The global governance of weapons of mass destruction: Lessons from the OPCW


Full text


The global governance of weapons of mass destruction:

Lessons from the OPCW

Master Thesis, 6 March 2018

Leiden University, the Netherlands

Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs

MSc Public Administration: International and European Governance





1. Introduction ... 3

1.1 The CWC and The OPCW... 4

1.2 Research Question and Goal ... 6

1.3 Societal Relevance ... 7

1.4 Theoretical Relevance ... 8

2. Theory ... 10

2.1 Learning ... 10

2.2 Perspectives on Learning ... 11

2.3 Summary of Hypotheses ... 14

3. Research Design and Data Collection ... 16

3.1 The Case Study Approach and Process Tracing ... 16

3.2 Data Collection ... 18

3.3 Operationalization of Key Variables ... 20

4. Case Analysis ... 22

4.1 The Destruction of Libya’s CW Arsenal ... 22

4.2 The Destruction of Syria’s CW Arsenal ... 25

4.3 Alleged Use of CW in Syria: Post-Destruction ... 29

5. Discussion ... 33

5.1 Summary of Results ... 33

5.2 Limitations ... 35

5.3 Strengths ... 36

6. Conclusion ... 37

References ... 39

Appendices ... 42

Appendix A: Complete List of Documents ... 42

Appendix B: Interview ... 44



In 1918, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Professor Fritz Haber for inventing the Haber-Bosch process – a method for large-scale synthesis of fertilizers and explosives. The German chemist revolutionized agriculture worldwide. Haber discovered a way to convert the nitrogen gas from the earth’s atmosphere into a compound that could be used in producing cheap and effective fertilizer, and thus was able to introduce a major technological innovation that even today, is a primary method for producing agricultural fertilizers that sustain the food base for the equivalent of half of the world’s current population (King, 2012).

Professor Fritz Haber was a German patriot who unequivocally devoted the resources of his research institute to meeting Germany’s wartime efforts. He held the key to the combined process used not only to derive fertilizer for food production, but also used for the synthesis of nitrates and other explosives essential to modern warfare. In April 1915, Fritz Haber was on the front lines of Yepres, Belgium, sketching the devices and calculating the timing of what he hoped would be a lethal gas attack (Jensen, 2017). In the morning of the 22nd of April 1915, the Germans released 168 tons of chlorine gas from nearly 6,000 canisters in what is now known as the world’s first successful large-scale chemical weapon attack. The yellow-grey coloured cloud settled over approximately 10,000 Allied soldiers. More than half of those soldiers are believed to have died by asphyxiation within minutes after the attack took place (King, 2012).

This new terrible weapon was denounced as inhumane by the Allied generals who however, began using it themselves within five months after the initial attack. By 1916, Fritz Haber was given the rank of captain and found himself acting as the chief of Germany’s Chemical Warfare Service (Jensen, 2017). For his efforts directing the team of scientists on the front lines in World War I, Professor Fritz Haber would become known as the father of chemical warfare.


OPCW and the treaty it enforces, the Chemical Weapons Convention, for having made the use of chemical weapons “taboo under international law”(, 2017).

This research aims to explore the factors behind OPCW’s relative success. In this regard, it will unfold in five steps. First, it will elaborate on the significant aspects of the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Regime, followed by a detailed explanation of the research question this study aims to answer, and the goals this research aims to accomplish. Second, the theoretical perspective that guided the framework of this research will be introduced and explained. The third chapter will explain the research design and method that guided the execution of this study, and the type of data used in this regard. The forth chapter further proceeds to the case analysis by exploring, in accordance with the theoretical prescriptions and methodological standards, the main instances of what the theory on policy learning and change identifies as “critical junctures” in the history of the OPCW. The final chapter discusses the results from the analysis and the limitations of this research project. It is followed by a conclusion summarizing the main findings, strengths and shortcomings of the current research project.


The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was opened for signature in January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. It is intended to be a verifiable comprehensive ban on chemical weapons as an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Today, the CWC has achieved close to complete universality: there are 192 parties to the Convention, with one signatory state (Israel) and three States not Party (DPRK, South Sudan and Egypt).

The Convention represents a total ban. According to the Chemical Weapons Convention, all toxic chemicals are considered to be a chemical weapon unless they are intended for a purpose not prohibited (CWC Art. II (1)). Even the empty munitions, devices and equipment, if specifically designed for use in dispersal of toxic chemicals for harm to humans or animals, are banned (CWC. Art. II (1)). Besides its disarmament purpose, the CWC establishes a regime for non-proliferation through the method of trade restrictions, States party are under the obligation to control the toxic chemicals and their precursors. Under Article I, the Chemical Weapons Convention Provides:


(a) To develop, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;

(b) To use chemical weapons;

(c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons;

(d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

2. Each State Party to destroy chemical weapons it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

3. Each State Party undertakes to destroy all chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of another State Party, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

4. Each State Party undertakes to destroy any chemical weapons production facilities it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

5. Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.

The convention applies during peace time and during armed conflict, be that international or internal conflict. No reservations are permitted under the articles of the convention (Yepes – Enriqez and Tabassi, 2002)

However, in the absence of effective enforcement, universality is a narrow accomplishment. The ability to enforce its prohibition on chemical weapons gives the Convention its true significance (Kelle, 2014). A number of factors such as national implementing legislation, overcoming problems that can arise politically, trying to persecute offenders and international cooperation, are key for effective enforcement. Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention establishes an organization specifically tasked with the implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification of compliance1 with the Convention, and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation among States Parties (OPCW, 2018) The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the international organization responsible for achieving the objectives set out in the CWC. This treaty-based organization consists of three principal organs: the Conference of State Parties, the Executive

1The Verification Annex to the CWC provides for a comprehensive regime for verifying all chemical


Council and the Technical Secretariat. The Conference of States Party (CSP) oversees the implementation of the CWC, promotes treaty objectives and reviews compliance. It is the highest organ of the OPCW and usually meets annually. The CSP can also convene in special sessions.

The Executive Council (EC) is the executive organ responsible for promoting the effective implementation of the CWC and compliance with it. It consists of 41 member states selected for a two-year term. To ensure geographical balance, membership is predetermined by regional groups: nine states from Asia, nine from Africa, five from Eastern Europe, seven states from Latin America and the Caribbean, and ten from the Western Europe and Other Group of states. One seat rotates between the Asian and the Latin American Group. The EC meets in regular sessions four times each year and in informal or special sessions if necessary.

