The Secretariat's Role

In this section:

Participants at a Workshop on Assistance and Protection against Chemical Weapons in Mozambique, March 2013.


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.


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:

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • 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
  • logistical aspects: coordination of the transportation, handling and distribution of the equipment offered by States Parties.
Participants at an Assistance and Protection Course in The Hague, November 2012.

Preparation & Training

Needless to say, preparation and training are needed if the Organisation is to be able to coordinate and provide adequate assistance in a timely manner. The Secretariat is therefore working to devise schemes for the expeditious delivery of assistance and helps to organise training courses for national personnel that could be involved in assistance efforts. Participants in these courses and workshops have learned about the logistical difficulties involved in the efficient delivery of assistance, and have discussed possible responses to terrorist attacks, the need for joint training and exercises involving the Secretariat and States Parties offering assistance, as well as questions dealing with standardisation of equipment contributed by States Parties.

Preparation and training are also needed for the investigation part of the process. For this purpose, the Organisation is procuring equipment to be used for investigations of alleged use. Furthermore, the OPCW held full-scale exercises of an investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons in the Czech Republic and Poland. This enabled the Secretariat to test its procedures for deploying IAU inspection teams, and to assess its state of readiness to deal with all possible eventualities and situations that might be encountered. In 2002, the first full-scale exercise on the delivery of assistance ("ASSISTEX1") was carried out in Croatia. As with other training activities, those exercises were designed to enhance the ability of the Secretariat to respond should a request for assistance ever be received.

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 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).

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Did You Know?

Article X requires the OPCW to provide a meaningful, timely and effective assistance package to any Member State requiring assistance.