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Geneva Forum Activities
Biological Weapons

Index
22-23 August 2009
 Options and proposals to strengthen the Confidence-Building Measures mechanism of the Biological Weapons Convention
2 December 2008
 Preparing the Ground for the CBM Content Debate: What Information Builds Confidence?
18 August 2008
 Synthetic Biology: Engineering Life Science
12 December 2007
 Building Confidence in the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention: The Way Forward
9-10 March 2006
 Meeting the Challenges of Reviewing the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention
27 September 2005
 The BTWC “New Process” and “Review Process”: Making the Connections
11 June 2005
 Incapacitating Biochemical Weapons: Scientific, Military, Legal and Policy Perspectives and Prospects
12 April 2005
 Brainstorming Luncheon on the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention
24 March 2005
 30 Years of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention: Looking Back, Looking Forward
23 September 2004
 

The BTWC New Process: Prospects for 2006 and Beyond

25 September 2003
 Brainstorming Meeting on the “New Process” on the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
1 July 2003
 The BTWC Work Programme (2003-2005): What does it mean and what can it achieve?
11 November 2002
 Press Breakfast to launch the "BioWeapons Prevention Project"
12-13 September 2002
 Strengthening Implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: The 5th Review Conference and Beyond
16 July 2002
 The Future of Biological Disarmament
13 June 2002
 Keeping Track of Anthrax: The Case for a Biosecurity Convention
21-22 March 2002
 Civil Society Monitoring:Comparing Experiences, exploring relevance to Biological Weapons
22 November 2001
 The Role of Disarmament Treaties (especially the BTWC and CWC) in Preventing Terrorism
13 October 2001
 NGO brainstorming session on Biological & Toxin Weapons Disarmament
11-12 October 2001
 The Future of Biological & Toxin Arms Control
26 April 2001
 An Analysis of the Chairman's Composite Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Protocol Text
1 October 1997
 Strengthening the BWC: A Long History - Where Now?

 

Date

Theme

Speakers/Participants

22-23 August
2009
Report
Report31KB


Options and proposals to strengthen the Confidence-Building Measures mechanism of the Biological Weapons Convention 

TheThe Geneva Forum is organised a residential workshop on “Options and proposals to strengthen the Confidence-Building Measures mechanism of the Biological Weapons Convention.

The mechanism of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) will form the focus of much of the political discussion around the Convention in the next few years; States Parties have pledged to proceed with a thorough review of this mechanism at the next Review Conference of the BWC, scheduled for 2011.

The Geneva Forum, which has focused on the role of CBMs, their usefulness and shortcomings in the past, offered a constructive contribution to this debate by hosting a series of workshops jointly sponsored by Germany, Norway and Switzerland. The primary aim of the workshops was to bring together the community of technical and political experts on CBMs to foster dialogue and exchanges of ideas on possible ways to strengthen this compliance mechanism.

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule


2 December
2008
Preparing the Ground for the CBM Content Debate: What Information Builds Confidence? 

The 6th Review Conference of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) succeeded in putting back on track multilateral efforts to prevent disease and poison being used as weapons. As well as outlining an ambitious intersessional work programme, the Final Declaration also recognised the urgent need to address the fact that only a limited number of States Parties submit Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). The 6th Review Conference also established an Implementation Support Unit mandated, inter alia, to support the exchange of CBMs.

Although the issue of CBMs did not feature in the current intersessional work programme, the 6th Review Conference agreed that CBMs merited further and comprehensive attention at the 7th Review Conference in 2011. The intersessional Meetings of Experts and Meetings of States Parties provided an ideal opportunity to address the issue of CBMs on the margins. The more ideas can be exchanged on this issue over the coming years, the higher the likelihood that the 7th Review Conference will be in a position to take effective action on it.

This seminar highlighted the role that CBMs play in strengthening the BTWC, and examined ways of strengthening them and making them more effective: An overview of the role of the ISU in strengthening CBMs; Review of the quality of current CBM information, and exploration of whether, in practice, the information supplied enhances transparency and builds the necessary degree of confidence between States Parties; Discussion on CBMs and outline some of the political work ahead.

