Chemical Weapons Convention

Chemical Weapons Convention

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

The current agreement is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is an independent organization and often mistaken as being a department within the United Nations.


Signed in 1993 and entered into force on April 29, 1997 the convention augments the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for chemical weapons and includes extensive verification measures such as on-site inspections. It does not, however, cover biological weapons. The convention is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which conducts inspection of military and industrial plants in all of the member nations as well as working with stockpile countries.

Controlled substances

The convention distinguishes three classes of controlled substance, chemicals which can either be used as weapons themselves or used in the manufacture of weapons. The classification is based on the quantities of the substance produced commercially for legitimate purposes. Each class is split into Part A, which are chemicals that can be used directly as weapons, and Part B which are chemicals useful in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

  • Schedule 1 chemicals have few, or no uses outside of chemical weapons. These may be produced or used for research, medical, pharmaceutical or chemical weapon defence testing purposes but production above 100 grams per year must be declared to the OPCW. A country is limited to possessing a maximum of 1 tonne of these materials. Examples are mustard and nerve agents, and substances which are solely used as precursor chemicals in their manufacture. A few of these chemicals have very small scale non-military applications, for example minute quantities of nitrogen mustard are used to treat certain cancers.
  • Schedule 2 chemicals have legitimate small-scale applications. Manufacture must be declared and there are restrictions on export to countries which are not CWC signatories. An example is thiodiglycol which can be used in the manufacture of mustard agents, but is also used as a solvent in inks.
  • Schedule 3 chemicals have large-scale uses apart from chemical weapons. Plants which manufacture more than 30 tonnes per year must be declared and can be inspected, and there are restrictions on export to countries which are not CWC signatories. Examples of these substances are phosgene, which has been used as a chemical weapon but which is also a precursor in the manufacture of many legitimate organic compounds and triethanolamine, used in the manufacture of nitrogen mustard but also commonly used in toiletries and detergents.

The treaty also deals with carbon compounds called in the treaty Discrete organic chemicals. These are any carbon compounds apart from long chain polymers, oxides, sulfides and metal carbonates, such as organophosphates. The OPCW must be informed of, and can inspect, any plant producing (or expecting to produce) more than 200 tonnes per year, or 30 tonnes if the chemical contains phosphorus, sulfur or fluorine, unless the plant solely produces explosives or hydrocarbons.

Member states

Almost all countries in the world have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. As of 19 June 2008, 184 of the 195 states recognized by the United Nations are party to the CWC. Of the 11 states that have not, four have signed but not yet ratified the treaty: (Bahamas, Burma, Dominican Republic, and Israel)- while seven states have not signed the treaty: Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and Syria.

Known stockpiles (of chemical weapons)

As of 2007, there were six member countries which had declared stockpiles:

Iraq has not signed the treaty. Iraq's chemical weapons were destroyed under a United Nations reduction program after the 1991 Gulf War. Approximately five hundred degraded chemical munitions have been found in Iraq since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to a report of the US National Ground Intelligence Center. These weapons contained sarin and mustard agents but were so badly corroded that they could not have been used as originally intended.

Known production facilities (of chemical weapons)

Twelve countries declared chemical weapons production facilities:

By 2007, all 65 declared facilities had been deactivated and 94% (61) have been certified as destroyed or converted to civilian use. As of the end of February 2008, 42 facilities were destroyed while 19 were converted for civilian purposes.

World stockpile

The total world declared stockpile of chemical weapons was about 43,760 tons in early 2008. A total of 71,315 tonnes have been declared to OPCW of which about 27,555 tonnes (over 38%) had been destroyed by March 31, 2008. More than 34% of the 8.67 million declared chemical munitions and containers have been destroyed. (Treaty confirmed destruction totals often lag behind state-declared totals.) Several countries that are not members are suspected of having chemical weapons, especially Syria and North Korea, while some member states (including Sudan and the People's Republic of China) have been accused by others of failing to disclose their stockpiles.


The treaty set up several steps with deadlines toward complete destruction of chemical weapons.

Reduction Phases
Phase % Reduction Deadline Notes
I 1% April 2000  
II 20% April 2002 Complete destruction of empty munitions, precursor chemicals,
filling equipment and weapons systems
III 45% April 2004  
IV 100% April 2007 No extensions permitted past April 2012

Current progress

By July 2007, 33% of known chemical weapons stockpiles had been destroyed worldwide, falling far short of the 100% goal set for in 2007. Furthermore, by April 2008, only 50% of countries had passed the required legislation to outlaw participation in chemical weapons production. By December 31, 2007, 36.5% of Class 1, 52% of Class 2 and all Class 3 declared chemicals had been destroyed.

  • Albania: On 11 July 2007, the OPCW confirmed the destruction of the entire chemical weapons stockpile in Albania. Albania is the first nation to completely destroy all of its chemical weapons under the terms of the CWC. The Albanian stockpile included 16,678 kilograms of mustard agent, lewisite, adamsite, and chloroacetophenone. The United States assisted with and funded the destruction operations.
  • A State Party: The unspecified "state party" had destroyed 96.3% of its stockpile by the end of 2007 and is expected to finish the process by the end of 2008.
  • India: 93.1% of India's chemical weapons stockpile was destroyed by the end of 2007 and India is expected to finish destruction by April 2009.
  • Libya: Libya's entire chemical weapons stockpile is expected to be destroyed by 2011
  • U.S.A.: The United States of America completed Phase III in June 2007, having destroyed over 50.7% of its declared stockpile by December 31, 2007. Over 66% of the chemical weapons destroyed in the world since the treaty came into force were destroyed in the U.S. The United States General Accounting Office has announced it does not expect the United States to complete its campaign until 2014, after the treaty's final deadline. The Pentagon, in late 2006, announced that it expected disposal of the U.S. stockpile to not be completed until 2023.
  • Russia: Russia had destroyed 24% of its stockpile by the end of 2007. Russia completed Phase II in 2007 and had received extensions on the remaining phases. The United States General Accounting Office has announced it does not expect Russia to reach 100% destruction until 2027; however, Russia has declared its intention to complete operations by the treaty deadline of 2012.


Financial support for the Albanian and Libyan stockpile destruction programmes was provided by the United States. Russia received support from a number of nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada; some $2 billion given by 2004. Costs for Albania's program were approximately 48 million U.S. dollars. The U.S. had spent $20 billion and expected to spend a further $40 billion.

See also

Related international law

Chemical weapons

Restricted substances


External links

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