The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an intergovernmental organisation, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The OPCW is an independent, autonomous international organisation with a working relationship with the United Nations.
The organisation promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. The verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by member states and on-site inspections.
The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize because it had, with the Chemical Weapons Convention, “defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law” according to Thorbjorn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
190 states, representing over 98 percent of the world’s population, are party to the CWC. All 190 parties to the Chemical Weapons convention are automatically members of the OPCW. Syria was the most recent state to submit its instrument of accession to the treaty following the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons. 6 UN member states are non-members: Angola, Burma, Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.
The Hague was chosen as the location for the seat of the organisation after a successful lobby of the Dutch government, competing against Vienna and Geneva. The organisation has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Centre and storage/laboratory facilities in Rijswijk. The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998 and consist of an eight-story building built in a semi-circle.
Convention contains four key provisions to end:
- Destroying all existing chemical weapons under international verification by the OPCW;
- Monitoring chemical industry to prevent new weapons from re-emerging;
- Providing assistance and protection to States Parties against chemical threats; and
- Fostering international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the Convention and promote the peaceful use of chemistry.
The activities of the OPCW and its core organisational structure are described in the Chemical Weapons Convention. The principal body is the conference of states parties, which normally is convened yearly, and in which all countries participate and have equal voting rights. The Executive Council is the executive organ of the organisation and consists of 41 States Parties, which are appointed by the Conference on a 2-year term. The Technical Secretariat applies most of the activities mandated by the Council and is the body where most of the employees of the organisation work. The main activities of the OPCW are performed by the verification and the inspection division.