The seminar also launched the final report of the study “Preparing the ground for the CBM content debate: What information builds confidence?” This study was funded by the Government of Switzerland and carried out by the BIOS Centre of the London School of Economics. Copies of the report were available at the seminar.


Chair:
Reto Wollenmann, Permanent Mission of Switzerland


Speakers:
Richard Lennane, Head of the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU)

Filippa Lentzos, BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics


Jürg Streuli, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament

18 August 2008

Synthetic Biology: Engineering Life Science

Historically, as our understanding of scientific disciplines has developed, so has our ability to apply them in ways that make our lives easier and better. Newtonian physics led to mechanical engineering; the mastering of electricity made electrical engineering possible and advances in chemistry brought us chemical engineering. Likewise, recent advances in the biological sciences are, for the first time, presenting us with the possibility of engineering living organisms.

What does this mean? Biological engineering, also known as 'synthetic biology,' would enable a design-oriented approach to the production of biological entities. It would mean moving from the question, "what can I make this bacteria do?" to "I need a bacteria to do X, how do I make it?" Synthetic biology expands upon genetic engineering techniques to make it easier to build living organisms. Because it can handle complex information in a non-specialist setting, it has the potential to bring biology out of the laboratory and into our everyday lives.

All scientific advances bring with them the potential for misuse. There is no reason to expect that the establishment of a discipline of biological engineering will be any different - except in this case it would breach international law. The ban on biological weapons is absolute; biology must only be used for peaceful purposes. It is necessary to think hard and early about how we can ensure that this norm is maintained into an era of synthetic biology. This seminar brought together perspectives from synthetic biologists, science journalists and bio-hackers to explain why the international policy-making community should be taking notice of these developments and why it is in everyone's interest to do so sooner rather than later.

Robert M. Friedman, J. Craig Venter Institute, Maryland and California, USA  

Piers D. Millett , BWC Implementation Support Unit, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs

 

12 December
2007
Building Confidence in the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention: The Way Forward

The 6th Review Conference of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) succeeded in putting back on track multilateral efforts to prevent disease and poison being used as weapons. As well as outlining an ambitious intercessional work programme, the Final Declaration also recognised the urgent need to address the fact that only a limited number of States Parties submit Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). The 6th Review Conference also established an Implementation Support Unit mandated, inter alia, to support the exchange of CBMs.

Although the issue of CBMs does not feature in the current intercessional work programme, the 6th Review Conference agreed that CBMs merited further and comprehensive attention at the 7th Review Conference in 2011. The forthcoming Meetings of Experts and Meetings of States Parties provide an ideal opportunity to address the issue of CBMs on the margins. The more ideas can be exchanged on this issue over the coming years, the higher the likelihood that the 7th Review Conference will be in a position to take effective action on it.

This seminar highlighted the role that CBMs play in strengthening the BTWC and examined ways of strengthening them and making them more effective. The seminar also launched a new report on National Data Collection Processes for CBM Submissions. This study was funded by the Government of Switzerland and jointly carried out by the BIOS Centre of the London School of Economics and by the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC).

Mr. Richard Lennane, Head, BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU)

Dr. Filippa Lentzos, BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics

Ambassador Jürg Streuli, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament

9-10 March 2006Meeting the Challenges of Reviewing the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention

The sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) will take place in Geneva at the end of this year. The challenges facing the meeting are enormous and meeting them will not be easy, especially in the current multilateral climate.

In light of this, however, complacency or resignation to failure is not an option. The threat posed by the deliberate use of disease as a weapon is simply too serious, as is chillingly illustrated by the real fears about the spread of a naturally occurring disease – the H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus. Given this background, it is incumbent upon States to invest a great deal of preparation, planning and effort in order to achieve the best possible outcome to the sixth BTWC Review Conference.