Finally, the Technical Secretariat assists the Conference and the Council in performing their tasks, and carries out the measures provided in the CWC including on-site inspections, monitoring and verification (OPCW, 2018). The Technical Secretariat has on average 500 staff members out of which one about two hundred are inspectors. It is headed by the Director-General and a Deputy Director-General along with a top structure of senior management. As the biggest part of the Secretariat’s activities is related to the verification of chemical weapon’s destruction and these activities in possessor states have ended or have been substantially reduced, a debate about the composition, future and size of the OPCW has emerged especially focusing on the Technical Secretariat. (Kelle, 2014)

To date, the OPCW has registered significant successes in perusing the goals of the CWC. Since its inception, the OPCW has overseen the destruction of over 93% of the total declared CW, including 98% of the chemical weapons possessed by the USA, and 100% of the chemical weapons possessed by Russia (OPCW, 2018). Now, the key question facing the OPCW and the States Parties to the CWC is how to best utilize the fairly rigid institutional frameworks that have evolved over the past 20 years to achieve the strategic adaptation to the changes in science and technology, and the progression of non-state actors.



How did the OPCW adapt to challenges to eventually persist and prevail in the execution of its mandate?

For this purpose, I aim to identify casual mechanisms that could explain the OPCW’s ability to respond to challenges. This research gives special attention to OPCW’s work in Libya and Syria. In this regard, this exploratory single case-study research applies a process tracing method by looking at a variety documents issued by the OPCW’s main organizational bodies, complimented by qualitative and semi-structured interviews. Ultimately, this research engages in compilation of theories of policy learning to find out if the OPCW’s ability to respond to the challenges encountered in Libya and Syria is due to the Organisation’s ability to learn from set-backs and implement the lessons learned. To accomplish this goal, this research project will aim to:

(1) ascertain learning arrangements used by the OPCW in the execution of its mandate; (2) identify prominent focusing events that have impacted the Organisation’s activity; (3) search for a chain of events that link the operation of learning processes to patterns of

policy change at the OPCW.

In summary, the main objectives of this research are to explore the factors behind OPCW successby applying and testing a compilation of theories of policy learning and change.



Chemical materials and technologies, almost always of dual use, move easily in the globalized world, as well as personnel with the scientific expertise to design and use them. Building a basic nerve-gas bomb simply involves filing a large tank with a chemical agent to surround an explosive core linked to a detonating device (Beckett, 1983). Many toxic chemical agents are relatively easy to obtain due to their strong dual-use element. For example, key ingredients for the production of nerve gas (ammonia, ethanol, sulphur…) are industrial chemicals used in quantities of millions of tonnes in the commercial sector (Schmid, 2002). The knowledge and technology is also easily accessible. On 20 March 1995, the apocalyptic group Aum Shinrikyo staged a multiple-point terrorist attack in Tokyo, Japan, when Sarin gas was released in the city’s subway system. In its recruitment, the Aum Shinrikyo managed to attract young people who studied medicine, biology, chemistry and engineering at top universities. Within two years they managed to produce 30 kilograms of sarin with dual-use components bought on the commercial market, and used it as a crude weapon killing 19 people and injuring more than 1,200 (Schmid, 2002).

Moreover, the advancement, availability and abundance of information and technology will continue to impact the world in many positive ways but also negative. The technology for production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) such as chemical biological and nuclear weapons will proliferate. There is an increasing risk that this proliferation will go beyond state actors to non-state actors such as terrorist groups. Therefore, it is important to identify and understand the contributing factors behind the successes and failures of WMD prohibition regimes. The Chemical Weapons Prohibition regime offers a rare example of success in this domain. However, its driving forces remain unexplored and therefore, are scarcely grasped.



One of the main challenges in studying policy learning is how learning is defined conceptually (Busenberg, 2001). Theoretical ambiguity in the literature in what exactly constitutes policy learning learning and the methodological problems of causation in complex systems, have been considerable setbacks in approaching this theme (Bennet and Hewlett , 1992). Moreover, the fragmented literature on learning and its role in public policy formulation identifies different type of learning, different actors, learning processes and effects of learning. Bennet and Hewlett (1992) are amongst the first scholars to attempts to consolidate the vast literature on policy learning, and to offer an integrated approach on learning. However, despite this conceptual refinement, there are still significant gaps in the literature. For instance, the relationship between learning and change is still somehow blurred analytically. Researchers encounter difficulties in attempting to study learning in isolation from change, and often rely on the presence of change to determine the presence of learning (Rose, 1991; Bennet and Hewlett, 1992).



This chapter outlines the theoretical framework that is used to provide a tentative answer to the research question indicated in the previous chapter. The first part of the theoretical framework elaborates on the main aspects of policy learning included in the current study. The second part explores the theoretical differences in perception of policy learning and change. The last part develops hypotheses that logically follow from these theories and represent the expected answers to the research question.


The literature on policy learning emerged in the 1960s along with the mounting realization that policy making does not only resume to power, and on the other hand, also involves collective puzzling under conditions of uncertainty (Deutsch, 1963; Argyris and Schon, 1978; Bennett and Howlett, 1992; Busenberg, 2001). While the policy process involves interest groups, political parties and social movements and other forces battling for the supremacy of their agendas and of their interests, there is also the sense that policy is intended, to a fair extent, to contribute to the public good. Therefore, as circumstances and information change, policy ought to be scrutinized regularly and improved if possible. This process entails learning. Among the first emphasis on learning in the study of policy making, Deutsch (1963) asserts that governments operate through a constant process of ‘feedback’ and ‘steering’ that depend on and enhance the governmental ‘learning capacity’.


capacity for lesson-drawing, a sustained motivation to use this capacity and utilize its products (Boin et al. 2017).

Policy learning habitually occurs in a policy process comprising politically engaged individuals, called policy actors (Moyson et al., 2017). Policy actors interact to influence government decisions in relation to a topical issue over time. They may come from various organizational affiliations and include politicians and public officials, managers of public and private companies, members of pressure groups, academics and researchers. The process of “puzzling” and the will to translate the lessons derived from the leaning process into action is most often dependent on the will and abilities of these policy actors (Sabatier, 1988; Boin et al. 2017; Moyson et al., 2017). Crises are often thought to stimulate learning (Boin et al. 2017) by accelerating puzzling, and subsequently by prompting a strong determination for the policy actors directly involved to not be caught unaware or incapacitated in the future. Additionally, continuing advances in science and technology as well as the accumulation of policy experience over time, create reoccurring opportunities for the policy actors involved in the policy process to learn (Busenberg, 2001).


