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40th Anniversary Event for the Biological Weapons Convention

30 March 2015
40th Anniversary Event for the Biological Weapons Convention

Welcome remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and
Personal Representative of the United Nations
Secretary-General to the Conference

40th Anniversary Event for the Biological Weapons Convention

Palais des Nations, Council Chamber
Monday, 30 March 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

Mr. Chairman
Excellencies
Dear Colleagues:

It is a great pleasure to be here with you to mark the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention - our first multilateral treaty to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. A warm thank you to Ambassador Muhammad – in his capacity as the Chair of the 2015 BWC Meeting of States Parties – for organizing this event together with the Implementation Support Unit.

As you have probably already seen on the way in here in the photos displayed outside, International Geneva and the collective struggle against biological warfare are closely connected. It was here in Geneva in 1925 that States agreed the Geneva Protocol, prohibiting the use in war of both chemical and biological weapons. So, it is really a double anniversary year - celebrating 90 years since the Geneva Protocol and the first 40 years of the BWC - which together highlight the long-standing and deep-rooted tradition for disarmament efforts here in Geneva. And as we are also marking this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations as an Organization, we are reminded of the central place of disarmament in our mission to build a better world.

There can be no more appropriate venue for this celebration than the Council Chamber. It was here that the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament - one of the predecessors of our Conference on Disarmament today - spent some two years negotiating the BWC before it was finally adopted in September 1971. No doubt the murals by José María Sert that depict human progress through health, technology, freedom and peace provided inspiration. And these four themes still capture the main objectives of the Convention:

The BWC is a cornerstone in our effort to ensure that public health is not endangered through the deliberate use of germs and disease as weapons – what has sometimes been referred to as “public health in reverse”. While technology can present challenges to a regime like the BWC, it also provides us with defence against biological weapons. And as a disarmament measure, the Convention is an integral part of broader efforts to ensure that we can all live in freedom from fear and in peace.

As we look ahead to what some have called the “century of biology”, we will need to build upon the norm embodied in the BWC – a norm that has already been accepted by 173 States Parties – to ensure that the incredible advances in science and technology are applied responsibly. We can only achieve this by working in partnership, drawing on the expertise and engagement of all stakeholders. It is my firm conviction that it is through partnerships that we will advance disarmament most effectively - not just in the area of biological weapons but also more broadly. And it is therefore a particular pleasure to welcome today colleagues from science, academia and civil society, and the many students here. We will rely on your commitment in the years ahead to strengthen disarmament norms and to ensure that they are respected by all.

This anniversary is a most poignant and timely reminder of what is possible in this Chamber when there is collective will to move forward our peace and security agenda. Together with landmark instruments such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the BWC forms part of the proud tradition of visionary agreements – negotiated in this Chamber – that have helped build a safer and more secure world for all of us. As we are now in the 19th year of inaction in the Conference on Disarmament, I hope that this anniversary will inspire all members to again find the spirit of compromise and common cause that we will allow us to move ahead with new multilateral negotiations.

I wish the BWC continued success in future, with the support of all Member States and all partners.


Thank you very much.