Countries must translate the obligations in the Chemical Weapons Convention into their national laws and regulations.
The intrusive nature of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s verification regime, coupled with the fact that it covers private chemical enterprises as well as government facilities, means that national measures to implement the Convention are of great importance.
Article VII of the Convention requires States Parties to adopt laws that prohibit individuals and companies from undertaking any activity prohibited by the Convention, such as making or using chemical weapons. They are also required to designate or establish a National Authority ‘to serve as the national focal point for effective liaison with the Organisation and other States Parties. Effective implementation of the CWC has become even more important than before, in view of the new security risks and threats, in particular terrorism.
Per Article VI of the Convention, another crucial requirement for national implementation is for States Parties to adopt the necessary national measures to ensure that toxic chemicals are only used for peaceful purposes.
National Implementing Measures
All States Parties are required under Article VII of the Chemical Weapons Convention to adopt the ‘necessary measures’ to legally implement the CWC within their legal structures. They must then inform the OPCW of the legislative and administrative measures they have taken. Article VII contains some specific and required measures such as passing laws that criminalise certain conduct prohibited by the Convention and establishing a National Authority.
The complex nature of these obligations means that each State Party must assess the steps necessary for making sure the Convention will be implemented effectively and enforced within its jurisdiction.
Depending upon the State Party’s constitution, its existing laws, the extent of its chemical industry, or whether it has (or had) a chemical weapons programme, the steps the State Party has to take may be very few or quite extensive.
In all cases, however, a review of existing legislation is an important first step to ensure that legal implementation is consistent and effective.
Who implements the Convention at the national level?
The Convention deals with weapons and warfare
The Convention addresses riot control agents and requires the enforcement of national laws and regulations
Criminal Justice System
Acts that violate the provisions of the Convention must be punishable at the national level
The Convention restricts trade in scheduled chemicals
The Convention’s industrial verification regime monitors the production, processing and consumption of chemicals
Other Commercial and Educational Entities
The Convention requires national controls on toxic chemicals which may affect commercial or research activities
Each State Party is required to designate a National Authority and is granted representation in the OPCW
What does a National Authority do?
What does a National Authority look like?
Every State Party is different, and has discretion in determining the size, structure, composition, and mandate of its National Authority. It may either designate an existing government department or agency the task of acting as the National Authority, or establish an entirely new entity specifically for this purpose.
The National Authority can be either a centralised entity with responsibilities covering all aspects of national implementation of the Convention, or a decentralised entity acting as a liaison between the OPCW and the multiple government departments or agencies responsible for specific aspects of national implementation.
Each State Party’s particular circumstances will determine the composition, structure and mandate of its National Authority. Factors that may influence this include the types of chemical facilities the Member State possesses, the amount of resources it can allocate to implementation, or whether or not it possesses chemical weapons.
For States Parties that do not posses chemical weapons and have little or no declarable chemical industry, the National Authority can be a body consisting of just one or two people within an existing government department or ministry; for States Parties with large declarable industries or chemical weapons destruction programmes, the National Authority may be a standalone government agency.
How Does the OPCW Support National Implementation?
National implementation of the Convention can be a demanding task. Some States Parties have little domestic experience with many of the issues covered by the CWC.
The OPCW Technical Secretariat regularly holds training courses around the world for personnel involved with National Authorities; since 1997, thousands of participants have received support through OPCW meetings, workshops, training courses and seminars.
The focus of training courses has gradually shifted from topics like the preparation of national implementing legislation to other concerns such as the development of analytical capabilities and customs issues. In addition to regional courses, the Secretariat supports national courses in areas relevant to the Convention.
The OPCW provides a wide-range of programmes to support national implementation of the Convention.