20 Moments

These 20 moments demonstrate our progress in eliminating chemical weapons worldwide, our commitment to preventing their re-emergence, our faith in international cooperation, our pursuit of universal membership, our dedication to chemistry for peace, and our belief that together we can achieve a world free of chemical weapons.

13 January 1993

Once Upon a Treaty…

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, more commonly known as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), opens for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993. Within the first two days, 130 nations signed the Convention. It was subsequently deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York. A Preparatory Commission worked toward the establishment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and lays the groundwork for the Convention’s implementation until its entry into force.

To date, the Convention — with its 192 States Parties and verified destruction of approximately 96 percent of declared chemical weapon stockpiles — is the most successful disarmament treaty in eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

Photo: Harvard Sussex Program

Learn More

September 1996

OPCW LABORATORY AND
EQUIPMENT STORE OPENS

The OPCW Laboratory and Equipment Store officially opens on 11 September 1996 in the presence of the chairman of the Preparatory Commission, Ambassador Marin Buhoara of Romania, the Mayor of Rijswijk and Executive Secretary Ian Kenyon (left to right).

 

The Equipment Store maintains and dispatches equipment and supplies necessary for inspection teams to fulfil their mandates.

The OPCW Laboratory helps to ensure that samples taken in support of inspections can be analysed either in on-site OPCW portable laboratories or off-site at one of the OPCW’s partner Designated Laboratories. Today, 23 Designated Laboratories across the world coordinate with the OPCW Laboratory to analyse samples collected during OPCW inspections. These laboratories provide a high degree of confidence that chemical analyses in relation to allegations of chemical weapons use are conducted rigorously and to the highest standards.

To gain the status of Designated Laboratory, institutions have to pass a rigorous Proficiency Test administered by the OPCW Laboratory.

Related Videos:

29 April 1997

Convention Enters Into Force
OPCW Founded

The Chemical Weapons Convention enters into force on 29 April 1997, 180 days after the deposit of the 65th instrument of ratification by Hungary. The OPCW is established at the same time. Captured in photos is the day when the 65th instrument of ratification was deposited known as “The Trigger Point” for the 180-day countdown to entry into force of the CWC.

Learn More
 

May 1997

Governing the OPCW

The OPCW is the international organisation responsible for achieving the objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention and for ensuring the implementation of its provisions, including verification of compliance with the Convention and maintenance of a forum for consultations and cooperation among States Parties. It consists of three principal organs: the Conference of the States Parties, the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat.

Learn more about the structure of the OPCW here

In May 1997, OPCW’s two governing bodies, the Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, hold their first sessions within a month of the Convention entering into force.

Conference of the States Parties
The first Conference of the States Parties (CSP) convenes on 6 May 1997. The CSP is the principle organ of the OPCW and consists of 192 OPCW Member States as of early 2017. The CSP is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the CWC, and acting to promote its object and purpose. Every five years, the CSP convenes a special session to review the operations of the CWC. The First Review Conference was held from 28 April – 9 May 2003. The Fourth such meeting will take place in 2018.

Learn More About the CSP
Learn More About the Review Conferences

Executive Council
The first Executive Council (EC) convenes on 23 May 1997. The EC consists of 41 OPCW Member States who are elected by the CSP and rotate every two years. The EC supervises the activities of the Technical Secretariat, and is responsible for promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the Convention. The Russian Federation and the United States have welcomed the Chairperson of the Executive Council, the Director-General and a delegation of the Executive Council to obtain an overview of destruction programmes being undertaken. The same has been done regarding chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in the People’s Republic of China. Each EC visit includes substantial time at destruction facilities.

Learn More About the EC
 

28 June 1997

First OPCW Chemical Weapons Inspection

Building Confidence in Tangible Results

The OPCW’s inspectorate conducts its first inspection of a chemical weapons storage site at the United States Blue Grass Army Depot, on 28 June 1997, two months after the Convention becomes legally binding. Through this on-site inspection, OPCW’s inspectors confirm that the Blue Grass Army Depot’s chemical activities are consistent with the objectives of the Convention and verify the U.S. declaration to the OPCW.

Inspections under Article IV and Article V of the Chemical Weapons Convention are a crucial mechanism for OPCW fulfilling its mission to verify the destruction of declared chemical weapon stockpiles and destruction or conversion of chemical weapons production facilities worldwide.

As of February 2017, approximately 68,000 metric tonnes of chemical weapons stockpiles and 7.4 million munition items have been destroyed. Additionally, 90 chemical weapons production facilities have been destroyed or converted by possessor states.

Nearly 254,000 inspector days have been devoted to verifying these results.

Learn More

November 1997

Chemical Industry

An essential partner

Chemical industry’s contributions to achieving a world free of chemical weapons have proven essential and include: participating in the negotiations of the Convention, implementing fully the Convention’s provisions, and ensuring a functioning and trusted verification regime through declarations submissions and on-site inspections.