In this context, an informal, high-level seminar on Meeting the Challenges of Reviewing the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention involved representatives of about 15 key governments, along with a small number of experts from relevant international organisations, academic institutions and NGOs, in intensive discussions over two days aimed at analysing the principal challenges facing the sixth Review Conference and identifying options for meeting and overcoming them.

The meeting provided a timely opportunity to take stock both of the current state of the BTWC regime and of the principal challenges facing it. The emphasis was on discussing practical solutions to the problems at hand by taking a broad approach and considering innovations that have worked in other settings. The goal of the meeting was to identify some very concrete recommendations for action that could be disseminated to all UN Member States prior to the Review Conference in order to stimulate reflection and discussion.

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule

27 September 2005
Report
31KB

 

The BTWC “New Process” and “Review Process”: Making the Connections

Organised jointly with the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP)

The purpose of this informal brainstorming meeting was to build upon discussions held in joint workshops organised by the Geneva Forum and BWPP in September 2003 and September 2004 and to look ahead to the December 2005 Meeting of States Party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and to the 6th Review Conference of the BTWC, scheduled to take place at the end of 2006.

The meeting was attended by representatives of governments, international organisations and NGOs and was divided into two working sessions – “Bringing the New Process to bear on the Review Process” and “Active Transparency and the Clarification of “Intent” – A role for Confidence-building Measures?”

The meeting stressed the need for creative thinking in preparing for the 6th Review Conference, and for reflection on lessons learned from the new intersessional process. In particular, it drew attention to the question of how the issues dealt with during the new process could best be brought to bear on the review process.


Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule.

11 June 2005
Report
32KB

 

 

Incapacitating Biochemical Weapons: Scientific, Military, Legal and Policy Perspectives and Prospects

Co-sponsored with the Scientists Working Group of the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Washington, DC.

Advances in the life sciences and biotechnology, and the changing nature of conflict in the 21st Century, are generating increasing interest in and concern about chemical and biochemical incapacitating agents. Despite the temporary surge in media attention following Russia’s use of fentanyl (aesthetic) derivative to resolve the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis, awareness of military and law enforcement interest in these agents remains confined to a small community of experts.

The goal of this Symposium was to facilitate critical thinking and discussion about the complex issues surrounding biochemical incapacitating agents by key players in the field, including scientists, military and law enforcement practitioners, national and international policy makers, and representatives of international governmental organizations and civil society.

Australia - Azerbaijan - BioWeapons Prevention Project - Brazil - Canada - Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation - China - Darmstadt University of Technology - European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) - Finland - Germany - Harvard-Sussex Programme - Holy See - Hungary - International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) - Monterey Institute for International Studies - Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) - Poland -Netherlands - New Zealand - Norway - Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) - Russian Federation - South Africa - Sunshine Project - Sweden - Switzerland - Turkey - UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) - United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) - University of Bradford - University of California at Davis - University of Essex - University of Exeter - University of Leeds - University of Texas at Dallas - UK- USA -

 

12 April 2005Brainstorming Luncheon on the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention

The 30th anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) on March 26 was marked in Geneva by a seminar jointly organised by the Geneva Forum and the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP) at which reflections of the past, present and future of the convention were offered by a biologist (Dr. Erhard Geissler or the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine), a scholar of international relations (Mr. Nicholas Sims of the London School of Economics), and a UNIDIR researcher, Mr. John Borrie (for more details, see below).

The reflections provided by these experts and the open discussion that followed underlined that, amid the pessimism that currently surrounds the BTWC, there is reason to be proud of what the convention has achieved to date and, indeed, room for some optimism concerning its future.

To follow up on this seminar and to add some momentum to the discussion it began, the Geneva Forum organised a small, informal luncheon for a small number of senior government representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss in a very informal and off-the-record way the current state and the future of the BTWC. In particular, participants explored what might be done to develop some new thinking about the “post-new process” phase of the convention that might contribute to building a new consensus about its future.

