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The role of civil society in combating the development, proliferation and use of chemical weapons

posted on 2023-06-09, 06:59 authored by Michael Crowley, Caitriona McLeish, James Revill
This chapter outlines the roles that have been played by civil society, broadly defined, in combating development, proliferation and use of chemical weapons. It begins with an outline of the scope and nature of civil society activities, using micro-case studies of past activities to illustrate the role played by civil society in monitoring and analysing the development and use of chemicals as weapons, including riot control agents. The chapter then proceeds to outline the role played by civil society in uncovering the activities of governments and also contributing to assessment of science and technology of relevance to the regime. In the penultimate section the chapter addresses the role of civil society in “whistle blowing” and forging so called “track two” relations between scientists across national borders. In the concluding section, the chapter lays out mechanisms whereby civil society could more effectively engage in the prevention of chemical weapons, but also identifies some of the limitations of civil society engagement. The chapter demonstrates that civil society has had - and will continue to have – a significant role in combating development, proliferation and use of chemical weapons. However, the extent to which organisations such as the OPCW will be willing and able to embrace greater civil society interaction as they shift from the destruction of known stockpiles, toward preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons, remains to be seen. Consequently civil society actors will continue to face a number of institutional, political and resource based limitations on the role it can play in this area.


Urgency Grant: Data Capture of Syria Chemical Weapons Allegations; G1335; ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL; ES/L014505/1

Understanding Biological Disarmament: The Historical Context of the Origins of the Biological Weapon; G1301; AHRC-ARTS & HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCIL; AH/K003496/1


Publication status

  • Published


Royal Society of Chemistry



Page range


Book title

Preventing chemical weapons: arms control and disarmament as the sciences converge

Place of publication




Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Harvard Sussex Program Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Malcolm Dando, Michael Crowley, Lijun Shang

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