 

The first OPCW industry inspection took place in November 1997 in Italy. As of the end of 2016, 3,322 inspections of industrial chemical facilities on the territory of 82 States Parties have been conducted since entry into force and 241 industry inspections are anticipated for 2017. During these inspection missions, OPCW inspectors confirm that no chemicals are being produced or used for prohibited purposes and that the activities at inspected sites are in compliance with the Convention. This is how industry does its part to make sure chemical weapons do not re-emerge.

The successful completion of so many chemical industry inspections represents meaningful progress in achieving universal compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Chemical industry inspections help promote confidence that States Parties to the Convention are adhering to their obligation to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons.

The relationship between the OPCW and the chemical industry has evolved over time. OPCW is no longer only seen as an auditor and regulator, but instead OPCW is seen as a partner for improving the verification regime that ensures chemicals are not used for prohibited purposes, and improving the capacity of States Parties through international cooperation programmes.

Building on years of cooperative work between the OPCW and chemical industry, the partnership has taken new form. In 2015, a coordination mechanism was established with the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) in 2015 through the creation of the OPCW–ICCA Joint Steering Committee, as well as the establishment of the Chemical Industry Coordination Group (CICG). Areas of cooperation with ICCA cover verification activities as well as education and outreach, and chemical safety and security.

Learn More
 

September 2000

A growing OPCW Family

OPCW Associate Programme Launches

In September 2000, a group of hand-picked scientists, chemical engineers and technological specialists embark on a three month long capacity-building project to enhance their knowledge of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to develop the skills necessary to operate in a modern chemistry environment.

Now in its 18th year, the OPCW Associate Programme has evolved into a major international training project conducted over 9-10 weeks in Asia, Europe, and Latin America to foster the economic and technological development of OPCW Member States. More than 400 Alumni from 118 developing countries support national implementation of the Convention and engage in outreach activities worldwide.

Photo: Associates on Industry placement at CIBA Switzerland 2005

Learn More about the Associate Programme
Learn More about the Alumni Association

17 May 2000

Vital Partners:
OPCW and UNITED NATIONS SIGN RELATIONSHIP AGREEMENT

 

The OPCW and the United Nations sign a Relationship Agreement outlining the modalities for their future cooperation and the mechanisms for consultation on matters of mutual interest and concern. The OPCW’s Conference of the States Parties approves the agreement one year later.

Over the years, OPCW has forged other important relationships to advance its mission and implement the Convention. In 2012, OPCW signs an agreement with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to coordinate activities in case of chemical weapon emergencies. In 2017, OPCW and the World Customs Organization (WCO) sign a Memorandum of Understanding that further enhances cooperation between the two organisations to tighten national and international controls on the trade of toxic chemicals.

Learn More
 

2007

Africa Programme Begins

The Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on the Chemical Weapons Convention — more commonly known as the Africa Programme — launches as a tailor-made capacity-building project that responds to the particular needs of African Member States in their endeavour to implement comprehensively and effectively the Convention.

Thanks to the vibrant and consistent partnership among the OPCW, African Union Commission, Pan African Parliament, East African Legislative Assembly, Inter-Parliamentary Union, the European Union and others, the Programme continues to provide tangible benefits to the region through capacity building and facilitating the peaceful uses of chemistry.

On 1 January 2017, the programme commenced its fourth phase, with the aim of assisting African States Parties in achieving their goals and aspirations for inclusive and sustainable development and for a peaceful and secure Africa.

 

9 May 2007

Remembering all Victims of Chemical Weapons

Her Majesty Beatrix, The Queen of the Netherlands, unveils the OPCW’s permanent Memorial to all victims of chemical weapons during a solemn commemorative event on the occasion of the OPCW’s 10th anniversary.

The Memorial, consisting of a maple tree situated in a dune landscape with granite paving etched with a poem to chemical weapon victims, symbolises the global will to eliminate chemical weapons and to establish a world free of chemical weapons.

The ceremony is a recommitment by Member States — without distinction of culture, race or creed — to a future free of chemical weapons

The Memorial was made possible through a generous gift from the OPCW’s Host Country, the Netherlands, provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the City of The Hague.

In 2015, the Conference of the States Parties at its Twentieth Session decided that the Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare, first observed on 27 April 2006, would be observed on 30 November from 2016 onward.

Learn More

11 July 2007

Albania
First Possessor State to Achieve Zero Chemical Weapons Under Convention

Albania becomes the first State Party to destroy its entire declared stockpile of chemical weapons under OPCW verification. A year later, another State Party eliminated its declared chemical weapon stockpiles, followed by India in March 2009.

