What is the CWC?

Treaty Info

The Chemical Weapons Convention

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, more commonly known as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period of time. 

This remarkable treaty was the first multilateral agreement to call for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction within a set timeframe. As the full name suggests, the comprehensive treaty prevents everything from the use or transfer of chemical weapons to their development or stockpile. 

The Convention entered into force on 29 April 1997. Since then, the CWC has brought about the destruction of 98% of the chemical weapons stockpiles declared by possessor States. The treaty is of unlimited duration, and currently has 193 member states. 

The treaty text has four main provisions (OPCW):

  1. Destroy Stockpiles: destroy all existing chemical weapons stockpiles under international verification by the OPCW
  2. Prevent Re-Emergence: monitor chemical facilities to prevent chemical weapons from re-emerging
  3. Protect from Threats: provide assistance and protection to member states against chemical threats
  4. Foster Peaceful Uses: foster international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the Convention and promote the peaceful use of chemistry

Additionally, the CWC contains provisions for the creation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is made up of three main bodies: the Conference of the States Parties, the Executive Council, and the Technical Secretariat. 

The OPCW is the implementation body of the Chemical Weapons Convention and has the ultimate goal of securing a world free of chemical weapons. The Conference of the States Parties is the plenary organ of the OPCW, and it gives member states an annual opportunity to convene in The Hague to oversee the implementation of the CWC and review compliance. 

Both on the international stage and in local communities, much work has been done to rid the world of the threat of these dangerous weapons. Our network of civil society organizations and individuals continue to support the aims of the CWC, increase public awareness, and promote universalization of the treaty. 

You can access the full treaty text here

Want to learn more about the OPCW and the CWC? Check out the OPCW’s video series, OPCW Basics.