 

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule.
24 March 2005

30 Years of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Organised jointly with the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP)

On 26 March 2005, the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) turned 30. This seminar marked this auspicious occasion by reflecting on the origins of the BTWC, assessing its current state, and looking to its future.

When the BTWC came into force in 1975, an entire category of weapons of mass destruction became illegal. Existing stockpiles of disease-causing weapons had to be destroyed and states were prohibited from (re)arming themselves with biological weapons. The Convention was not, however, equipped with an effective verification mechanism, making it difficult to establish with a reasonable degree of confidence that states are actually complying with its provisions.

Thirty years on, the BTWC faces a number of serious challenges that threaten to undermine the global norm against using disease as a weapon. The Anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001 broadened the focus of concerns from the development by states of biological weapons to their possible development and use by non-state actors. This concern has been heightened even more by the revolution that is currently taking place in the life sciences, a revolution with which the 154 States Parties to the BTWC are having great trouble keeping pace. This revolution, especially in areas such as gene technology and molecular cell biology, is producing vast amounts of new knowledge that should be used for the greater good of all humanity, but that could be misused, by states or by non-state groups, to its even greater detriment.


Dr. Erhard Geissler, Professor Emeritus, Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine, Berlin-Buch

Mr. Nicholas Sims, Reader in International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

Mr. John Borrie, Project Manager, Disarmament as Humanitarian Action; United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

23 September 2004

The BTWC New Process: Prospects for 2006 and Beyond

Organised jointly with the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP)

This informal brainstorming seminar involving representatives of governments, UN bodies, international organisations and NGOs followed up on a similar meeting held on 25 September 2003 (see below). It had two goals:

  • To relate the BTWC new process to the overall BTWC review process: In particular, what role does the new process play in the overall BTWC review process, and what should be the balance in 2006 between considering the work of the new process and building upon understandings developed at previous Review Conferences?
  • To begin to consider options for strengthening the BTWC regime following the 2006 Review Conference: In particular, can the ‘institutional deficit’ in the BTWC be filled and, if so, how? Also, what actions could the 6th Review Conference take to regularise annual information exchange and ‘review,’ and what actions might states take unilaterally?

 

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule.

25 September 2003

Report

Brainstorming Meeting on the “New Process” on the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

Organised jointly with the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP)

On the face of it, the first Meeting of Experts in the “new process” surrounding the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), held on August 18-29 in Geneva, appears to have been a success. Eighty-three States participated in the meeting, 62 of which distributed Working Papers dealing with the two issues under discussion – national measures to implement the provisions of the BWC and national mechanisms on the security and oversight of pathogens. The meeting identified some recurring elements – including the need for more effective national legislation, penal provisions and legislation to control the transfer of pathogens – and allowed for useful sharing of information and best practices on these issues.

This seminar took stock of this first Meting of Experts, discussed how well it has paved the way for the Meeting of BWC States Parties (scheduled for 10-14 November 2003 in Geneva), and analysed what, in light of the Meeting of Experts, the November Meeting of States Parties was likely to be able to achieve.

 

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule

1 July 2003

The BTWC Work Programme (2003-2005): What does it mean and what can it achieve?

The BTWC Work Programme (2003-2005): What does it mean and what can it achieve?The compromise outcome of the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was agreement on an interim work programme to be carried out before the 6th Review Conference in 2006. This work programme focuses on (1) national implementation of BTWC provisions, (2) security and oversight of pathogens, (3) responding to the alleged use of biological weapons, (4) strengthening international disease surveillance, and (5) developing codes of conduct for scientists. BTWC States Parties agreed to deal with the first two issues during 2003, the second two during 2004 and the final one during 2005. During each of these years, government experts will meet in Geneva to prepare the ground for annual meetings of States Parties to discuss, promote common understanding, and take effective action on these issues. The purpose of this conference, held in advance of the first Meeting of Experts, was to clear up some of the ambiguity surrounding this new work programme by first looking in some detail at the programme of work to be carried out during 2003 and drawing lessons from this to evaluate the prospects for the overall BTWC work programme. The conference involved the participation of top international experts on the BTWC and attracted the participation of numerous BTWC States Parties.