Are international organizations capable to learn from crises and to implement the lessons learned in a meaningful way? According to Boin et al. (2017) crises create a politically charged atmosphere and subsequently induce a strong motivation across all organizational levels, to reduce weaknesses and avoid future hazards. This motivation is then translated into organizational, policy and/or system-wide changes.


Boin et al. (2017) further elaborates on the Argyris and Schon’s (1978) theory by stating that single-loop learning occurs more frequently in the aftermath of a crisis as it is common for organizations to attempt to mitigate the effects of crises by issuing a number of rule adjustments, improvements in equipment and training, and other similar measures. Nevertheless, this is not sufficient to induce meaningful change. The majority of crises uncover innate embedded weaknesses such as contradictions in existing policies, norms or institutional arrangements that would require a double-loop learning process if the underlying problems are to be resolved in a meaningful and effective way.

However, learning does not always lead to policy change nor to greater organizational effectiveness. Even if the process of learning may lucratively occur, rigid institutional structures and interests can counteract change (Bennett and Howlett, 1992). In this case, learning will remain at the individual level and will not become embedded into organizational routines and policy decisions. Especially when faced with a crisis, the policy actors will most often choose to preserve rather than reform the status quo. The lessons that are drawn and that challenge the conventional wisdom concerning the seriousness of a given problem and its principal causes and solutions, emerge gradually over time and will be fiercely challenged by those who perceive their interests to be adversely affected (Sabatier, 1988). This will make the central policy actors incline towards a low-risk, conservative strategy, aimed to defend and maintain the existing institutional and policy arrangements even if the newly acquired knowledge contradicts this idea (Boin et al, 2017).

Some scholars (Rose, 1991; Bennett & Howlett, 1992; Sabatier, 1993; Moyson, 2016) point towards an even more cynical deduction, and presume that policy learning is difficult if not impossible to achieve. When organizations try to learn it is likely to be sub-optimal at best. Knowledge acquisition on complex policy issues is far from easy: ‘if no problem is perceived, little research will be done; new technologies can cause a “stampede” of studies; while poorly defined problems may or may not be studied, but will have little possibility that any study undertaken will be policy relevant’ (Etheredge & Short, 1983; cited by Bennett & Howlett, 1992, p. 286).


rigidity (Moyson, 2016; Sabatier, 1993). Policy actors are not perfectly rational and, as a result of various psychological biases such as the ‘certainty effect,’ they tend to privilege what they believe rather than accept information that might challenge those beliefs. Sabatier (1988, Pp:155) highlights the selective use of knowledge. Policy actors tend to resist or even ignore information that questions the validity of basic believes. So that knowledge cannot change their understanding of basic facts and impending issues. Accordingly, effective learning cannot be expected when policy actors have contrary ideas and assumptions.

Additionally, the threat rigidity hypothesis predicts that the conditions of crisis make it hard if not impossible to learn. According to Janis (1972; cited by Staw et al, 1981), under stress situations it is common for decision-making groups to reduce their flexibility and as a result to seal off new information and to curb nonstandard responses. Crises may cause organizations to behave as if complex, dynamic and interrelated environments are in fact simple, static and unrelated. In this case the organization's response to crisis will be to constrict learning when the situation is in fact demanding increased multidimensional learning (Staw et al, 1981). In such circumstances, even in the aftermath of crisis, policy actors fearing for their standing will seldom posses the motivation to investigate what went wrong before and during the crisis and to learn from the experience (Boin et al. 2017).

On the other hand, not all change is a result of learning. Policy change is possible without policy learning when a major disruption, a crisis, induces changes in the policy direction. Crises signal that pre-existing policy and institutional arrangements have failed, and open opportunities for change that in normal times would be implausible. However, reform proposals are often rushed in an effort to mitigate the fallback of crises guided by self-interested political actors. This type of change is often a result of the demand for speedy, firm action rather than the result of a learning process (Boin et al. 2017).


opening a window of opportunity for implementing the lessons learned and making the system more robust (Boin et al. 2017).


The OPCW, presumably, has the capacity to learn. This assumption is based on the mechanisms within the Organisation established for lesson-drawing purposes. The most important of such mechanisms is the Review Conference. This special session of the Conference of the States Parties is prescribed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (Article VIII), and is summoned every five years. Its main goal is to review the operations of the CWC and the OPCW, and outline future priorities and recommendations.

Crisis conditions are expected to have the potential to accelerate the Organization’s learning processes. However, there are specific conditions for learning to occur, and crises can both facilitate or hinder this process (Busenberg, 2001). Certain factors such as the characteristic of the issues in question, the distribution of decision-making authority within the Organisation, the availability of resources, and the international structures governing the WMD policy, have the ability to both: facilitate and constrain, the effects of the learning process on by swaying some courses of action. For example, learning arrangements can generate policy proposals that are beyond the Organisation’s capabilities or that might generate a conflict of interests between different actors. In such cases, the overall functional value generated by the process of learning will be substantially reduced.

To provide a tentative answer to the research question and establish if in fact the OPCW’s ability to learn from crises and implement the lessons learned is a significant contributing facet to the Organisation’s success, the following hypotheses are set forth:

H1: The accumulation of policy experience over time creates a capacity to learn.

Through its activity, the OPCW has accumulated significant experience in the area of arms control and chemical disarmament. Moreover, institutional arrangements within the OPCW suggest that the Organisation is in fact adept to learning. Therefore, it is expected that the OPCW is capable to derive lessons from its past experiences and implement those in attempts to mitigate emerging challenges.


Crises have a potential to create a politically charged atmosphere and subsequently induce a strong motivation for the Organisation not to be caught unaware or incapacitated in the future.

H3: Policy actors must be willing to learn and implement the lessons learned to produce change.

When this motivation is experienced at all levels of the organization, especially at the leadership levels (EC, CSP and TS Senior Management), it is translated in to policy.

H4: Ultimately what is learned is how to better implement policies in order to achieve the goals set forth in the Chemical Weapons Convention.



