When chemical weapons were banned internationally

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The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force on April 29, 1997. It prohibits the development, manufacture, possession, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. An entire category of weapons was outlawed under international law. From the perspective of the federal government, it has proven to be one of the most successful multilateral disarmament treaties.

The CWÜ prohibits the development, manufacture, possession, transfer and use of chemical weapons. The contracting states are obliged to report all chemical weapons (CW) and the facilities for their production to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and to destroy them under international supervision. Chemicals, equipment and facilities particularly suitable for the manufacture of chemical weapons are also subject to restrictions and verification inspections. All reportable data according to the CWC are subject to systematic verification through on-site inspections: The CWC thus goes beyond the mere outlawing and destruction of weapons of mass destruction. It plays a key role in preventing chemical weapons from spreading further.

Universal validity of the CWÜ almost reached

With 193 members, the CWÜ has almost universal validity. Only four member states of the United Nations have not yet acceded to the CWC: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.

List of CWÜ members

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

When the CWC came into force, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OVCW) was created with its headquarters in The Hague. It monitors the enforcement of and compliance with the CWC by the contracting states. This includes, in particular, the systematic verification of the destruction of all reported chemical weapons and facilities for their manufacture through on-site inspections. Regular inspections in the chemical industry relevant to the CWC are also intended to strengthen confidence that their activities only serve purposes that are not prohibited under the CWC.

The OPCW also promotes international cooperation for peaceful purposes in the field of chemistry. If necessary, it can coordinate protective and relief measures for the victims of a chemical weapons attack. On October 11, 2013, the OPCW received the Nobel Peace Prize for its extensive commitment to the destruction of chemical weapons.

The OPCW acts through the annual Conference of the States Parties, the Executive Council as the permanent governing body (41 members, including Germany) and the Technical Secretariat. At a review conference that takes place every five years, the implementation of the CWC is evaluated and recommendations for the future work of the OPCW are adopted. Fernando Arias (Spain) has been Director General of the Technical Secretariat since July 2018.

German embassy at the OVCW

Chemical Weapons Destruction

Since the CWC came into force, it has been proven that 70,000 tons of chemical weapons, i.e. H. almost 97 percent of the stocks declared by the signatory states worldwide have been destroyed. Most recently, on February 28, 2018, the OPCW certified Iraq that it had completely destroyed its declared inventory of chemical weapons remains. The U.S. plans to have its remaining chemical weapons stocks likely by 2023.

Because of the use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013 near Damascus (Syria), Syria was obliged to disclose and destroy its chemical weapons program. This is based on resolutions of the Executive Council of the OPCW (EC-M-33 / DEC.1) and Resolution 2118 of the United Nations Security Council. Because of the civil war in Syria, the declared chemical weapons were transported away and destroyed abroad. However, according to the OPCW, there are still doubts about the completeness of the Syrian information on the country's chemical weapons program. There are also continuous reports on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The OPCW has been following up these reports since 2014 with a “Fact Finding Mission” (FFM) to determine whether chemical weapons have actually been used. To identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the United Nations Security Council set up a joint investigation, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the OPCW and the United Nations. During his term of office, the JIM issued a total of seven reports to the so-called Islamic State (IS) about the use of mustard gas in two cases and the Syrian regime and the Syrian armed forces responsible for the use of chlorine gas in several cases and the use of sarin in the attack approached Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017, in which around 100 people were killed. Due to Russian vetoes, the JIM's mandate could not be extended in November 2017. Germany therefore supports the International Partnership against Impunity in the use of chemical weapons. At a special conference of the States Parties to the Treaty in June 2018, it was decided, also on German initiative, to give the OPCW the mandate to identify those responsible for CW operations in Syria. For this purpose, the OPCW has set up what is known as an Investigation and Identification Team (IIT).

UN Security Council Resolution 2118

Current announcement of the OPCW on Syria

Seventh report of the OPCW / UNJoint Investigative Mechanism

EU provides support under the CFSP

The EU has promoted the work of the OPCW through “Joint Actions” and Council decisions within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). One focus is on projects that help contracting states to implement their obligations under the CWC in national law. The EU also promotes cooperation in the chemical field for peaceful purposes and to protect against chemical weapons.

Germany and the CWÜ

With a regular membership fee of around 4.2 million euros, Germany is one of the largest contributors to the OPCW and also supports the organization through payments into trust funds - in 2018 over one million euros for assistance and protection against chemical weapons as well as to strengthen IT Security of the OVCW. In 2018, Germany also made it possible for non-governmental organizations to participate in the Conference of the Parties and Review Conference.

The great importance that Germany attaches to the CWÜ is also expressed in the fact that Germany is one of the few countries to have an independent representation at the OPCW in The Hague. Two laboratories belonging to the division of the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) at the Defense Science Institute for Protective Technologies - NBC Protection (WIS) and at the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Federal Armed Forces (InstPharmToxBw) support the OVCW in the analysis of samples. The Bundeswehr also conducts regular training courses for OPCW inspectors in order to prepare them for their activities in operational areas.

Germany also contributes to the destruction of chemical weapons from other CWC signatory states. Since August 2013, Germany has supported the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons with an amount of 5 million euros, the training of OPCW personnel and the disposal of chemical residues from Syrian CWs.

Between 2002 and 2015, within the framework of the G8 initiative “Global Partnership”, Germany helped Russia with considerable financial and technological support in the destruction of Russian CWs. In October 2017, the OPCW General Director confirmed the successful destruction of the declared Russian CW stocks. Germany also supported Libya in destroying chemical weapons from the Gaddafi regime. Between 2016 and 2018, toxic chemicals from the former Libyan chemical weapons program were successfully destroyed in Germany and honored in January 2018 with a ceremony in the presence of the then OVCW Director General Üzümcü and the Libyan Foreign Minister Siala.

In March 2018, the OPCW General Director confirmed the complete destruction of the declared CW stocks in Iraq. Germany had supported the country with the delivery of a mobile laboratory and protective equipment in the destruction of its CW residues.

The chemical industry in Germany and that of other contracting states are regularly inspected by the OPCW. The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) compiles the data on notifiable chemicals according to information from the chemical industry in Germany and prepares them for transmission to the OPCW. As the national authority for the CWÜ, the Federal Foreign Office is Germany's liaison point for the OPCW and the other contracting states.

Project funding: courses on safety management in the chemical industry

According to Art. XI of the CWC, the 193 CWC members promote the exchange of scientific and technical information in connection with the manufacture and use of chemical products for non-prohibited purposes. As a country with a particularly strong chemical industry (third largest importer and one of the largest exporters of chemical and pharmaceutical products in the world), Germany contributes to this exchange of knowledge, among other things, by offering courses on safety management in the chemical industry (“Wuppertal Annual Course of Loss Prevention and Safety Promotion in the Chemical Process Industries ").

The Federal Foreign Office finances the courses run by the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, while the OVCW supports the selection of around 24 applicants from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean every year. Providing knowledge, skills and understanding of sustainable safety management in the chemical industry also serves the purpose of reducing the risk that non-state actors divert dangerous chemicals for unauthorized purposes, e.g. terrorism.

The following short film shows how this happens: www.youtube.com/


The EU has published an e-learning program in English on the subject of disarmament. Here you can find the link to the module Learning Unit 02: Chemical Weapons.