What is the OPCW and what does it do?

2013-10-11 11:36
A general view shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands. (AFP)

A general view shows the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands. (AFP)

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The Hague - The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize on Friday have been working for years to rid the world of chemical arsenals.

The organisation was thrust into the spotlight when it was required to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, but it has been working since the 1990s as the body that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons.

The convention prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons. It came into force in 1997 and has been ratified by 189 states.

Of those, seven - Albania, India, Iraq, Libya, Russia and the United States, along with a country identified by the OPCW only as "a State Party" but widely believed to be South Korea - have declared stockpiles of chemical weapons. These include mustard gas and nerve agents like sarin and VX.

Syria is due to become a member state of the organization on Monday and has acknowledged having chemical weapons. Non-signatories to the treaty include North Korea, Angola, Egypt and South Sudan. Israel and Myanmar have signed but not ratified the convention.

Stockpile destruction

The OPCW has conducted more than 5 000 inspections in 86 countries. It says 100% of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been inventoried and verified.

According to its statistics, 57 740 metric tonnes, or 81.1%, of the world's declared stockpile of chemical agents have been verifiably destroyed. Albania, India and "a third country" - believed to be South Korea - have completed destruction of their declared stockpiles. An OPCW report released earlier this year said the United States had destroyed about 90% of its stockpile, Russia had destroyed 70% and Libya 51%.

Thirteen OPCW members have also declared a total of 70 chemical weapons production facilities. The organization says all 70 have been taken out of commission including 43 destroyed altogether and 21 converted to peaceful purposes.

The OPCW is funded by its member states and had a budget of some 74 million euros in 2011. It employs some 500 people in The Hague. The director-general is Turkish diplomat Ahmet Uzumcu.

Read more on:    opcw  |  nobel prize

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