In 2011 and upon request, the Conference of the States Parties decided to amend the destruction deadline. The Russian Federation and the United States of America — the two countries with the largest declared chemical weapon stockpiles — are expected to complete destruction by 2020 and 2023 respectively.

Learn More
 
 

September 2007

Testing Readiness:

OPCW Challenge Inspection Exercises

The Convention grants each State Party the right to request an on-site challenge inspection of any facility or location under the jurisdiction of any other State Party to clarify and resolve any questions concerning possible non-compliance with the provisions of the Convention. Such inspections might be conducted anywhere and without delay by an OPCW inspection team

Although no OPCW Member State has requested a Challenge Inspection since the Organisation inception, the Technical Secretariat regularly holds exercises to ensure its readiness to conduct such inspections.

September 2007

The Netherlands hosts a Challenge Inspection exercise on 10 September 2007 in Delft to simulate a chemical weapons attack on a commercial chemical facility. The purpose of the exercise was to test the readiness of an OPCW inspection team to conduct a Challenge Inspection.

October 2011

A Challenge Inspection exercise is held at OPCW HQ in The Hague and in an undisclosed location in Thailand from 31 October – 4 November 2011. This was the first Challenge Inspection exercise to be held in Asia.

Championing the Convention

CWC Coalition Founded

December 2009

Building on the long-standing contributions of civil-society to the goals of the Convention, a dedicated group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) gather from 2-3 December 2009 during the 14th Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, to establish the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition (CWC Coalition). The CWC Coalition is a global network of civil society organisations and representatives that champion the goals of the Convention and its stated mission is: “To support the aims of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to supplement the efforts of the member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with focused civil society action aimed at achieving full membership of the CWC, the safe and timely elimination of all chemical weapons, preventing the misuse of chemicals for hostile purposes, and promoting their peaceful use.”

Currently, the CWC Coalition is comprised of over 50 associations and dozens of individual activists from around the world who raise awareness and advocate for a world free of chemical weapons. At the 2013 Review Conference, the Conference of the States Parties decided to ensure the attendance and participation of NGOs at all future CSPs and Review Conferences.

Learn More
 

14 OCTOBER 2013

Syria Joins the Chemical Weapons Convention

The Syrian Arab Republic becomes a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and a member of the OPCW on 14 October 2013. In the lead up to Syria’s accession, the UN Secretary-General calls upon OPCW to provide its assistance to the UN, in a country that had yet to join the CWC, with its investigation into allegations of chemical weapons use.

Once Syria joins the Convention, a complex endeavour to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons programme commences. This is the first demilitarisation operation in an active war zone undertaken by the OPCW jointly with the UN. The operation entails the removal, maritime transportation and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons outside of its territory. Financial and in-kind contributions from 30 OPCW Member States and the European Union ultimately lead to the destruction of all chemical weapons declared by Syria and removed from its territory by January 2016.

Learn MoreView our Special Section on Syria and the OPCW
 

10 December 2013

Nobel Prize for Peace

Awarded to the OPCW

“For its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons,” the 2013 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to the OPCW on 10 December 2013.

  • Watch the full Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo City Hall
  • Read the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s speech
  • Watch the video to get a sneak peek into events behind the scenes of this prestigious award.
  • Learn about the OPCW-The Hague Award, a lasting legacy of the OPCW’s Nobel Prize for Peace.

Ieper Declaration

Heeding
the lessons
of history

21 April 2015

The OPCW marks the centenary of the first large-scale use of chemical weapons with a commemorative meeting of its Member States in Ieper, Belgium. This event honours the memory of all victims of chemical warfare over the past century, and serves to re-dedicate collective efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons. To this end, a Declaration was issued by the States Parties that concludes with their determination, “to heed the lessons of history, to embrace what unites them, and to build on it”.

Learn More
 

18 November 2015

Ensuring an Ethos of
Science for Peace

The Hague
Ethical Guidelines

To promote a culture of responsible conduct in the chemical sciences and to guard against the misuse of chemistry, a group of chemical practitioners from around the world formulate a set of ethical guidelines informed by the CWC.

The core element of The Hague Ethical Guidelines is that “achievements in the field of chemistry should be used to benefit humankind and the environment”.

The Hague Ethical Guidelines have been endorsed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and served as the basis for the drafting of the Global Chemists’ Stakeholders Code of Ethics.

Learn MoreRead The Hague Ethical Guidelines Brochure
 
 

May 2016

Spotlight on Talent

Inaugural Women in Chemistry Symposium

The OPCW kicks-off its inaugural Women in Chemistry Symposium attracting talented women from government, industry and academia to illustrate the strength and depth of contributions women have made to the peaceful uses of chemistry; to raise awareness of education and capacity development opportunities for women in peaceful chemistry; and to promote international solidarity and cooperation.

