Abstract: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (usually referred to as the Biological Weapons Convention, abbreviation: BWC, or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, abbreviation: BTWC) was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons.
The Convention was the result of prolonged efforts by the international community to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol. The Geneva Protocol prohibited use but not possession or development of chemical and biological weapons.
A draft of the BWC, submitted by the British was opened for signature on April 10, 1972 and entered into force March 26, 1975 when twenty-two governments had deposited their instruments of ratification. It currently commits the 165 states that are party to it to prohibit the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons. However, the absence of any formal verification regime to monitor compliance has limited the effectiveness of the Convention. (Note: As of October 2011, an additional 12 states have signed the BWC but have yet to ratify it)
The scope of the Biological Weapons Convention’s prohibition is defined in Article 1 (the so-called general purpose criterion). This includes all microbial and other biological agents or toxins and their means of delivery (with exceptions for medical and defensive purposes in small quantities). Subsequent Review Conferences have reaffirmed that the general purpose criterion encompasses all future scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention. It is not the objects themselves (biological agents or toxins), but rather certain purposes for which they may be employed which are prohibited; similar to Art.II, 1 in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Permitted purposes under the BWC are defined as prophylactic, protective and other peaceful purposes. The objects may not be retained in quantities that have no justification or which are inconsistent with the permitted purposes.
As Stated in Article 1 of the BWC
"Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:
2. Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."
Article II: To destroy or divert to peaceful purposes biological weapons and associated resources prior to joining.
Article III: Not to transfer, or in any way assist, encourage or induce anyone else to acquire or retain biological weapons.
Article IV: To take any national measures necessary to implement the provisions of the BWC domestically.
Article V: To consult bilaterally and multilaterally to solve any problems with the implementation of the BWC.
Article VI: To request the UN Security Council to investigate alleged breaches of the BWC and to comply with its subsequent decisions.
Article VII: To assist States which have been exposed to a danger as a result of a violation of the BWC.
Article X: To do all of the above in a way that encourages the peaceful uses of biological science and technology.
The Biological Weapons Convention has 165 States Parties. The Republic of China (Taiwan) had deposited an insrument of ratification before the changeover of the United Nations seat to the People's Republic of China.
Several countries have declared reservations, in that their agreement to the Treaty should not imply their complete satisfaction that the Treaty allows the stockpiling of biological agents and toxins for 'prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes', nor should the Treaty imply recognition of other countries they do not recognise.
A long process of negotiation to add a verification mechanism began in the 1990s. Previously, at the second Review Conference of State Parties in 1986 member states agreed to strengthen the treaty by reporting annually Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to the United Nations. The following Review Conference in 1991 established a group of government experts (known as VEREX). Negotiations towards an internationally-binding verification protocol to the BWC took place between 1995 and 2001 in a forum known as the Ad Hoc Group. On 25 July 2001, the Bush administration, after conducting a review of policy on biological weapons, decided that the proposed protocol did not suit the national interests of the United States.
States Parties have formally reviewed the operation of the BWC at review conferences held in 1980, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001/2002 and 2006. During these review conferences, States Parties have reaffirmed that the scope of the Convention extends to new scientific and technological developments, and have also instituted confidence-building data-exchanges in order to enhance transparency and strengthen the BWC. Review conferences, other than the Fifth, adopted additional understandings or agreements that have interpreted, defined or elaborated the meaning or scope of a BWC provision, or that have provided instructions, guidelines or recommendations on how a provision should be implemented. These additional understandings are contained in the Final Declarations of the Review Conferences.
The Fifth Review Conference took place in November/December 2001, not long after 9/11 and the anthrax scare. Disagreement over certain issues, especially the fate of the Ad Hoc Group, made agreement on any final declaration impossible. The Conference was suspended for one year. When it was reconvened in November 2002, the Fifth Review Conference decided to hold annual meetings of States Parties over the inter-sessional period leading up to the Review Conference in 2006 to discuss and promote common understanding and effective action on a range of topics.
Agreement was reached on convening annual one-week long "Meeting of States Parties" that would be preceded earlier in the year by a two-week "Meeting of Experts" who would look at specific list of topics:
2004: Enhancing international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease.
