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States Parties to Promote Effective Action on Biosafety, Biosecurity, Oversight, Education, Awareness-raising and Codes of Conduct
27 November 2008

The Meeting of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) for 2008 will be held in the United Nations Office at Geneva from 1 to 5 December. Chaired by Ambassador Georgi Avramchev of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the meeting will develop and consolidate the work of the Meeting of Experts (18-22 August) in order to promote common understanding and effective action on two specific topics:

· National, regional and international measures to improve biosafety and biosecurity, including laboratory safety and security of pathogens and toxins; and

· Oversight, education, awareness raising and adoption and/or development of codes of conduct with the aim of preventing misuse in the context of advances in bioscience and biotechnology research with the potential of use for purposes prohibited by the Convention.

Ambassador Avramchev, who also chaired the Meeting of Experts in August, addressed the urgency of the two topics: "The threat posed to global security by biological weapons is constantly evolving with the rapid advances in biological science and technology, and the spread of these advances around the world," he said. "The outcome of the Meeting of States Parties in December will synthesize and consolidate findings from the Meeting of Experts, and will be an important resource for helping States Parties to intensify and strengthen their commitment to reducing the threats posed to global security by biological weapons."

Nearly 500 delegates including over 180 scientists and experts participated in the Meeting of Experts. They included representatives from intergovernmental organizations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); scientific organizations such as the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues and the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; professional associations such as the American Biological Safety Association, the Asia-Pacific Biosafety Association, and the European Biosafety Association; and private sector biotechnology and pharmaceutical corporations such as the J.Craig Venter Institute, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca PLC.

Education and awareness-raising was one of the most widely-debated topics at the August meeting. States Parties and experts alike noted students, professionals and the general public would all benefit from an increased familiarity with the BWC. Other proposals for those directly involved in the life sciences included, inter alia, strengthened codes of conduct and improved laboratory safety standards.

The Meeting of States Parties will review the ideas and proposals presented at the meeting of Experts, and produce a report aimed at promoting effective action to strengthen the operation of the Convention in the areas covered by the two topics, with an emphasis on the comprehensive implementation of the Convention.

The Meeting of States Parties is part of a four-year programme mandated by the 2006 Sixth Review Conference of the BWC aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Convention and improving its effectiveness as a practical barrier against the development or use of biological weapons. The BWC prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons. 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, the treaty opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. It currently has 162 States Parties, with a further 13 States having signed but not yet ratified.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Richard Lennane
Head, BWC Implementation Support Unit
Tel: +41 (0)22 917 22 30
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 04 83
E-mail: rlennane@unog.ch
URL : www.unog.ch/bwc

For use of the information media; not an official record


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