitions, precursor chemicals,
filling equipment and weapons systems
III 45% April 2004  
IV 100% April 2007 No extensions permitted past April 2012

Progress of destruction

By October 28, 2010, a total of 43,131 tonnes or 60.58% of declared chemical weapons (of Category 1, which is the main category) had been destroyed as well as all Category 3 declared chemicals. More than 45% (3.95 million) chemical munitions and containers have been destroyed.[8] (Treaty confirmed destruction totals often lag behind state-declared totals.) Only about 50% of countries had passed the required legislation to outlaw participation in chemical weapons production.[9]

Three state parties, Albania (included 16,678 kilograms of mustard agent, lewisite, adamsite, and chloroacetophenone),[10] an unspecified state party[10] (widely believed to be South Korea)[11] and India[11] already have completed the destruction of their complete stockpiles. Russia and the United States, which declared the largest amounts of chemical weapons are in the progress of destruction and had processed 49% and 81% of their respective stockpiles.[5][12] The deadline set for both countries of April 2012, however, will not be reached.[5] Libya has started destruction and has destroyed 4% of its stockpile (as well as 39% of its Category 2 chemical weapons). Iraq has yet to start destruction. Japan and China have started in October 2010 the destruction of chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in China by means of mobile destruction units.[12][13]

Country Date of Accession/Entry into force Declared Stockpile (Schedule 1) (tonnes)  % OPCW (verified destroyed) (Date of Full destruction) Destruction deadline
Albania Albania 29 April 1997 16.7 100% (11 July 2007)[14] n.a.
South Korea South Korea 29 April 1997 - 100% (end of 2008)[10][15] n.a.
India India 29 April 1997 1,044 100% (April 2009)[11])
United States United States 29 April 1997 31,500 81%[12] 29 April 2012
Russia Russia 5 December 1997 40,000 49%[12] 29 April 2012
Libya Libya 5 February 2004 - 4%[12] 25 April 2011[12]
Iraq Iraq 12 February 2009 - 0% -
Japan Japan (in China) 29 April 1997 - 0% -

Expected complications with the Iraq stockpile

When Iraq joined the CWC in 2009, it declared "two bunkers with filled and unfilled chemical weapons munitions, some precursors, as well as five former chemical weapons production facilities" according to OPCW Director General Rogelio Pfirter.[11] No plans were announced at that time for the destruction of the material, although it was noted that the bunkers were damaged in the 2003 war and even inspection of the site must be carefully planned. Most of Iraq's chemical weapons were previously destroyed under a United Nations reduction program after the 1991 Gulf War. Approximately five hundred degraded chemical munitions have been found in Iraq since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to a report of the US National Ground Intelligence Center.[16] These weapons contained sarin and mustard agents but were so badly corroded that they could not have been used as originally intended.[17]

Financial support for destruction

Financial support for the Albanian and Libyan stockpile destruction programmes was provided by the United States. Russia received support from a number of nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada; some $2 billion given by 2004. Costs for Albania's program were approximately 48 million U.S. dollars. The U.S. had spent $20 billion and expected to spend a further $40 billion.[18]

Known production facilities (of chemical weapons)

Thirteen countries declared chemical weapons production facilities:

  • 1 non-disclosed state party (referred to as "A State Party" in OPCW-communications)

By 2007, all 65 declared facilities had been deactivated and 94% (61) have been certified as destroyed or converted to civilian use.[19] As of the end of February 2008, 42 facilities were destroyed while 19 were converted for civilian purposes.[20] In 2009, Iraq declared five production sites which were put out of commission by damage in the 1991 and 2003 wars; OPCW inspections were still required.[11]

Controlled substances

The convention distinguishes three classes of controlled substance,[21] chemicals which can either be used as weapons themselves or used in the manufacture of weapons. The classification is based on the quantities of the substance produced commercially for legitimate purposes. Each class is split into Part A, which are chemicals that can be used directly as weapons, and Part B which are chemicals useful in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

