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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2002
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Arms Control
Washington, DC
April 1, 2002

Preserving the Chemical Weapons Convention: The Need For A New Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director-General

This paper outlines many of the serious concerns that the United States has with the actions and overall management of the current Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Mr. Jose Bustani, and the reasons that it believes that immediate action to replace the Director-General is essential to preserve the effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Despite widespread concerns over his performance since he was appointed in 1997, the United States supported the reappointment of Mr. Bustani (May 2000), in the absence of an alternative, and in the hope that his managerial performance would improve. This hope has not been realized.

Since his reappointment, Mr. Bustani's performance, and his relationship with member states, has failed to improve. In fact, it has deteriorated even further, to the point where effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention -- and political and financial support for the OPCW -- is in jeopardy. To survive, the OPCW Technical Secretariat must have a Director-General who has the confidence of all. This will require departure of the Director-General without delay.

The United States had hoped that the change in OPCW leadership that is necessary to preserve the credibility of the CWC could be accomplished quietly, thereby avoiding confrontation and damage to the OPCW. Now that the issue has become public, the United States feels it an unfortunate necessity to make known its concerns about Mr. Bustani's leadership.

United States Concerns

The most important concerns of the United States about the performance of the current Director-General fall into three general categories: 1) the polarizing and confrontational conduct of the Director-General, 2) mismanagement issues, and 3) advocacy of inappropriate roles for the OPCW.

Polarizing Conduct; Disdain for the Executive Council

Mr. Bustani has failed to work constructively with the Executive Council (EC) and many member states. His conduct has seriously undermined the functioning and authority of the Executive Council. These acts have been deliberate, and have continued despite private expression of concern by OPCW members over several years. He has also repeatedly been an advocate of a particular point of view on issues where opinions differ substantially among member states, rather than providing a balanced and professional detachment from such positions. He has humiliated OPCW delegates and antagonized senior United Nations officials through abrasive conduct. For example, Mr. Bustani has:

  • Repeatedly taken an adversarial stance against the Executive Council. As early as July 1999, Mr. Bustani criticized the Executive Council for its "present inability to make decisions" which meant that he was "often placed in the position of having to take action without the benefit of the Council's political guidance." Despite repeated attempts to clarify the role of the Director-General, there has been no improvement.
  • During and following the 2001 financial crisis, failed to keep the Executive Council informed of actions taken to stabilize OPCW finances, keep expenditures in check, improve financial controls, and otherwise demonstrate capacity to manage the budget during such times of financial stress.
  • Publicly attacked the reports of the advisory committee of budget and finance experts from member states when it questioned or criticized his proposals.
  • Refused to consult in capitals of key member states at the level customary for international organizations. Mr. Bustani has also refused to meet with representatives of States Parties who did not have ambassadorial rank, including representatives of the United States.
  • Regularly embarrassed the OPCW by his conduct at the United Nations, such as refusing to address the First Committee unless given a place on the dais and his public dispute over this issue with the UN Legal Adviser. For example, in a statement prepared for the First Committee of the United Nations (October 26, 1999), he stated the following:

"... The OPCW is neither a delegate nor simply an observer to the First Committee. It is a child of the Conference of Disarmament and, as such, has a direct connection to the First Committee. Therefore, if I, as Director-General of the OPCW, make myself available to report to you on the progress made and concerns faced by the Organization, it is because I believe that the relevance of our mandate to the work of the First Committee requires my presence at this august gathering. It would appear, however, that in the minds of the UN Secretariat and its legal advisers, that this is not the case. Let me assure you Mr. Chairman and distinguished delegates, that I remain ready to return to address the First Committee whenever the OPCW is accorded the recognition and the place it deserves. It would appear that for this to happen, however, there will need to be a breath of fresh air sent through the bureaucratic corridors of the United Nations Secretariat…."