 

Mr. Trevor Findlay, Director, Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC)

Ms. Kathryn McLaughlin, Research Fellow, Landau Network - Centro Volta

Ms. Elisa Harris, Research Fellow, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland

Mr. Terence Taylor, President and Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies - US

Dr. Jean Pascal Zanders, Director, BioWeapons Prevention Project

 

11 November 2002

Press Breakfast to launch the "BioWeapons Prevention Project"

On the opening day of the resumed session of the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the Geneva Forum organised a press breakfast to launch a new civil society initiative called the “Bio Weapons Prevention Project” (BWPP). This initiative, which the Geneva Forum incubated, is a global civil society activity that aims to strengthen the norm against using disease as a weapon. It was initiated by a group of non-governmental organizations concerned at the failure of governments to act. BWPP tracks governmental and other behaviour that is pertinent to compliance with international treaties and other agreements, especially those that outlaw hostile use of biotechnology. The project works to reduce the threat of bioweapons by monitoring and reporting throughout the world. BWPP supports and is supported by a global network of partners. BWPP was also presented to governments during a lunchtime seminar on the same day, attended by more than 100 participants, organised by the BWPP with the assistance of the Geneva Forum.

 

Ms. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Chair, Working Group on Biological Weapons, Federation of American Scientists

Mr. Malcolm Dando, Co-Director, Project on Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, University of Bradford

Mr. Ian Davis, Director, British American Security Information Council (BASIC)

 

12-13 September 2002

Strengthening Implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: The 5th Review Conference and Beyond

On 7 December 2001, the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was unexpectedly and acrimoniously suspended after the United States called for the abolition of the Ad-Hoc Group of state parties mandated to find ways of strengthening compliance with the Convention.  This two-day residential workshop gathered high-level experts from key governments, nongovernmental organisations and UN bodies to consider the prospects of the resumed session of the Review Conference (scheduled to take place on 11-22 November 2002 in Geneva) and to plan for a positive outcome.  Participants examined in detail a range of plausible outcomes of the Review Conference, the implications for biological weapons control of the failure of the Conference, and specific actions that would need to be taken to maximise the chances of a successful outcome.  In particular, the meeting explored the pros and cons of resorting to voting during the Review Conference, drawing on past examples of voting (or the threat thereof) from other areas of arms control and outside of arms control - e.g., negotiations for the Ottowa Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol and the NPT Review and Extension Conference.  The discussion concluded with a consideration of the longer term relevance of the BTWC in the context of changing threat perceptions since the end of the Cold War and recent developments in technology.

 

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule.

 

16 July 2002

Report

The Future of Biological Disarmament

The second in a series of seminars organised by the Geneva Forum to stimulate creative thinking in the run-up the resumed session of the 5th Review Conference of the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) scheduled to take place in November 2002 in Geneva (for the first seminar in this series, see 13 June 2002 below).  Nicholas Sims, author most recently of "The Evolution of Biological Disarmament" (Oxford University Press, 2001), argued that route-maps are needed to get round obstacles in the path of biological disarmament and that it is necessary to identify procedural devices for getting the BTWC treaty regime back on course and remedying its institutional fragility.  He argued that the BTWC needs (first) interim supportive institutions and (eventually) a permanent Organization to reinforce its central obligations and serve its States Parties collectively.  To get there, he stressed the urgent need to rethink the traditionally unquestioned reliance on BTWC decision-making by consensus. In new conditions, he argued that voting may become a procedural necessity against intransigence.  Finally, he looked to the medium-term future of biological disarmament over the next ten years, and concluded with a set of requirements that would have to be met for the BTWC's evolution to take a constructive turn.