This chapter outlines the research type and method used to test the conceptual model outlined in Chapter 2. First, it identifies process tracing as the most appropriate method of empirical analysis that allows to appropriately scrutinize the capability of institutions to learn from past experiences and implement the lessons learned. Afterwards, the type of data used in this research is discussed. Lastly, this chapter elaborates on the operationalization of the key variables in this study.


The current study is an exploratory single case study research. It is based on the in-depth empirical investigation of the OPCW in order to explore the instances of policy change in the aftermath of crises as a result of learning, and to elucidate features of institutional learning by developing and evaluating theoretical explanations. In this study, the volatility of policy arrangements within the OPCW and the OPCW’ institutional capacity to learn and adapt are conceptualized and analysed empirically as a manifestation of a broader class of phenomena or events. This is done with the purpose to elucidate how did the chemical weapons prohibition regime emerge as a major example of success in international cooperation in the field of arms control. The single case study design is fitting for research projects, such as this one, which do not seek universality but rather a holistic, rich understanding of the context under investigation (Berg, 2009).


learn and implement the lessons learned? How are lessons learned implemented and to what effect?

Process tracing represents “an invaluable method that should be included in every researcher’s repertoire” (George and Bennett, 2005. Pp. 224). It holds a number of advantages in conducting policy research especially when it comes to case study research. To begin with, process tracing can offer a rigid counterpart to widely used methods in policy studies such as Large-N designs and comparative studies. For example, Large-N designs offer useful information on the inputs and outputs of a given causal relationship and answer the questing of ‘what’ causes learning. However, Large-N studies fail to go beyond singular correlations and answer the question of ‘how’ an organization learns and implements the lessons learned. Process tracing techniques are perhaps the only tools that allow the researcher to go beyond merely identifying correlations between independent variables and outcomes. Studying causal mechanisms with process-tracing methods enables the researcher to make strong within-case inferences about the causal process explaining the way outcomes are produced, thus, enabling the researcher to update the degree of confidence held in the validity of the theorized causal mechanism (Beach and Pedersen, 2013).


Finally, process tracing is well suited to the theoretical pluralism common in frameworks employed in policy studies research. Theoretical pluralism can offer a more powerful and theoretically triangulated causal inference. Therefore, allowing the researcher to test theories simultaneously and to go beyond simply assessing if a hypothesized variable is absent or present (George and Bennett, 2005). Using process tracing makes it possible to specify from among a set of potential variables those that best explain causality at each link in a causal sequence, thus properly addressing the inherent complexity of the policy processes. Given the multitude of theoretical perceptions of learning and change, process tracing constitutes one of the few methodological approaches in social sciences that allow the researches to employ, reconcile and test, a multifaceted aggregated theoretical framework. Our case implies tracking causal mechanisms resulting from a complex combination of theoretical perspectives that is aimed at providing an exhaustive account of institutional learning and policy dynamics.

The OPCW makes an excellent case study subject to process tracing because: (1) the organization is fairly ‘young.’ It has been in existence for only 20 years therefore making its activity highly traceable. Moreover, (2) it maintains a large database of public documents, making for large volume of source material for process tracing. This research project instigates two major focusing events that have occurred since the OPCW’s creation, and uses process tracing techniques such as document analysis and interviews, to identify a chain of events that link the operation of the Organisation’s learning instruments and process to patterns of policy change and performance.



nuances in the policy process such as the key stakeholders involved, the enabling factors that facilitated learning, and the shifts in key policy processes.

To achieve the scope of this research, a preliminary body of documents was selected. It consisted of a small but relevant variety of documents related to the OPCW’s major policy decisions. These are mainly decision papers issued by the Executive Council and the Conference of the State’s Party as well as the Office of the Director-General. The selection criterion was based on the centrality of the documents relative to the decision making process, and the occurrence of the words: “extraordinary character”, “cooperation”, “previous/past experience”, and “unprecedented,” in texts which were collected. The preliminary body of text included eight documents and spanned across the time period of the years 2013 to 2016. This specific time period received attention because it is the period when OPCW, after a prolonged period of anonymity, came into the international spotlight through the Nobel Peace Prize and its extensive engagements in Syria.

Document Date Title/Content

RC-3/S/1 12.03.2013 Review of the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention Since the Second Review Conference EC-M-33/DEC.1 27.09.2013

Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons

C-18/DG.17 02.12.2013 Opening Statement by the Director-General to the Conference of the States Parties at its Eighteenth Session EC-M-36.DG.5 17.12.2013 Statement by the Director-General To the Executive

Council at Its Thirty-Sixth Meeting

C-19/DG.16 01.12.2014 Opening Statement by the Director-General to the

Conference of the States Parties at its Nineteenth Session C-20/DG.17 30.11.2015 Opening Statement by the Director-General to the

Conference of the States Parties at its Twentieth Session EC-M-52.DEC.1 20.07.2016 Destruction of Libya's Remaining Chemical Weapons C-21/DG.17 28.11.2016 Opening Statement by the Director-General to the

Conference of the States Parties at its Twenty-First Session


On the basis of the findings from the initial body of text, more documents were added until the inclusion of new documents didn’t produce new results, meaning at that point where theoretical saturation is achieved. The final body of documents is composed of 25 documents, and covers the time period between the years 2011 and 2017. The full list of the body of documents is enclosed in Appendix A.

Second, interviews provided the information about the internal organizational learning and processes that cannot be directly deducted from the official documents published by the OPCW (such as motivation). A mixture of open–ended and semi-structured-depth interviews were conducted with current OPCW Technical Secretariat employees. In total five individuals were invited to participate in the research out of which one individual agreed to be interviewed for the study (see Appendix B).