The second edition of the Symposium on Women in Chemistry will be held again at OPCW Headquarters on 2 May 2017 with the theme of “Women as a Force for Peaceful Uses of Chemistry”.

Each Symposium is followed by an Analytical Chemistry Course to assist qualified analytical chemists from Member States, whose economies are developing or in transition, in acquiring further knowledge of and experience with the analysis of chemicals related to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to facilitate the adoption of good laboratory practices and quality standards.

Learn More

Remove. Transport. Destroy.

2016

OPCW coordinates complex & agile international effort for a chemical weapons-free Libya

Libya asks OPCW and the international community on 3 February 2016 for assistance with destroying its remaining Category 2 chemical weapons from its former chemical weapons programme. These chemical materials are dual-use industrial chemicals, however, under the definition of the Chemical Weapons Convention they are Category 2 chemical weapons due to the purpose for which they had been acquired. The request is prompted by an eroding security environment, the condition of the storage tanks, and concerns about the chemical weapon pre-cursors falling into the hands of terrorists.

Tanks containing chemical materials from Libya’s former chemical weapons programme are unloaded by crane from a Danish transport vessel into the port of Bremmen, Germany in September 2016. Photo: Defence Command Denmark

 

These circumstances precipitate the Libyan Government of National Accord asking for support and assistance on 16 July 2016 in transporting and destroying outside of Libyan territory these final remnants as soon as possible. On 20 July 2016, the OPCW Executive Council requests that the Director-General assist Libya with developing its plan to destroy the chemicals. Two days later, the UN Security Council adopts UNSCR 2298 welcoming and endorsing the Executive Council decision.

In response to Libya’s request, an international operation coordinated by the OPCW is mounted with contributions from Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States to support the timely destruction of Libya’s remaining chemical weapons in the safest and most secure manner. Three countries – Libya, Denmark, and Germany – take the lead for key elements of the operation (removal, maritime transport, and destruction). The other contributors provide personnel, technical expertise, equipment, information, financial and other resources.

On 8 September 2016, the multi-country maritime transportation operation led by Denmark successfully delivers the chemical materials to Germany and marks the beginning of the destruction operation under OPCW verification. Destruction is anticipated to conclude by the end of 2017. Because of the determination of Libya and the international community supported by OPCW verification, the world can have confidence that these chemicals will never become weapons.

Learn More

2017

MAJOR CHEMICAL WEAPONS ZERO MILESTONE:

96 PER CENT OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS DECLARED BY POSSESSOR STATES DESTROYED

Photo: U.S. Army

 
 

During the OPCW’s 20th Anniversary year, 96 percent of declared chemical weapon stockpiles are verifiably destroyed. This is another milestone in the global endeavour to rid the world of chemical weapons. Chemical weapon possessor states such as Albania, India, Libya, Russia, Syria, the United States and another State Party have declared a total of 72,304 metric tonnes of chemical agent. Destruction involves stocks of unitary and binary weapons, such as sulfur mustard, and primary precursor chemicals for producing deadly nerve agents, like sarin. All destruction activities have been conducted in a safe manner.

This milestone signifies that 96 percent of a lethal threat — largely a legacy of the Cold War — has been permanently eradicated under the OPCW’s watchful eye. The Chemical Weapons Convention — with its 192 States Parties — is the most successful international disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapon of mass destruction. OPCW continues to seek to unite the whole world – including Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan – in abolishing these cruel weapons that have no place in today’s arsenals.


Today’s OPCW

Today, the Chemical Weapons Convention is the most successful international disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. The commitment to the Convention by 192 nations — representing 98 per cent of the world’s population — is meant for the benefit of people and the planet.

The CWC is an effective, comprehensive and non-discriminatory legal instrument for the elimination of chemical weapons, but it has yet to achieve universal membership. The world can only have confidence that all chemical weapons have been eliminated once the few remaining nations take on the responsibilities of the Convention.

With approximately 96 per cent of declared chemical weapons destroyed under strict international verification, we are reminded that the goals of the Convention are not limited to destroying existing stockpiles. Instead, keeping the world permanently free of chemical weapons and chemical threats are also an imperative. The shifting security landscape, which now includes the real threat of chemical terrorism, and rapid advances in science and technology demand our attention.

Now and into the future, vigilance must be our watchword. The science of chemistry can never again be turned against humanity. As the international authority on chemical weapons, OPCW’s cooperation with governments, industry, scientists and civil society has spotlighted how chemistry when used for peace, advances progress and prosperity.

The OPCW’s mission continues, as does its relevance. The world has agreed that chemical weapons have no place in today’s arsenals and the OPCW and its Member States will continue its tireless work with our partners to eradicate this scourge on humanity. The indispensable nature of the CWC has been apparent for the past 20 years, and will be crucial for attaining the future we all desire. At this 20th anniversary, OPCW reaffirms the commitment to working together for a world free of chemical weapons.