  • On numerous occasions, directed his staff to refuse requests for technical support from facilitators and friends of the chair.
  • Ignored the Executive Council. Examples include decisions on the treatment of unscheduled salts of scheduled chemicals and the requirement to hold 30 posts vacant in 2001.
  • Allied himself with specific political views held only by a minority of States Parties, polarizing the OPCW and trying to make the Technical Secretariat a political body rather than technical implementation body. This is an example of the Director-General's propensity to divide States Parties over controversial issues, rather than moving the OPCW as a whole toward consensus.
  • Arbitrarily, without prior consultations with member states, reorganized the Technical Secretariat staff at a time when the impact of his arbitrary staff reshuffling unduly strained resources beyond their limit. This has further marginalized remaining competent staff members and will, by excluding them from their appropriate decision-making role, injure the overall capabilities of the Technical Secretariat and drive competent staff away from the Organization.
  • In spring 2001, threatened punitively-targeted industry inspections in five States Parties that had collectively demarched him over financial and verification issues. He backed off only after strong protests. The Director-General sought to use the inspection regime that is at the very heart of the CWC for political ends, as a punitive tool to coerce member states into acceding to his demands.
  • During the December 2001 session of the Executive Council, delivered a diatribe against both the Executive Council members and specific delegations over the 2002 budget. He concluded his presentation by saying, " I have to pretend we are fulfilling our duties. Please spare me further complaints."
  • Contributed to gridlock in the Executive Council by introducing new issues and refusing to consult. (The United States was astonished that he would propose a resolution on the September 11 terrorist attacks without substantial coordination with the State Party that suffered those attacks.) This is one concrete example of his habit of refusing to consult regularly with Executive Council Chairmen -- a key to the Executive Council becoming more effective.
  • Selected and retained a legal adviser whose apparent role is largely to justify the policies and opinions of the Director-General, rather than to provide an impartial and legally well-founded interpretation of the Convention and related rules and regulations. The adviser's legal opinions attract derision from member states, not respect. His recent opinion that only the Director-General can terminate his own appointment, not member states, is a case in point.

Mismanagement Issues

The Director-General's management of the Technical Secretariat's personnel and finances has been disastrous, and the absence of real transparency on these matters has undermined the Executive Council's treaty-mandated responsibility to oversee the functioning of the Technical Secretariat. For example:

  • The Organization's financial crisis in 2001 was caused primarily by the Director-General's failure to match spending to income in 2000. The multi-million euro 2000 deficit set the stage for severe cutbacks in verification activity in 2001. If this situation developed within the Technical Secretariat without the Director-General's knowledge, it demonstrates gross negligence on the part of the Director-General regarding internal controls, and the failure to move effectively to limit the damage.
  • Executive Council efforts to understand and address the situation were blocked by months of obfuscation, finger-pointing, and conflicting explanations by the Director-General -- none of which acknowledged this deficit spending as a core problem.
  • The Director-General has repeatedly sought double-digit budget increases without adequate justification and without the political consultations that are a necessary and normal part of building support for a budget, seriously undermining the credibility of the Organization in capitals, and any ability to obtain from legislative organs the magnitude of financial support that could have been justified.
  • The Director-General has transferred funds and personnel within the Organization to such an extent that the program and budget approved by member states effectively was altered substantially without their knowledge or approval.
  • The OPCW's Financial Regulations provide the Director-General with more management flexibility and authority to transfer funds than almost any other international organization of comparable size -- yet he has routinely rebelled against their application of those regulations, when even their flexible limits were being stretched to the limit, as "micromanagement."
  • The Technical Secretariat under Mr. Bustani's leadership has failed for the fourth year in a row to accurately estimate actual salary requirements. This underbudgeting for a fixed expense will likely lead to the near-evisceration of the industry verification regime in 2002.
  • Five years after entry into force, key administrative directives on personnel and financial matters are still lacking. This has been sharply criticized by the Office of Internal Oversight in its last two annual reports without apparent effect.
  • In January 2002, the Director-General fundamentally reorganized the senior management of the Technical Secretariat to strip his deputy, a highly-respected professional, of any executive authority. This arbitrary and vindictive action was taken without appropriate consultation with member states and was totally unjustified.
  • Technical Secretariat morale is at an all-time low. Many of the best personnel are leaving the Organization. Staff are reassigned without any consultation and without regard for their expertise or rank, in effect violating the provisions of the Convention. In a recent case, a highly-respected senior staff member has been transferred twice within a few months. The second move, which opened up a position so it could be given to a national from Mr. Bustani's home country, directly contradicts the justification given for the first move.
  • The Director-General's failure to follow basic procedures and due process in handling dismissals and disciplinary actions has provided grounds for numerous staff complaints -- largely successful (and costly -- approximately $1-2 million euro) before the ILO Administrative Tribunal.
  • The Director-General's mishandling of a flawed job classification exercise conducted in 1998 provided the basis for a successful ILO Administrative Tribunal appeal which will cost at least euro $1 million per year for the foreseeable future.
  • The Director-General has politicized the staff (and especially the Inspectorate) through excessive use of 1-year renewal contracts handed out at the last minute.
  • Blatant favoritism has been displayed with respect to which employees get the coveted "hired abroad" vs. "hired locally" benefits.