The research participant is a Political Affairs Officer in the Political Affairs Branch of the External Relations Department of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. Interviewees for this study were selected based on the principle of “purposeful selection” - a strategy in which “particular settings, persons or activities are selected deliberately in order to provide information that cannot be found from other choices” (Maxwell, 2005. Pp: 88). Interviewees were purposefully selected based on their knowledge of the internal policy process of the OPCW, and their direct or indirect involvement with the Organisation’s handling of Libya and Syria’s chemical weapons and the allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

In-person interviews were conducted in January 2018, at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands. Interviews were semi-structured and used open-ended questions (Berg, 2009). The interview process involved a number of predetermined questions and topics to be inquired of each interviewee; however, the interviewer was allowed to go beyond scandalised questions and to touch upon emerging themes. The average length of the interview was about 60 minutes. At the beginning of each interview a brief overview of the research project was given to the participants, and the informed consent was obtained verbally. Interviews were recorded manually. A summary of the interview questions and answers is provided in Appendix B.



precautions against potential perils. For the purpose of this study, learning is defined as “the commonly described tendency for some policy decisions to be made on the basis of knowledge of past experiences and knowledge-based judgments as to future expectations” (Bennett & Howlett, 1992, Pp: 278). Learning is not random. It is a continuous process shaped by policy actors, institutional arrangements, and the relationship between them, and the impact of previous policies. Learning can affect change as a sufficient but not necessary condition.



Since its foundation in 1997, for the most part of its existence the OPCW operated as a technical organization. It was mostly shielded from political debate and big power struggles. The deliberations at the Conference of States Parties, in the Executive council and in the Technical Secretariat concerned primarily technical and operational matters such as: inspection procedures, handling of equipment, proper technology for destruction, budgets and staff issues (Ellahi et. al, 2017). Towards the end of its second decade of existence, the OPCW faced major challenges in its work in Libya and Syria, both bearing significant political and big-power interest implications, unprecedented for the OPCW.

This chapter examines the process of learning during the most challenging period of OPCW’s activity in an attempt to search for a chain of events that link the operation of learning processes to patterns of policy change. Moreover, this chapter provides an exploratory account of the Organisation’s activity in Syria and Libya in an attempt to elucidate if in fact, the OPCW’s ability to learn and adapt is a contributing factor to its success.

The process of striping Libya of its chemical weapons arsenal and chemical weapons production capabilities began as a conventional operation. However, soon it became clear that this undertaking brought about technical complication and political implications, atypical for the OPCW. Soon after, the chemical weapon aspect of the Syrian conflict presented the OPCW with an even greater challenge. While the OPCW made efforts to keep the higher political level considerations separated from its technical and operational matters – especially the collection and analysis of samples of chemical weapons, such efforts were not always successful.


Libya used chemical weapons under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in a series on conflicts, including the 1987 war with Chad (St John, 2014: Pp 73). In 2003, in an attempt to reconcile with the western powers, Gaddafi agreed to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to allow extensive international inspections to be conducted by the OPCW (Davenport, 2016). Libya became a state party to the CWC in early 2004, and the sixth2 state to declare


possession of CW. The destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal and chemical weapons producing facilities began the same year.

Libya was different from other chemical weapon possessor states. It was a relatively small country of about 6 million people, ruled by an authoritarian leader determined to re-build ties with the international community. Until 2004, the United Nations Security Council was imposing some of the harshest economic sanctions on Libya. Moreover, it was the first country of concern that has been willing to submit itself to a comprehensive disarmament and international verification process (Tucker, 2009).

In February 2004, the OPCW received a declaration from the Libyan government. The OPCW inspectors monitored the destruction of 3,500 aerial bombs designed to deliver chemical agents, and began the process of verifying Libya's initial declaration. In March 2004, OPCW inspectors confirmed the presence of 23MT of sulphur mustard and approximately 1,390MT of sarin precursors (OPCW: Libya Facts and Figures, 2017). Inspections also revealed poor storage and maintenance of Libya’s chemical weapons arsenal. Libya kept its mustard gas in plastic containers that reacted chemically with their contents, leading to corrosion and leakage. Additionally, Libya manufactured at least some of its CW agents to a very poor quality which further complicated the destruction process (Tucker, 2009).

Therefore, the process of destroying Libya's existing CW stockpile proceeded slower than expected. Initially, Libya and the United States agreed to cooperate and share the cost of destroying Libya's chemical weapons. However, this agreement ended in June 2007, due to disputes over bureaucratic arrangements such as liability and ownership, and the distribution of costs (Tucker, 2009; Davenport, 2016). Libya did not indicate how it intended to meet its commitment3 to destroy its CW by the deadline set forth by the OPCW. Upon the outbreak of the 2011 uprising and the fall of the Gaddafi regime, approximately half of its chemical weapons stockpile remained declared but not destroyed.

In 2011, following the armed uprising and the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the establishment of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Libyan authorities announced the discovery of two previously undeclared sites containing chemical weapons (EC-66/NAT.17). The same year Libya provided a revised declaration to the OPCW that included information


on the undeclared chemical weapons by the Gaddafi regime (C-16/DG.18). Compared to the majority of Libya’s chemical agents, which were stored in containers, the newly discovered components were already armed and loaded into 517 artillery shells, 45 plastic sleeves for rocket launchings and eight 500-pound bombs (Schmitt, 2014).

The fragile political situation, civil war and post-war reconstruction further delayed the destruction of Libya’s chemical weapons. The newly installed Libyan Government lacked both the technical and the financial capability to destroy the chemical weapons. As a result, the Libyan government, through its national authority4 requested assistance from the OPCW to secure and destroy the chemical weapons. This task represented a number of challenges, which included (1) gaining secure access to the sites which had to be guaranteed by the Libyan authorities and was not possible to arrange due to the ongoing armed conflict in the region; (2) safe removal of toxic chemicals – ensuring that it is done within tight time frames in an environmentally-friendly manner, with proper security throughout the process; (3) provision of adequate technical and transportation support; (4) the lack of a proper destruction facility in Libya and (5) the political, security, social and environmental implications any failure to handle these remaining toxic chemicals would cause (Annex B: Interview).

In response to the situation in Libya, the OPCW took a number of steps which included: the return of the Organisation’s inspectors to the country to continue to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles; communicating with the United Nations and States Parties to offer OPCW security assistance on the territory of Libya; (RC-3/S/1) and financially aiding the destruction process by establishing a voluntary trust found for Libya(C-17/DG.16). In January 2014, Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz confirmed that it has destroyed all of its declared Category 1 and Category 3 chemical weapons (OPCW, 2014).

However, Libya’s Category 25 chemical weapons remained inaccessible due to the volatile security situation. Simultaneously, member states of the OPCW expressed their concern

4 Under Article VII of the CWC “each State Party shall designate or establish a National Authority to serve as the national focal point for effective liaison with the Organization and other States Parties.”


regarding the serious risk of Libya’s remaining CW falling into the hands of non-state actors and potentially endangering both Libyan and international security (EC-66; CSP-16).The lack of proper government authority up and until late 2016 also precluded any possibility to establish a firm plan, in cooperation with the Libyan national authority to ensure either a safe passage for the OPCW Inspectors to the remaining CW storage facilities and its eventual destruction (Annex B: Interview).

