GLOBAL BAN ON BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS TO BE REVIEWED AND STRENGTHENED
States Parties Set to Examine the Operation of the Biological Weapons Convention and Chart its Course for the Next Five Years
1 December 2011
Representatives of the 165 States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention will meet in Geneva from 5 to 22 December 2011 for the seventh five-yearly review of the treaty. The Biological Weapons Convention prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element – along with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention – in the international community's efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Seventh Review Conference will see States parties review the operation of the Biological Weapons Convention, consider the intersessional work held since the last review in 2006, address relevant developments in science and technology, and discuss future activities.
The President-designate of the Seventh Review Conference, Ambassador Paul van den IJssel of the Netherlands, said that the Biological Weapons Convention "was created to ensure that the life sciences and biotechnology are used only for the benefit of humanity. Negotiated 40 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the Biological Weapons Convention is an elegant and concise piece of international law which matches a broad and absolute prohibition of biological and toxin weapons with protections for the development of the peaceful applications of biological science and technology". Noting that the treaty has overcome a difficult past, he said "for the first time in over a decade, the Biological Weapons Convention States parties are in a position to take significant steps forward in shaping the future of the Convention. We should – and we must – capitalize on this".
In addition to an article-by-article review of the treaty, where States parties will examine existing understandings and consider expanding, clarifying or updating them, the Conference is expected to cover a range of thematic issues, including:
· A new intersessional work programme for the Biological Weapons Convention for the period 2012-2015, focusing on improving the implementation of various aspects of the Convention;
· Updating the Confidence Building Measures – annual exchanges of information among States parties intended to build transparency and support effective implementation;
· Assessing the implications of advances in science and technology – particularly considering the rapid progress in new fields such as synthetic biology;
· The future of the Implementation Support Unit, which was established by the Sixth Review Conference in 2006 as the first institutional presence for the Biological Weapons Convention;
· Promoting cooperation and assistance in the peaceful uses of biological science and technology;
· Compliance and verification – steps to ensure that States parties are complying with their obligations and fully implementing the treaty;
· Universalization – increasing membership of the Biological Weapons Convention, which has fewer members than the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Seventh Review Conference follows a set of annual meetings from 2007 to 2010, known collective as the intersessional process. The purpose of these meetings was to "discuss, and promote common understanding and effective action on" specific topics related to better implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention. Attended by almost 100 States and their technical experts, as well as numerous intergovernmental, non-governmental, professional, industrial and academic organizations, topics discussed have included national implementation, regional cooperation, biosafety and biosecurity, scientific oversight, dealing with disease outbreaks, and responding to the use of biological weapons.
The President-designate observed that "perhaps the single most important achievement of the intersessional process was to forge a community of like-minded and collegial States parties, confident in their ability to work together in a constructive and practical manner", adding that "if we can retain this approach during the Review Conference, I am confident that we can succeed in delivering a comprehensive consensus outcome that substantially improves the operation of the Convention, and genuinely reduces the threats posed to global security by biological weapons and bioterrorism".
In addition to the States prties, a variety of international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, INTERPOL, and the International Committee of the Red Cross will take part in the conference, as well as a range of non-governmental organizations, scientific and professional bodies, industry representatives and academic experts. This broad participation has become a feature of the activities of the Biological Weapons Convention. Addressing a Biological Weapons Convention meeting in 2008, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said: "Governments alone cannot confront the risks posed by biological weapons ... to manage the full spectrum of biological risks – from naturally-occurring diseases, accidents and negligence to terrorism and the deliberate use of biological weapons – you need a cohesive, coordinated network of activities and resources. Such a network will help to ensure that biological science and technology can be safely and securely developed for the benefit of all".
States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention have met six times previously (in 1980, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006) to conduct similar reviews. Previous Review Conferences have been used to reaffirm commitments on the purpose and provisions of the treaty, agree additional understandings to improve its effectiveness, initiate new processes and mechanisms to strengthen its implementation, and map out future directions for its work.
The Biological Weapons Convention, more formally referred to as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. The Biological Weapons Convention is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons. It currently has 165 States Parties, with a further 12 having signed but not yet ratified.
For further information, please contact:
Secretary-General of the Seventh Review Conference of the BWC
Tel: +41 (0)22 917 2230
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 0483
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