  • Schedule 1 chemicals have few, or no uses outside of chemical weapons. These may be produced or used for research, medical, pharmaceutical or chemical weapon defence testing purposes but production above 100 grams per year must be declared to the OPCW. A country is limited to possessing a maximum of 1 tonne of these materials. Examples are mustard and nerve agents, and substances which are solely used as precursor chemicals in their manufacture. A few of these chemicals have very small scale non-military applications, for example minute quantities of nitrogen mustard are used to treat certain cancers.
  • Schedule 2 chemicals have legitimate small-scale applications. Manufacture must be declared and there are restrictions on export to countries which are not CWC signatories. An example is thiodiglycol which can be used in the manufacture of mustard agents, but is also used as a solvent in inks.
  • Schedule 3 chemicals have large-scale uses apart from chemical weapons. Plants which manufacture more than 30 tonnes per year must be declared and can be inspected, and there are restrictions on export to countries which are not CWC signatories. Examples of these substances are phosgene, which has been used as a chemical weapon but which is also a precursor in the manufacture of many legitimate organic compounds and triethanolamine, used in the manufacture of nitrogen mustard but also commonly used in toiletries and detergents.

The treaty also deals with carbon compounds called in the treaty Discrete organic chemicals.[22] These are any carbon compounds apart from long chain polymers, oxides, sulfides and metal carbonates, such as organophosphates. The OPCW must be informed of, and can inspect, any plant producing (or expecting to produce) more than 200 tonnes per year, or 30 tonnes if the chemical contains phosphorus, sulfur or fluorine, unless the plant solely produces explosives or hydrocarbons.

See also

Related international law

Worldwide treaties for other types of arms

Chemical weapons

  • Lethal Unitary Chemical Agents and Munitions
  • Chemical warfare
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  • Tear gas

Restricted substances


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h United Nations Treaty Collection. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. Accessed 14 January 2009.
  2. ^ Chemical Weapons Convention, Article 21.
  3. ^ Chemical Weapons Convention, Article 23.
  4. ^ Chemical Weapons Convention, Article 24.
  5. ^ a b c Global Campaign to Destroy Chemical Weapons Passes 60 Percent Mark. OPCW. 8 July 2010 (Accessed 19 August 2010)
  7. ^ The Chemical Weapons Ban Facts and Figures, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, February 28, 2010
  8. ^ counters are available at the lower-right corner on the [ OCPW website]
  9. ^ "The Chemical Weapons Convention at 10:An Interview With OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter",, Interviewed by Oliver Meier. Accessed Apr 29, 2008
  10. ^ a b c "Review of the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention since the First Review Conference", Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Conference of the States Parties, Second Review Conference, 31 March 2008, available at [1]
  11. ^ a b c d e India Completes Chemical Weapons Disposal; Iraq Declares Stockpile, Chris Schneidmiller, Global Security Newswire, April 27, 2009
  13. ^ Executive Council 61, Decision 1. OPCW. 2010
  14. ^ Albania – First Country to Destroy All Of Its Chemical Weapons,, U.S. Department of State, July 13, 2007
  15. ^ "Global Chemical Weapons Disarmament Operations Approach Halfway Mark", Global Security Newswire, National Journal Group, February 20, 2009
  16. ^ Hundreds of chemical weapons found in Iraq : US intelligence,, June 21, 2006
  17. ^ Munitions Found in Iraq Meet WMD Criteria,, report filed by American Forces Press Service, June 29, 2006
  18. ^ "Russia, U.S. face challenge on chemical weapons", Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, August 7, 2007, accessed August 7, 2007
  19. ^ Tenth Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Chemical Weapons Convention
  20. ^ The Chemical Weapons Ban: Facts and Figures
  21. ^ Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty: Annex on chemicals
  22. ^ Chemical weapons at

External links

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