Harvard Sussex Program
on chemical and biological warfare armament and arms limitation

The OPCW/PC History Project
Securing Chemical Disarmament: How the OPCW was built

In August 1992 the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva completed twenty years of work on the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). In May 1997, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), created by the CWC, started work in The Hague. Opening the first session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Convention an "unprecedented agreement in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation". The CWC is the only international treaty to require and to verify the disarmament and non-proliferation of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. That the OPCW could operate effectively at entry into force of the Convention represents the achievement of the OPCW Preparatory Commission ("the Commission").

The aims of the HSP project were:

  • To collect and index an extensive archive of the Commission's work, both documentary and oral.

  • To write a history of the Commission. This has since been published as "The Creation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A Case Study in the Birth of an Intergovernmental Organisation", edited by Ian R.Kenyon and Daniel Feakes. (2007, TMC Asser Press, The Hague)

  • To explain and evaluate the process by which a functioning organization and verification system was created out of a treaty text.

  • To examine the ways in which, and the reasons why, the OPCW differs from the concept developed in Geneva.

  • To identify generic lessons that can be learnt for the establishment of other international organizations.

The project archive includes primary documents but a main focus was on collecting oral or written contributions from diplomats, officials and representatives of the worldwide chemical industry involved in the Commission's work. Some had retired from their previous positions, others were still working in government, some still in the same or related areas, and others still worked for the OPCW Technical Secretariat. Contributions were in the form of written pieces and interview or workshop transcripts.

The HSP project team comprised Daniel Feakes, Ian Kenyon and Julian Robinson. Kenyon was Executive Secretary (chief executive) of the Commission for its whole existence and has many contacts in former national delegations to the Commission as well as its staff members. He is now a Visiting Fellow of SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex. Robinson has followed the negotiation of the CWC since the 1960s. Daniel Feakes spent three years working as a researcher in the OPCW and has continued to research and publish on the CWC since then. He is a Research Fellow of SPRU.

A key HSP resource is the Sussex Harvard Information Bank, its unique archive of material on chemical/biological warfare issues, which is open to other researchers and students in the field. The project team used their long involvement in the maintenance of this archive when collecting and indexing material for the project archive.

Progress reports

These reports first appeared in the OPCW quarterly journal Chemical Disarmament (formerly Synthesis), available online on the OPCW website.

Launch report for the OPCW/PC History Project.
Progress report no 1 (June 2003)
Progress report no 2 (July 2003)
Progress report no 3 (August - October 2003)
Progress report no 4 (November 2003 - February 2004)
Progress report no 5 (February 2005)