2004: Strengthening and broadening the capabilities for international institutions to detect and respond to the outbreak of infectious diseases (including diseases affecting plants and animals).
2005: Codes of conduct for scientists.
In the final document of the Sixth Review Conference, held in 2006, it simply "notes" that the meetings "functioned as an important forum for exchange of national experiences and in depth deliberations among States Parties" and that they "engendered greater common understanding on steps to be taken to further strengthen the implementation of the Convention". The Conference "endorses the consensus outcome documents" from the Meeting of States Parties.
The Sixth Review Conference agreed to establish a second Inter-Sessional Process. The topics agreed upon were:
I. Ways and means to enhance national implementation, including enforcement of national legislation, strengthening of national institutions and coordination among national law enforcement institutions.
II. Regional and sub regional cooperation on BWC implementation.
III. National, regional and international measures to improve biosafety and biosecurity, including laboratory safety and security of pathogens and toxins.
IV. Oversight, education, awareness raising, and adoption and/or development of codes of conduct with the aim to prevent misuse in the context of advances in bio science and bio technology research with the potential of use for purposes prohibited by the Convention.
V With a view to enhancing international cooperation, assistance and exchange in biological sciences and technology for peaceful purposes, promoting capacity building in the fields of disease surveillance, detection, diagnosis, and containment of infectious diseases: (1) for States Parties in need of assistance, identifying requirements and requests for capacity enhancement, and (2) from States Parties in a position to do so, and international organizations, opportunities for providing assistance related to these fields.
VI. Provision of assistance and coordination with relevant organizations upon request by any State Party in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons, including improving national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection and diagnosis and public health systems.
Topics i and ii were dealt with in 2007, iii and iv in 2008, v in 2009, and vi in 2010. For the second Inter-Sessional Process, the Meetings of Experts for each year was reduced to one week.
The Seventh Review Conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva from 5 to 22 December 2011 (Wikipedia, 2012).
Title: Beef Up The Biotreaty
Date: November 12, 2002
Source: LA Times
Abstract: You'd think the U.S. would be eager to embrace the goal of a summit on biological weapons that convened Monday in Geneva: to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, a treaty drafted in 1972 and since ratified by 146 nations, including this one, to ban the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons. Improvement certainly is needed; after all, as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton has pointed out, the treaty, though well-intentioned, is toothless, lacking any mechanism to verify compliance.
The impotence of the treaty is alarming because the threat posed by biological weapons, widely recognized since the anthrax attacks, has been growing. For instance, new biotechnologies have made it easy for scientists in hostile nations like North Korea and Iraq to turn harmless microbes into deadly biological agents that are impossible to counter with existing drugs.
Far from cheering on the summit, however, Bolton seems bent on subverting it. Last week, he urged summit leaders to stick to enforcing the existing treaty. He cautioned that Washington would oppose adding any stringent enforcement measures, such as an international system of independent lab inspectors who could travel at a moment's notice to suspect nations like Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Sudan and Syria, as well as to the United States, Britain and other treaty signatories.
The Bush administration objects to such measures because it fears they could compromise national security. It worries that the international lab inspectors might, on a visit to a private drug company or military lab in the United States, pick up commercial or military secrets.
But merely rubber-stamping the current weak treaty would be a big mistake. Here is a key reason: One of its many provisions supposedly bans the development of toxins like smallpox but permits research for "peaceful purposes," thus allowing dictators like Saddam Hussein to use defense "research" as a smokescreen for developing biological weapons to launch a biological attack.
The leader of the summit, Hungary's Tibor Toth, should address the Bush administration's legitimate concerns about national security. Specifically, he should propose that inspectors meet with private-sector and military officials to work out compromises on a case-by-case basis. But Toth should not accede to the administration's request that fundamental improvements to the treaty be delayed until 2006, the treaty's original "review" time.
Inspections, and the Biological Weapons Convention, are far from perfect. But however flawed, they remain our best hope of countering the growing bioweapons threat (LA Times, 2002).