Green Cross addresses Biological Weapons Convention Meeting

On 14 December, in Geneva, Paul Walker, Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Director, addressed the Meeting of the States Parties for the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC/BTWC). The Convention, which currently has 173 States parties, and nine States that have signed but not yet ratified, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Walker presented the following statement:

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me start by thanking you for a great example of inclusiveness, which we all are able to observe today by hearing the statements from States Parties to the BTWC as well as from representatives from non-governmental and other multilateral organizations. For more than two decades Green Cross International has been actively facilitating cooperation of various stakeholders on security, nonproliferation, and sustainability issues and we gladly praise the efforts within the BTWC to do the same.

The States Parties to the BTWC have demonstrated determination and good will over the years in order to strengthen this important treaty. We have witnessed enhancement of national capacities by supporting the implementation of International Health Regulations, enforcement of BTWC-related national legislation, improvement of biosafety and biosecurity regulations, promotion of education and awareness-raising, and launching of new initiatives such as the Global Health Security Agenda. All these are examples of successful international cooperation and confidence-building which have opened avenues for constructive discussions, useful recommendations, and problem-solving. The realities of today’s world, however, call for even greater efforts and much work ahead as we all strive to strengthen and universalize the BTWC.

Nowadays, scientific and technological developments are far ahead of current international attempts to regulate them or mitigate any potential risks. It is obvious that the Intersessional Process did not provide an appropriate format for such an enormous task as the review of S&T. We fully support proposals from States Parties and non-governmental stakeholders to develop and establish a structure dedicated solely to systematic examination of scientific and technological developments relevant to the BTWC. Whether it is an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), or a technical body under the BTWC similar to what we have under the Chemical Weapons Convention, or a panel of interdisciplinary experts, including the funding issues and the form of meetings and reports – it is time to discuss these details in preparation for the Eighth Review Conference, which would launch such an arrangement.

Universalization of the Convention continues to be a very important issue. Fourteen states have neither signed nor ratified the Convention, and another nine countries have yet to ratify their commitments. We urge States Parties to provide these 23 non-member states with the necessary assistance or guidance to facilitate their joining BTWC in the near future.

Since its creation in 2006, the Implementation Support Unit has proved to be of utmost aid to States Parties in their efforts to implement the decisions and recommendations of the annual meetings and five-year review conferences. But it is now time to expand the ISU beyond its three-person staff and to properly fund it. The workload of the ISU has become increasingly out of proportion for three staff members and they need more human resources to ensure further successful functioning. How, for example, can we expect universality for the BTWC when the ISU has very little time and funding for outreach and public education with non-member states, let alone member states?

Finally, I would point out that our Green Cross founding chairman, Mikhail Gorbachev, has long underlined the close relationship between security and sustainability in today’s world. The Biological Weapons Convention is an excellent example of this. As we witness the recent statement from the climate change conference (COP 21) in Paris, it behooves us all to recognize how important a fully functioning BTWC is to a sustainable and safe world today, and to work cooperatively to ensure that biology is never used for nefarious purposes.

With this in mind, we have organized an important side event this Thursday, December 17th, on biosafety and biosecurity, especially in developing countries, with speakers from both Africa and South America. We commend all colleagues to attend this event.

Thank you for your time, and I request that this statement be made a part of the final MSP proceedings.

You can find the MSP reports from the two first days of the meeting here:

Tuesday 15th December

Wednesday 16th December