OPCW Annual Report Cites Progress, Problems

Kerry Boyd

By the end of 2001, India and the United States had destroyed 20 percent of their most dangerous chemical weapons, according to an annual report the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released in October. The OPCW, which oversees implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), also said that other states were making progress in destroying chemical weapons and related facilities, despite some major delays, but that financial difficulties had led it to conduct fewer inspections than scheduled.

Four CWC states-parties have declared that they possess chemical weapons, which the convention prohibits and requires to be destroyed. Two of those countries, India and the United States, completed destruction of 20 percent of their Category 1 chemical weapons stockpiles—agents with high potential for offensive use—ahead of the April 29, 2002, deadline set by the CWC. In October the CWC conference of the states-parties agreed to grant an extension to the two other countries—Russia and an unnamed CWC member state believed to be South Korea—to destroy 20 percent of their Category 1 weapons. (See ACT, November 2002.)

India and Russia finished destroying all their Category 3 chemical weapons in 2001, according to the report. Category 3 weapons are munitions, containers, or equipment that do not contain chemical agent but are specifically connected to the use of chemical weapons. The United States had destroyed more than 99 percent of its Category 3 chemical weapons by the end of 2001 and has since completed the effort. The unnamed country had completed destruction of Category 3 weapons in 1999. Efforts to destroy Category 2 weapons—chemicals that do not fall under Category 1 but could be precursors to Category 1 chemicals or otherwise have offensive potential—in India and Russia were also “well underway” in 2001, according to the report. The United States and the unnamed country have not declared any Category 2 weapons.

By the end of 2001, all but two of the then-145 CWC states-parties had fufilled their treaty obligation to declare any chemical weapons and related facilities they have to the OPCW, continuing a positive trend of more states complying with the declarations requirement, the report says. At the end of 1999, 34 member states had yet to submit their declarations, but by the end of 2000 only five countries had failed to do so. “This positive development greatly facilitated the Secretariat’s planning of inspection activities, particularly for the first three months of 2002,” according to the report.

The OPCW verified that in 2001 states-parties destroyed “957 tonnes of chemical weapons agent contained in 219,592 munitions items and bulk containers and 289,580 unfilled munitions, devices and specifically designed items of equipment in three of the four chemical weapons possessor States Parties,” the report says. The organization also verified that 27 former chemical weapons production facilities were destroyed and eight were converted for nonmilitary uses.

Because of financial difficulties, however, the OPCW conducted only 200 inspections in 2001—68 percent of the 293 inspections budgeted for that year. The organization’s budget for 2001 was more than $62 million, and the secretariat scaled back the number of inspections to avoid a deficit, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Thailand deposited its instrument of ratification of the CWC with the UN secretary-general on December 10, 2002, becoming the 148th state-party to the CWC January 9, 2003.