On July 20, 2016, the Executive Council decided to destroy Libya’s remaining CW outside its territory (EC-M-52) – an action strictly prohibited by the CWC. The Executive Council based its decision on the Organisation’s experience in Syria whose declared chemical weapons were transported and destroyed outside the national borders (see section 4.2). Council soon approved the destruction plan for the remaining Libyan Category 2 CW outside the territory of Libya (EC-M-53). To finance this operation, the OPCW created a Special Trust Found for Libya and once again, called for voluntary contributions from member states. To ensure security on the ground, the OPCW extended its cooperation with United Nations Safety and Security Department (Annex B: Interview).

By 27 August, five weeks after the original decision, all chemical weapons had been removed from Libya. On 6 September, they arrived at the port of Bremen in Germany. The delivery of 23 tanks was verified by the Technical Secretariat and the Libyan National Authority. All Category 2 chemical weapons were destroyed at the designated GEKA mbH facility in Munster, Germany. The destruction process was completed on 23 November 2017. This marked the completion of destruction of Categories 1, 2 and 3 chemical weapons declared by Libya (OPCW, 2018).


In July 2012, Syria, a non-state party to the CWC, publicly declared that it possesses chemical weapons. Immediately, the Director-General of the OPCW reacted by stating that chemical weapon use is prohibited under international law and that the reported presence of chemical weapons stockpiles and their possible deployment are a matter of grave concern to the international community (OPCW, 2012)


placed the OPCW’s resources at the disposal of the UN Secretary-General in the context of the United Nations Mission (C-18/DG.17). The OPCW could not directly intervene in Syria at that time since Syria was not a State party to the CWC. The UN Secretary-General welcomed the contribution of the OPCW expert teams and subsequently established the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic (United Nations Mission). The OPCW also provided facilities for the analysis of the data and samples collected in addition to experts that deployed with the UN Mission.

In September 2013, under threat of U.S. airstrikes and coerced by the Russian Federation, the Syrian government agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to completely dismantle its chemical weapons program under OPCW supervision. On 14 September the Syrian Arab Republic deposited its instrument of accession to the CWC with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, requesting the provisional application of the Convention until its entry into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on 14 October (Ellahi, 2017). On 27 September the OPCW Executive Council agreed on a destruction plan that called for Syria to destroy its stockpile by 30 June 2014 (EC-M-33/Dec.1). The destruction plan was developed in consultation with the members of the Executive Council and the Experts of the Technical Secretariat. This decision was endorsed by United Nations Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the same day. These sequels were informed by the Framework Agreement (EC-M-33/NAT.1) negotiated in Geneva by the Russian Federation and the United States on 14 September.


Syria also lacked capability to provide adequate security for the OPCW teams on the ground, therefore, on 16 October, following close consultations between the OPCW Director-General and the United Nations Secretary-General; the OPCW–United Nations Joint Mission for the Elimination of the Chemical Weapons Programme of the Syrian Arab Republic was created. The OPCW would provide the technical expertise for the mission and the UN security (Ellahi, 2017) – a similar arrangement to the ones undertaken in Libya. On 15 November, following extensive debates, the Executive Council adopted a follow-up decision (EC-M-34.DEC.1) setting forth detailed requirements for the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities, and most notably, approved the removal of chemicals from Syria to a location outside its territory for destruction (EC-M-34.DEC.1). The target date for completion of the destruction of all declared chemicals was set to be no later than 30 June 2014. Soon after, at the request of the Council, the Director-General prepared a “Plan for the Destruction of the Syrian Chemical Weapons outside the Territory of the Syrian Arab Republic” (EC-M-36.DG.3) This Plan outlined the necessary arrangements for the removal of Syrian chemical weapons and subsequent destruction, and also indicated the preconditions for its effective implementation.

This was a major deviation from the OPCW’s usual course of action in implementing the CWC (Ellahi, 2017). The responsibility for destruction is usually placed with the state party that declares the possession of chemical weapons and chemical weapons producing facilities (CWC Article I (a); Article IV (16)). Moreover, after a state ratifies the Convention, its chemical weapons are to frozen within national borders and subsequently are to be destroyed on the territory of the respective state (CEC Article 1 (1)).


naval security escorts. Italy agreed to allow use of the port of Gioia Tauro for priority chemicals brought from the Syrian Arab Republic by cargo vessels to be transferred on board the United States ship MV Cape Ray for destruction at sea (Trapp, 2015). The OPCW and the United Nations collaborated effectively within the framework of the Joint Mission and between the offices in New York, The Hague, Nicosia and Damascus (UN Disarmament Yearbook, 2015). The OPCW established a trust fund for facilitating the technical activities of the OPCW in support of the verification of the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. At the request of the Executive Council, the Organisation also established a special trust fund for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. Moreover, the Technical Secretariat also pursued the option of the destruction of chemicals removed from the Syrian Arab Republic in commercial chemical disposal facilities. This included dual-use chemical weapon components and any associated materials (Annex B: Interview).

Moreover, several new, informal mechanisms in the form of working groups were established within the OPCW Technical secretariat to assist with the Syria mission. The Core Group was created to plan and coordinate all activities related to the mission. The Destruction Planning Group was created to combine the expertise from the OPCW States Parties. Additionally, an Operations and Planning Group and a Maritime Task Force were also created to support the Organisation’s work in Syria (Ellahi, 2017).

To maintain confidence and smooth cooperation among states parties, the Director-General provided the Executive Council detailed monthly reports on the progress made in the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme. The EC continued to hold special, regular meetings devoted to Syria’s treaty implementation throughout 2014. The EC made concentrated efforts at to ensure that Syria is in full compliance with its obligations under the CWC. The CSP discussion, some of which were held in closed sessions, included (a) the completeness and correction of Syria’s declaration to the OPCW; (b) the appropriate response to the Confirmation by the OPCW that a chemical weapons (chlorine) has been dispersed by helicopter during the Syrian conflict; (c) a debate over the proper approach (cooperative vs adversarial) when dealing with the Syrian government (Trapp, 2015; C-19/DEC.11).


remained the focus of the Organisation’s efforts, he noted that several milestones were yet to be achieved to reach the targeted completion date (C-18/DG.17). A year later, the CSP-19 recognized that the case of Syria underlined the importance of OPCW maintaining and strengthening its expertise and capacity to respond to similar challenges in the future. In order to do so, the CSP-19 adopted a number of decisions and recommendations that would guide the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the following years. Most notably, it authorized the OPCW Director-General to rehire inspectors6 until at lest 2017, subject to various conditions, in order to retrain valuable expertise7 (C-19/DEC.11).