Advocacy of Inappropriate Roles for the OPCW

Mr. Bustani has sought to expand the role of the OPCW beyond the core functions envisioned in the CWC. In particular, he has sought to downplay the primary objective of the CWC -- to increase security against chemical weapons -- and instead to substitute a vision of the CWC as a means of promoting economic development and combating terrorism. Both are worthy goals. In both cases, however, there are existing structures and institutions to pursue these objectives. It makes no sense at all to try to turn a still fledgling organization, which has a major challenge to meet its own initial mission, into a rival to existing bodies in these areas. For example, he has:

  • Through his many attempts to build an overtly political role for the Technical Secretariat, Mr. Bustani distorted what the Convention intended as the support staff for the real Policy-Making Organs -- The Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties.
  • Pressed for an OPCW standing committee to coordinate international financial assistance for Russia's CW destruction, despite donors' clear preference for using existing mechanisms that are external to the OPCW.
  • Volunteered OPCW inspectors for UNSCOM or UNMOVIC tasks in Iraq over the objections of member states. Continues to attempt to interject the OPCW into what is a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) matter; the mandate for WMD inspections in Iraq that flows directly from a UNSC resolution. Thus, he would supplant the UN inspection regime in Iraq and undercut the Security Council.
  • Seized on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to promote costly initiatives -- clearly outside of the Organization's primary mission of verification. For example, he proposed creation of a "credible response team" of experts and equipment which would include "field hospitals" as well as specialized medical staff to deal with the aftermath of future terrorist attacks. These and many other of his "counter terrorism" proposals would substantially expand the role of the OPCW but have little connection to terrorism, the genuine competencies of the OPCW staff, or the financial capabilities of an OPCW already embroiled in a financial crisis.
  • Increasingly downplayed importance of OPCW's verification regime. His own statements, which once characterized verification as "the central task of the OPCW," have increasingly portrayed verification as simply one of a number of "pillars" of the Convention. He views verification as a secondary mission for the Organization. For example, in his statement on the financial situation of the Organization of January 26, 2001, in which he announced the suspension of most inspection activity due to lack of funds, he announced his intent to continue to fund a program that provides industry experience for experts from developing countries -- at well above the budgeted level -- on the grounds that "programs of this nature are the most constructive, positive, and advanced form of nonproliferation measures we can pursue." This downplaying of the OPCW’s nonproliferation and verification roles found its ultimate expression in his statement to the 55th UNGA: "from an organization created to rid the world of chemical weapons, the OPCW would ultimately evolve into an organization to promote the use of chemistry to the benefit of all nations."


All CWC States Parties have an important stake in the organization that implements the treaty. All must believe that the organization is serving their national interests. The day-to-day task of ensuring that this is in fact the case falls to the head of the Technical Secretariat, the Director-General. The current situation, in which many member states believe that he is failing in this regard, threatens not only to undermine the effectiveness of the OPCW, but also the financial and political support on which the continued viability of the CWC itself depends. Already, states that provide three-quarters of the OPCW's funding have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they can no longer work with the Director-General and have called for his replacement. 

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