Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms control treaty on the production, development, and stockpiling of chemical weapons. It is officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition, Development, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction.
It is administered and works under the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
OPCW is an intergovernmental organization located in Hague, Netherlands. OPCW won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013 for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.
The CWC was drafted and submitted to the United Nations on September 3, 1992. The UN’s General Assembly approved the Convention on November 30, 1992. The UN Secretary-General, which serves as the custodian and depository of the Convention, officially opened the Convention for signature on January 13, 1993 in Paris. The Convention became effective and came into force on April 29, 1997 following the 65th instrumental ratification deposited by Hungry to the UN Secretary-General.
The Convention has been ratified by 65 states only. A total of 193 states are party to the Convention, and only 165 states signed it. The UN members North Korea, Egypt, and South Sudan are not a part of the Convention and are non-parties to the treaty as they never signed or acceded to the treaty. Israel has signed the Convention but didn’t ratify it and remains a non-party state.
The treaty aims to prohibit large-scale production, use, development, transfer, selling, and stockpiling of chemical weapons and their precursors. It gives limited relaxation to member states on using chemical weapons and their precursors for research, medical, pharmaceutical, and protective purposes. Once acceded to the Convention, the member states are obliged to destroy their current chemical weapons.
The destruction process will be held under the overview of OPCW followed by their verification process. The CWC is a successful convention, and it has been instrumental in eliminating chemical weapons across the world. Due to the efforts put up by CWC, 98.39% of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed.
The CWC has given authority to OPCW to undertake a systematic investigation on chemical production facilities of the member states. They can investigate allegations raised by member states on another member state about the use and production of chemical weapons. The CWC has a list of chemicals that are to be controlled, lists out exempted uses, and draws a clear framework for the production and use of chemicals based on toxicity.
The origins of CWC can be traced back to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which bans the use of chemical and biological weapons in war but does not restrict or prohibit the development of the same.
The Geneva Protocol was followed by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1972, a disarmament treaty that banned the use of biological and toxin weapons by prohibiting its production, transfer, acquisition, development, stockpile, and use.
The difference between CWC and BWC is that BWC lacks a verification process, and in CWC, the verification is carried out by OPCW directly.
The 1962 Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) was evolved into Conference on Disarmament (CD) in 1984. These developments led CD to submit a draft of the disarmament treaty to the UN in 1992, and the UN accepted that draft as the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Convention is administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). OPCW acts as the legal platform for the specification of CWC provisions. The structure, activities and authority of OPCW is described by CWC.
Conference of the State Parties (CSP) is the principal body of CWC and OPCW. The CSP is convened yearly. All the state parties can attend it, and everybody has equal voting rights on CSP.
A Permanent Representative in the CSP represents the member states. Typically, the ambassador of member states to the Netherlands is the permanent representative.
The CSP is responsible for decision-making regarding CWC and OPCW. The Executive Council of OPCW consists of 41 state parties appointed by the CSP for a two-year term. The Council, meanwhile, handles the budget and coordinates every activity related to the Convention. The Technical Secretariat oversees the inspection and verification processes conducted by OPCW.
All the state parties have to contribute to the budget of OPCW, and it works independently from the UN.
The treaty was enforced from April 29, 1997, and closed for signature. The non-signatory states can be a part of the Convention through accession. The membership to the Convention is open for any state who is ready for accession to the treaty.
As of now, 193 countries in the UN acceded to the Convention. Israel has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it. In 2018 the State of Palestine deposited its instrument of accession in the UN.
The conference of state parties allows UN agencies and other national and international NGOs to sit in the conference as observers.
OPCW conducts dialogues with non-member states to destroy their chemical weapons and stockpile. OPCW uses the UN agencies and other such bodies as dialogue partners to communicate with non-parties.
The various intergovernmental and NGOs are invited as guest participants to the conference of state parties.
Future membership possibilities
The non-member states can be a part of the Convention at any time if they submit the instrument of accession to the UN.
The member states have to agree on destroying all the chemical weapons and their production facilities under the verification of OPCW. Then they will be accepted as parties to the Convention.
OPCW is responsible for all the activities under the CWC. The primary responsibility of OPCW is to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons carried out by member states. OPCW has to do the onsite verification and inspect the production facilities from time to time.
The Organization is also responsible for investigating the allegations made by member states against other parties in the Convention.
OPCW won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2013 for its activities and efforts to reduce and eliminate chemical weapons. The Organization works towards the disarmament of nation-states and spreads the message of peace harmony among countries.
Cooperation on security
The Organization is responsible for cooperation and overseeing security in chemical production facilities owned by member states. OPCW carries out verification and onsite inspections to guarantee safety and security and ensure there are no violations from the member states.
Article XI of the Convention allows the state parties to use the chemicals for their economic purposes and say that the Convention will be implemented without hampering the economic development of state parties.
The Organization is also responsible for cooperating and coordinating exchanging knowledge for the welfare of state parties.
OPCW is an organization for disarmament, and the CWC is a convention for arms control and doesn’t have any cultural cooperation.
OPCW is the agency that undertook the activities and is responsible for the provisions of CWC, and it conducts the conference of state parties every year.
List of Summits
The Conference of State Party is the apex body of the Organization and meets once a year. There have been 26 sessions held, and the latest was in November 2021 to December 2021 at Hague.
The Organization also meets for Review of Conference once in five years. The first Review of Conference was held in 2003, and latest was in 2018. The review conference reviews the operation to control chemical weapons and sets the strategic aims for the next five years.
The Convention is successful, and under OPCW, 98% of the world population is part of the treaty. The member states agreed to destroy all the chemical weapons, ensuring peace and harmony.
Importance to India
India became a part of CWC and acceded to the Convention in 1997. According to statistics, India had destroyed all the declared chemical weapons and destroyed or converted the chemical weapons production facilities across the country.
The membership of India and the neighboring countries China and Pakistan are encouraged as they agreed to destroy the chemical weapons.