The OPCW mission to eliminate the Syrian Arab Republic’s declared chemical weapons programme successfully concluded in December 2015. The OPCW assumed responsibility for this work, with the support of the United Nations8. In presenting his report to the Conference of the States Party, the Director-General of the OPCW stated that the achievements over the past year were made possible by the strong consensus-based approach of States parties, which has been a long-established hallmark of the OPCW collective efforts to implement the CWC (C-19/DG.1). After the completion of the mission, the OPCW Technical Secretariat undertook a lessons-learned exercise the results of which were presented in a report submitted by the OPCW Director-General to the Twentieth Conference of the States Parties in November 2015 (Trapp, 2015; C-20/DG.17).


The allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria continued even after the destruction was declared completed. Evidence pointed to the Syrian Government. The Syrian Government denied all the accusations, and claimed that the terrorist and rebel groups present on its territory carried out attacks using chemical weapons. However, Syria did not submit a request

6 In line with other UN-type organizations, the OPCW implements (with exception) a 7-year tenure policy for P-level secretariat staff including for staff the the Inspectorate and Verification Divisions.

7 The OPCW operates within special OPCW procedures, guidelines and techniques.


for Assistance and Protection9. Nor there was a request from other states parties for a challenge inspection10 against Syria, despite the accusation. As a result, the OPCW was unable to directly intervene.

On the other hand, the OPCW publicly assumed full responsibility for stripping Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal and chemical weapons producing facilities. The continuous reports of chemical weapons use on the territory of Syria, therefore, raised serious question about the Organisation’s work, commitment and credibility. Therefore, it became clear that the OPCW could not simply ignore the continuous allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

The TS made significant efforts to verify and clarify elements of Syria’s official chemical weapons declaration to the OPCW. In April 2014, the OPCW established a Declarations Assessment Team (DAT). This team conducts regular consultations with the Syrian government to clarify inconsistencies in its declaration to the OPCW. In September 2017, the OPCW Director-General had high-level consultations with the Syrian authorities at the OPCW Headquarters to resolve the outstanding issues related to Syria’s declaration and related submissions (OPCW, 2017). The results of the consultations have been reflected in the Director-General’s report and the report of the DAT, both of which were submitted to the OPCW Executive Council 86th Session in October 2014. The work of DAT is different from a regular OPCW inspection and represents an adaptation that seeks to use consistent engagements with the Syrian authorities as a mean to resolve issues (Ellahi, 2017). The reports of the DAT are confidential.

In November 2017 the Syrian Arab Republic provided 19 additional documents related to its chemical weapons program. The analysis of these documents is still in progress. The result of the analysis will be reported by the DAT to the Eighty-Seventh Session of the Executive

9 Assistance and Protection – Every State Party to the CWC has the right to request assistance from

the OPCW in any of the following circumstances: (1) the State Party considers chemical weapons to have been used against it; (2) the State Party considers riot control agents to have been used as a method of warfare; (3) the State Party considers itself to be threatened by actions prohibited by the Convention taken by another country (

10 Challenge Inspection – Under Article IX of the CWC, any State Party can request the Technical


Council to be in March 2018. However, a number of gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies remain unresolved, and the OPCW Technical Secretariat continues to work with the Syrian authorities to ensure that relevant information is provided.

In April 2014, the Director-General announced the creation of one more OPCW mechanism with the goal of establishing facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria (OPCW, 2018). The Fact Finding Mission (FFM) was mandated only to collect evidence and confirm whether or not an attack by means of chemical weapons has occurred. In order to obtain the agreement of all sides on this highly politicized issue, the FFM was not mandated to identify a perpetrator. The Syrian Government agreed to this mission and undertook to provide security in areas under its control. Moreover, the FFM started its activity while the OPCW mission to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons programme. Therefore, this type of low key mechanism was seen as suitable in order not to incite hostility from the Syrian government.

After the Fact Finding Mission team came under armed attack during a site visit in Syria, the Mission continued its work by interviewing witnesses at a safe location outside the country amongst other activities. In its findings the FFM concluded with a high degree of confidence that chlorine was used as a weapon systematically and repeatedly in the northern part of the Syrian Arab Republic (UN Disarmament Yearbook, 2016). The third report by the FFM provided a more detailed account of the work and process that led to the findings of the Fact Finding Mission.

In 2017, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission in Syria continued to study all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons on the territory of Syria. The FFM issued reports determining the use of chemicals as weapons in Um-Housh, Khan Shaykhun, and Ltamenah. A summarized update of the allegations that the FFM has been working on was submitted to OPCW States Parties on 14 November 2017 (S/1556/2017). The work of the FFM continues to this day.


Syria where the OPCW FFM already confirmed that a chemical weapons attack has indeed occurred. The JIM was mandated to conduct its work within one year; with the possibility of extension should the members of the Security Council deem it necessary (Ellahi, 2017). The Joint Investigative Mechanism began its work in the second half of 2015, including the establishment of offices in both New York and The Hague, with the intent of also establishing a presence in Damascus. The JIM was created as an innovative fully independent body, to which the OPCW Technical Secretariat was providing assistance and expertise, including through the work of its FFMs. On 31 October 2016, the Security Council voted in favor of a technical extension of the mandate of the Mechanism (Security Council Resolution 2314 (2016)). On 17 November, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2319 (2016), renewing the mandate of the JIM for an additional year. Under the renewed mandate, the Mechanism was to remain focused on investigating incidents confirmed by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to have involved or likely to have involved the use of chemicals as weapons.



This chapter summarizes and evaluates the findings resulting from this research. It begins by placing the findings in the theoretical framework outlined in chapter two. Afterwards, this chapter briefly elaborates on the theoretical and methodological limitations of this research project. Lastly, it contemplates on the strengths of the project and makes recommendations for further research.


