Current as of: June 27, 1997


The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, the Netherlands, is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The OPCW structure and functions are described below.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All countries ratifying the Convention become States Parties to the CWC and make up the membership of the OPCW. The OPCW, with headquarters in The Hague, consists of the Conference of the States Parties and its Executive Council, and the Technical Secretariat.

The Conference of the States Parties. As the principal organ of the OPCW, the Conference oversees the implementation of the CWC and acts to promote its object and purpose, including reviewing adherence to the CWC. The Conference also oversees the activities of the Executive Council and the Technical Secretariat and may issue guidelines in accordance with the CWC to either of them for the exercise of their functions.

Not later than one year after the fifth and tenth year after entry into force of the CWC, and at such other times as may be decided upon within that time period, the Conference shall convene in special sessions to undertake reviews of the operation of the CWC. Such reviews will take into account any relevant scientific and technological developments. At intervals of five years thereafter, unless otherwise decided upon, further sessions of the Conference will be convened with the same objective.

The first meeting of the Conference of States Parties was May 6-23, 1997. The second meeting is scheduled for December 1997, and subsequent meetings will be held at least annually.

The Executive Council. The Executive Council consists of 41 members, with each State Party having the right, in accordance with the principle of rotation, to serve on the Council. The members of the Council were elected by the Conference for a term of two years. (For the first election of the Executive Council, 20 members shall be elected for a term of one year.) In order to ensure the effective functioning of the CWC, the composition of the Council is made up in a way that gives due regard to equitable geographical distribution, to the importance of the chemical industry, and to political and security interests. The United States is a member of the Executive Council.

The Council is the executive organ of the OPCW and is responsible to the Conference of the States Parties for its actions. In this capacity, the Council carries out the powers and functions entrusted to it under the CWC, as well as those functions delegated to it by the Conference. In so doing, it acts in conformity with the recommendations, decisions and guidelines of the Conference and assures their proper and continuous implementation. In addition to promoting the effective implementation of and compliance with the CWC, the Council supervises the activities of the Technical Secretariat, cooperates with the National Authority of each State Party, and facilitates consultations and cooperation among States Parties at their request.

The Council has the right and duty to consider any issue or matter within its competence affecting the CWC and its implementation, including concerns regarding compliance and cases of non-compliance, and, as appropriate, inform States Parties and bring the issue or matter to the attention of the Conference.

In cases of particular gravity and urgency, the Council will bring the matter, including relevant information and conclusions, directly to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, the council will inform all States Parties of its action.

The Technical Secretariat. The Technical Secretariat is comprised of: a Director General (who is its head and chief administrative officer); inspectors; and such scientific, technical and other personnel as may be required. The Conference appoints the Director General upon the recommendation of the Executive Council. The Director General is responsible to them for the appointment of the staff and the organization and functioning of the Technical Secretariat. The Director General is Ambassador Jose Bustani of Brazil.

The Secretariat assists the Conference and the Council in the performance of their functions as well as carrying out the verification measures provided for in the CWC. The Secretariat also performs other functions entrusted to it under the CWC and those functions delegated to it by the Conference and the Council.

A major responsibility of the Secretariat is to inform the Council of any problem that arises with regard to the discharge of its functions, including doubts, ambiguities or uncertainties about compliance with the CWC that have come to its notice in the performance of its verification activities and that it has been unable to resolve or clarify through its consultations with the State Party concerned.

It is the responsibility of each State Party to respect the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Director General, the inspectors and other members of the staff and not seek to influence them in the discharge of their duties.

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