In partnership with the New America Foundation, Global Green USA held an event to look at ways to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).
The panel discussion titled “Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention” was held 8 July 2009 in Washington DC. Panellists included Dr. Paul Walker, Director of Global Green USA’s Security & Sustainability Programme, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, New America Foundation’s Director of the Nuclear Strategy and Non-proliferation Initiative and Dr. Piers Millet, one of three experts from the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dr. Millet stressed the need for more cross-border cooperation to achieve national implementation. He discussed the possibility of a decentralized network of implementing organisations, rather than one large body in order to challenge states to take a more active role. On the topic of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Dr. Millet pointed out that alternatives to the traditional verification protocols must be explored when dealing with the life sciences sector and sensitive intellectual property.
Dr. Paul Walker touched on specific measures to expand the BWC, such as promoting universality, increasing the role of NGOs, and making countries accountable for reporting ongoing biological projects as well as for response measures in case of exposure to biological agents.
Following remarks by Dr. Millet and Dr. Walker, the audience engaged in a discussion ranging from how to incorporate ethics training into education for young scientists to how to increase the scope and notification of response identification measures.
The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was signed in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. As of 2009, the BWC has over 160 States Parties, and in 2011, the Seventh Five-Year Review Conference will take place. Prior to and during the 2011 Review Conference, many issues such as confidence building measures (CBMs) will need to be assessed by both experts and States Parties.
Although a broadly supported non-proliferation regime, the Biological Weapons Convention lacks an instrument to ensure compliance and verification within its member states. This is held in contrast to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which both have organisational bodies to implement inspections and verification of the treaty.