 

Mr. Nicholas Sims, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

 

13 June 2002

Report

Keeping Track of Anthrax: The Case for a Biosecurity Convention

During the fifth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) held in the autumn of 2001 - at the same time as the United States was suffering the first lethal bioterrorist attack in its history - the U.S. government proposed a package of nine measures to strengthen the BWC based on national legislation, informal arrangements, and existing ad hoc mechanisms as an alternative to the rejected BWC Protocol.  Dr. Tucker argued that, although the U.S. measures in their current form would not be particularly effective, some of them could serve as the basis for negotiated, multilateral arrangements that could be of real benefit in enhancing BWC compliance and addressing the growing threat of bioterrorism.  He focused in particular on a proposal by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies for the negotiation of a "Biosecurity Convention" - a multilateral, legally binding treaty that would establish uniform international restrictions on access to dangerous pathogens, together with universal standards of biosecurity and biosafety. 

 

Mr. Jonathan Tucker, Director, Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, The Monterey Institute of International Studies

 

 

21-22 March 2002

Report

Civil Society Monitoring:
Comparing Experiences, exploring relevance to Biological Weapons

Among the outcomes of the Geneva Forum residential workshop on "The Future of Biological & Toxin Arms Control," held on 11-12 October 2001 (see below), was a recommendation that "non-governmental organisations, in cooperation with governments, establish a mechanism for monitoring compliance with the BWC using information available in the public domain."  This Geneva Conference constituted a first step in translating this recommendation into action. 

The meeting exposed a group of expert biological weapons and biotechnology NGOs to the expertise of organisations with long experience in monitoring the fields of human rights, small arms, landmines, security and corruption.  The overarching goal of the meeting was to share lessons-learned and best practices regarding open source and other monitoring by civil society organisations in order to facilitate the establishment of a global biological weapons monitoring network.

Representatives of organisations monitoring areas other than biological weapons began with brief presentations covering the genesis of their organisation, its activities and structure, in order to provide other participants with examples of the various forms that effective monitoring initiatives can take.  Two specially commissioned studies were presented, the first - complementing the opening presentations - on the modalities of a broad range of civil society monitoring initiatives, and the second outlining biological weapons monitoring activities already underway in various parts of the world - as well as the main gaps that exist in this monitoring work.  The appropriate tools and methodologies for monitoring biological weapons were discussed as were the practical arrangements for setting up the network.  It was decided to launch the project formally at the resumed 5th Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention to be held in Geneva on 11-22 November 2002.

 

Participants:
Transparency International - Small Arms Survey - Landmine Monitor / Human Rights Watch - International Institute for Strategic Studies - Arms Control Association - Harvard Sussex Programme - Centre for International Trade and Security, University of Georgia - Centre for Conflict Resolution, South Africa - British American Security Information Council (BASIC) - The Sunshine Project - International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES) - Pax Christi International - UN Department for Disarmament Affairs - Genewatch UK - Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC) - Third World Network - Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies - International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) - Directorate of Special Operations, South Africa - Centre for European Security and Disarmament (CESD) - Federation of American Scientists - University of Bradford - 20/20 Vision

 

 

22 November 2001

The Role of Disarmament Treaties (especially the BTWC and CWC) in Preventing Terrorism

On the occasion of the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and in the wake of anthrax attacks in the United States, the Geneva Forum invited Jean Pascal Zanders to present to diplomats and NGOs participating in the BTWC Review Conference an analysis of the role of disarmament treaties - in particular the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions - in preventing terrorism. The dilemma, according to Dr. Zanders, is that the BTWC and CWC are international treaties, signed by states, that regulate state behaviour but that terrorism poses the challenge of controlling the behaviour of sub-state or transnational actors.  He pointed out, however, that both conventions contain positive and negative security guarantees that can be extended or further developed to cover the activities, or consequences of activities, of non-state actors and that, in addition, there are other international instruments more specifically tailored to the terrorist threat, but which can easily be brought within the regime prohibiting biological and chemical weapons.