Over all the OPCW has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, a capacity to learn and implement the lessons learned. This capacity is an important contributing factor to the course of the Organisation’s work in Syria and Libya, and most importantly in mitigating the challenges arising from it (see Annex C: Timeline). The rest of this section provides a summary of the main findings of this research by placing them within the hypothesized theoretical framework.

H1: The accumulation of policy experience over time creates a capacity to learn.

Over 20 years, through its activity of implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW has accumulated significant experience in the area of arms control and chemical disarmament. Moreover, institutional arrangements within the OPCW such as the Review Conference, strongly suggest that the Organisation is in fact able to derive lessons from its past experience and implement those in an attempts to mitigate emerging challenges. In fact the OPCW used its experience from Libya to guide some of its policy decisions, especially concerning the security and the financing of the mission, in its disarmament engagements in Syria.

H2: Crises can speed up the process of learning and open up windows of opportunity for lessons learned to be implemented.


submitted to the Twentieth Conference of the States Parties is important evidence towards the fact that that crises did in fact speed up learning as these types of recommendations are usually matters dealt with at the Review Conference every five years.

H3: Policy actors must be willing to learn and implement the lessons learned to produce change.

Actions and policies of the OPCW, are highly dependent of the will, motivation and interests of its policy actors, especially the Executive Council and the countries represented in the Council. Despite this fact is evident in the decision making process of the OPCW set forth in the CWC Article VIII, it was also evidenced in both the case of Syria and in the case of Libya when the success of the mission was highly dependent on the goodwill and assistance of the major States Parties.

However, the Technical Secretariat as a policy actor under the leadership of the Director-General has demonstrated significant capacity for autonomous action, especially in the post destruction phase in Syria when it decided to bypass traditional instruments and create the Fact Finding Mission to investigate allegation of chemical weapons use. There is also evidence that the Technical Secretariat is the policy actor most willing to learn and is able to use its capacity for autonomous action to learn and implement the lessons learned.

H4: Ultimately what is learned is how to better implement policies in order to achieve the goals set forth in the Chemical Weapons Convention.

By the virtue of being a treaty based organization guided by the rigid rules and principles set forth in the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW seldomly experiences double-loop learning. The Organisation experiences predominantly single-loop learning meaning that the OPCW has a simplistic learning process. When it is encountered with a crisis situation, it takes firm experience-based action to mitigate the impending issues. These actions are not the result, nor do they lead to a significant reshuffling of fundamental policy norms, values or assumption. Moreover, due to its treaty-based nature, the OPCW is dependent on the consensus amongst its States Parties, as highlighted in the case of Syria. This is a significant factor that confides the Organisation within the realm of single-loop learning.


the transfer of chemical weapons. This required a significant departure from the Organization’s established course of action meaning that the OPCW was able to review the principles set forth in the CWC and reinterpret them to fit the situation it was facing at that moment. The fact that a similar action plan was used a few years later when deciding to destroy Libya’s Category 2 chemical weapons outside its territory shows that the course of action taken in Syria was not an incidental, one-time reactive decision.


The findings of this research are generally supportive of the hypotheses outlined in Chapter 2, however, these findings also set forth new question. The study of policy learning is very complicated, and there can be other contributing factors that have made the OPCW successful in its mission. This complexity cannot be captured within the reach of a single research project. It is therefore recommended to test similar hypotheses in a comparative Small-N case study design or in a Qualitative-Comparative design in order to test causal relationships and to produce more generalizable results.

Several limitations to this study arise as a direct result of the diversity of conceptual and theoretical approaches to learning. This means that different researchers might have different notions of learning in mind even though they might use the same term. Therefore, the approach adopted in their own studies might be significantly different. Furthermore, learning is a continuously ongoing process, therefore setting some additionally limitations to the scope of this research project. Most notably, at this point we cannot know the outcome of the OPCW Fourth Review conference scheduled for December 2018 which is the most important institutional learning arrangement for the OPCW. Moreover, this research project was conducted within significant time constraints that may have hindered the researcher’s ability to consider all possible alternative hypotheses, and broaden the scope of the project to include those.


contained information that would critically alter the results of this study. Furthermore, the study contains only one interview, therefore increasing the possibility for additional biases.


Besides the the general methodological advantages derived from using process tracing (see Chapter 3), there are some other strong points specific to this research project. To begin with, it is almost impossible to observe learning in isolation from change thus sparking the need for a complex theoretical framework. In this study, the theoretical framework is the result of the compilation of a significant number of theoretical perspectives on learning and change. This holistic perspective has resulted in hypotheses accompanied by causal inferences that could not have been derived by adopting a single theoretical perception. The result is a comprehensive causal path that enables this research project to answer the research question with greater accuracy by providing a detailed exploratory account of policy learning in the case of OPCW.



In just 20 years of activity the OPCW has managed to achieve near complete world-vide chemical disarmament. For the most part of its existence the OPCW has worked in anonymity as a technical organization shielded from political intrigues. However, in its work in Libya and Syria, the OPCW was forced to engage in a politically charged atmosphere and to put its reputation on the line while working in a high-risk environment. In the face of these challenges, the OPCW has proven to be a flexible organization, able to learn and adapt to a continuously changing international environment. This is a significant contributing factor to the Organization’s success.

While the OPCW has demonstrated significant capacity to learn; starting from institutional mechanisms such as the Review Conference to policy decisions resulting from learning exercises, learning is predominantly single-loop. This means that the learning process does not result in shifts in the core values, world views, or norms. This is because the OPCW is a treaty-based organization guided by the rigid provisions of the CWC. Moreover, the organization is dependent on the benevolence of its member states and the consensus-based cooperation amongst them, therefore, making a shift in direction ever more difficult.

However, OPCW has also demonstrated potential for double loop learning. This capacity was enabled by the unprecedented difficulties in Syria that created a window of opportunity that allowed for deviations from the provision of the CWC, and for autonomous policy making and policy action by the Technical secretariat. Furthermore, learning is a continuously ongoing process. To produce rigid conclusive results, we would have to closely monitor the preparation for the OPCW’s Fourth Review Conference scheduled for December 2018, to see if the events and developments from the last five years will lead to changes in norms thus signalling that the Organisation is fact capable of engaging in a double-loop learning process.






Related subjects :