Emergency Assistance

In adhering to the Convention, States Parties voluntarily renounce the option of chemical weapons. In return, they are assured that they will not be subject to, or threatened by, the use of these weapons in the future. This security assurance comes in two forms. First, the Convention’s verification and inspection mechanism provides assurance that existing stockpiles of chemical weapons will be destroyed and that toxic chemicals and their precursors will be controlled so that they cannot be diverted for use as chemical weapons. Second, the Convention requires that all States Parties, through the Organisation, offer viable and meaningful assistance to any other State Party that is attacked or is threatened with chemical weapons.

Paragraph 1 of Article X defines “assistance” as the coordination and delivery to States Parties of protection against chemical weapons. Such assistance could include the provision of detection equipment and alarm systems, protective equipment, decontamination equipment and decontaminants, and medical antidotes and treatments, as well as advice on any of these protective measures. It is clear from the text that the Convention’s list is not exhaustive, and that assistance can encompass further measures.

The OPCW’s coordination and delivery of an effective assistance package can be compared with the desire of states to develop a strong national defence capability. The two have the following common purposes: (a) to deter any possible aggression; (b) to raise the cost of aggression if deterrence fails; and (c) to give confidence to the population that its security is being defended. In addition, the availability of such assistance gives a strong political signal that the international community no longer tolerates the use of chemical weapons, and contributes to the universality of the Convention.

Article X requires the OPCW to provide a meaningful, timely and effective assistance package. In order to be able to fulfil its obligation – which is essentially to mobilise an international response mechanism and to coordinate the unilateral offers made by States Parties to create an assistance package that is ready to be delivered at any moment to any part of the world – the Secretariat must address many issues, including:

(a) technical aspects: inter-operability and serviceability of the equipment offered by different States Parties; addressing questions such as different shelf-lifes, the time frames required to operate various pieces of equipment, different specifications, and the kinds of equipment needed under different circumstances;

(b) coordination with other agencies: since many agencies may be involved in providing assistance, coordination is essential; the Secretariat will have to collaborate with: various States Parties with differing legislation, regulations and procedures for the use and dispatch of equipment, with the requesting State Party in the delivery and distribution of assistance in the field, with other states offering assistance, with other international organisations and NGOs providing other forms of humanitarian assistance, non-governmental organisations, and with any specialist teams sent by States Parties;

(c) medical and safety aspects: coordination of Secretariat staff, local victims, experts, teams of specialists dispatched by States Parties and other medical teams, particularly on issues such as the control of communications; and

(d) logistical aspects: coordination of the transportation, handling and distribution of the equipment offered by States Parties.

The Secretariat has drafted the "Assistance Response System"(Draft Concept), which foresees a gradual response to different scenarios and a modular approach to the mobilisation of resources. In this regard, it has also drafted a standard operating procedure (which is currently under internal consideration) for meeting the needs of the requesting State Party. The Secretariat conducted the first OPCW full-scale exercise on the delivery of assistance in Croatia in 2002. The Secretariat is also working on the following: establishing a reliable stockpile of equipment for the Secretariat's Investigation Team which will be required to conduct investigations of alleged use and for the Assistance and Coordination Team (ACAT) to assess and coordinate the receipt and delivery of assistance; and increasing its capacity to deliver and distribute assistance in the field (particularly in the areas of command and coordination).