 

Dr. Jean Pascal Zanders, Project Leader, Chemical and Biological Warfare Project, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

 

13 October 2001

NGO brainstorming session on Biological & Toxin Weapons Disarmament

As a follow-up to the 11-12 October 2001 residential seminar on the Future of Biological and Toxin Arms Control, the Geneva Forum convened an informal meeting of non-governmental experts only to assess the outcomes of the larger meeting and to coordinate further action.  Using the ideas generated by the 11-12 October meeting as a starting-point, participants discussed the various roles that NGOs could play in re-starting efforts to strengthen the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC).  There was general agreement that the most effective strategy would be for NGOs to focus on three core issues, (1) elaborating and encouraging confidence-building measures, (2) aiding in the development and advocating the adoption of national legislation to implement the provisions of the BWC, and (3) advocating that all states sign the BWC (universality).  In addition, the idea of establishing an NGO-led international biological weapons monitoring mechanism based on open-source material was discussed in detail.  Participants requested the Geneva Forum to convene a meeting in early 2002 to bring experts in the open-source monitoring of areas such as landmines, small arms and conventional weapons into contact with NGOs interested in monitoring compliance with the BWC.

 

Participants:
Federation of American Scientists - University of Bradford - The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy - The Sunshine Project - Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - Geneva Forum partner organisations

 

11-12 October 2001

Report

The Future of Biological & Toxin Arms Control

The collapse, in August 2001, of negotiations on a Protocol to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) - after almost 7 years of intense work - left most States Parties not only uncertain about the prospects for adding verification mechanisms to the Convention but also reluctant to engage in informal discussion about what could be undertaken in the wake of the collapse.  In light of this, the Geneva Forum convened a two-day meeting of predominantly nongovernmental experts with the aim of generating new ideas and approaches to the problem at hand.  The meeting first took stock of the current situation, addressing issues such as the general consequences of the breakdown in negotiations, the possible implications of the September 11 terrorist attack on the US for BW arms control, the current status of the Protocol and the November/December 2001 Review Conference of the BWC.  It then proceeded to brainstorm on the prospects for strengthening the BWC, focusing in particular on (1) global approaches (combating BW terrorism as well as disease surveillance and response), (2) industry measures (Industry-to-industry and university-to-university initiatives, and (3) export control regimes such as the Australia Group.  Participants requested that the Geneva Forum collate the ideas generated by the meeting and make them available as a contribution to the general debate on the future of Biological & Toxin Arms Control.

 

Meeting held under the Chatham House Rule

 

26 April 2001

An Analysis of the Chairman's Composite Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Protocol Text

In cooperation with the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK

On 30 March 2001, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Group of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) released a clean (bracket-less) version of a draft protocol to strengthen the Convention in the hope that this would facilitate its completion before the deadline of the 5th review conference of the BTWC to be held in Nov.-Dec. 2001.  In this seminar, a group of international experts analysed the Chairman's composite text and concluded, in general, that it constituted a deftly struck compromise between conflicting interests.  There was general consensus among the panellists - although not among the government representatives among the over 100 participants - that the Chairman's text should replace the existing (and extensively bracketed) "rolling text" as the sole basis for negotiation in the run-up to the 5th review conference.

 

Mr. Jim Leonard, Ambassador (retired), USA / Federation of American Scientists

Ms. Jenni Rissanen, Geneva Analyst, The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Mr. Graham Pearson, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Mr. Malcolm Dando, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Ms. Marie Chevrier, University of Texas at Austin

 

1 October 1997

Strengthening the BWC: A Long History - Where Now?

The first seminar in the series under the name "The Geneva Forum" took place in the third week of the third 1997 meeting of the Ad Hoc Group of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention which was then considering proposals for a legally binding instrument to strengthen the Convention.  Nicholas Sims provided a long-term perspective of his presentations, drawing on his own long history of association with the evolution of the Biological Weapons Convention.  He aimed at putting the work of the Ad Hoc Group into the context of previous efforts to strengthen the BWC. He argued that that there was need to create an institution to oversee the application of the Convention between Review Conferences and keep momentum going. Sims argued that at least a secretariat and legal and scientific panels to assist a BW Committee.

 

Mr. Nicholas Sims
Senior Lecturer in International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

 


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