The Verification Regime of the Chemical Weapons Convention: An Overview

Friday, 28 November 2008
By: Dr Peter Boehme, Industry Verification Branch, OPCW
Verification activities are concentrated within two operational units––the Verification Division and the Inspectorate Division. Both Divisions work hand in hand in planning, conducting, and reviewing all OPCW inspections. They contribute essential elements to the success of CWC implementation. They bolster confidence building through the review, compilation, and evaluation of declared data and through the inspection of declared sites related to chemical weapons, as well as within the chemical industry.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the development, production, acquisition, retention, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons. It also prohibits all States Parties from engaging in military preparations to use chemical weapons, and from assisting or encouraging other States to engage in activities prohibited by the Convention.

The Convention consists of a Preamble, 24 Articles and annexes on chemicals, on implementation and verification ( the “Verification Annex” to the Convention), and an annex on the Protection of Confidential Information.

The Verification Annex to the Convention provides a comprehensive regime for verifying all chemical weapons-related activities, as well as routine monitoring of the chemical industry through on-site inspections. It stipulates the requirements for the declaration and verification process. The Verification Annex is by far the most extensive portion of the CWC.

All States Parties are required to make detailed declarations, providing information on chemical weapons, chemical weapons storage facilities (CWSFs), chemical weapons destruction facilities (CWDFs), chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs), and facilities used in the past for the development of chemical weapons. Similarly, all States Parties are required to make chemical industry declarations related to toxic chemicals and precursors that are mentioned in the three schedules of chemicals, as well as to other chemical production facilities (OCPFs) producing discrete organic chemicals (DOCs).

This article aims to provide a general overview of the tasks entrusted to the Verification Division as part of the operative implementation of the Convention.

Verification activities are concentrated within two operational units––the Verification Division and the Inspectorate Division. Both Divisions work hand in hand in planning, conducting, and reviewing all OPCW inspections. They contribute essential elements to the success of CWC implementation. They bolster confidence building through the review, compilation, and evaluation of declared data and through the inspection of declared sites related to chemical weapons, as well as within the chemical industry. These activities are carried by personnel in the Verification Division and by OPCW inspectors.

Information provided by Member States is checked and confirmed independently by OPCW inspectors from over 60 countries. Each of the Member States has agreed to the designation of the inspectors for inspections in their country. The objective and non discriminatory procedures by which inspections are conducted and information given in declarations is verified, supports and builds trust amongst Member States.

The Verification Division is shaping the verification process by collecting, evaluating, and compiling declared data, by planning inspections, and by reviewing inspection reports. This is done in strict accordance with the provisions of the Convention. The Division facilitates Industry Cluster consultations between Member States to resolve outstanding industry issues, deals with facility agreements, and keeps the State Parties informed about the operational results––for example, by providing statistics, by drafting the the Verification Implementation Report (VIR), and by supplying information concerning verification activities on demand. Furthermore, it supports and assists State Parties, National Authorities, and the chemical industry through local or regional workshops and other meetings, in cooperation with other Divisions of the Technical Secretariat.

The Verification Division is comprised of four Branches: the Declarations Branch (DEB), the Chemical Demilitarisation Branch (CDB), the Industry Verification Branch (IVB), and the Policy Review Branch (PRB), together with the OPCW Laboratory. A broad outline of their respective mandates is given below.

The DEB provides the route through which declarations and other verification-related information is received. All matters related to declarations are handled within this Branch. The data is collected in electronic or in paper form, evaluated and transferred into the Technical Secretariat’s databases in a completely isolated Security Critical Network (SCN) computer system. The SCN has strict, limited user access, and it is designed to ensure the confidentiality of all the system’s data. This includes the input, storage, and evaluation of data using the recently established Verification Information System (VIS). In addition, the secure archive, which handles all classified documents and archives them in hard copy and in electronic form, is part of this Branch.

The CDB plans, monitors, and reviews all verification activities related to previously destroyed and/or converted chemical weapons production plants (CWPFs), to chemical weapons storage facilities (CWSFs), to continuous verification of chemical weapons destruction facilities (CWDFs), and to all matters related to abandoned or old chemical weapons and their destruction. The Branch ensures the verification of all chemical weapons related activities, the review of the results of inspection activities, and the provision of recommendations to management.

The IVB deals with industrial plant sites handling scheduled chemicals, as well as those producing non-scheduled organic chemicals. This comprises a large portion of the chemical industry. The Branch is involved with the planning and review of all industry inspections to ensure that inspection activities and reporting are in accordance with the non-proliferation provisions of the Convention. The Branch also develops concepts and provides information for industry inspection-related topics to management and to State Parties.

The PRB provides overall guidance on verification policy matters and is operationally active in preparing and training the Organisation in all matters relating to challenge inspections. Facility agreements, conceptual and reporting tasks (for example, the preparation of the VIR), are essential parts of the Branch’s activities.

The OPCW Laboratory is located in a separate facility in Rijswijk. It plays an instrumental role in preparing the methods and the database for missions that use sampling and analysis, and in keeping the analytical instruments calibrated and ready for use. It will operate as a control unit in case an off-site analysis is required and manages the analytical OPCW proficiency tests, in which selected laboratories are approved to perform off-site analysis of samples from inspections.

The Second Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (“Second Review Conference”) has tasked the Technical Secretariat in regard to many aspects related to verification activities. In the report of the Second Review Conference, out of all the points mentioned in the section related to the review of the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, about 40 points are directly related to activities in which the Verification Division and its Branches are involved and where they can play a key role.

Increasingly, matters pertaining to the inspection of OCPF plant sites have drawn more attention. In any matter that is being considered, the balance between sufficient information to guide the CWC verification activities on the one hand, and the integrity of the chemical industry on the other hand, must be maintained.

Topics relating to outstanding industry issues are dealt with in the Industry Cluster, where Member States conduct informal consultations on important topics that require consensus prior to their submission to the policy-making organs for a decision. The meetings are chaired by facilitators from the Member States, who are supported by technical personnel from the Verification Division.

It can be envisioned in the long term, that the emphasis of activities of the Verification Division will gradually focus on Article VI related tasks and on supporting and assisting National Authorities of States Parties in implementing the Convention.


Categories: Disarmament, Inspectorate, National implementation, Non-proliferation of chemical weapons

For further information, please contact OPCW Public Affairs. +31 (0) 70 416 3242, public.affairs@opcw.org | ORGANISATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS, Johan de Wittlaan 32, 2517 JR The Hague, The Netherlands

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