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.
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.
- Behind the Doors of the OPCW – Video Report of OPCW Lab from 31Mag.nl
- Behind the Scenes of an OPCW Inspection Mission: Preparation and Logistics
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
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
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.
- OPCW Signs Interface Procedures with UN OCHA
- OPCW and World Customs Organization Expand Cooperation to Prevent Misuse of Toxic Chemicals
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.
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.
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
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, 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.