Issue No. 82, Spring 2006
Towards the BWC Review Conference:
Diplomacy Still in the Doldrums
Nicholas A. Sims
The Meeting of States Parties to the 1972 Biological and Toxin
Weapons Convention (BWC) held in
Geneva December 5-9, 2005 was almost the last chance for
governments to set out their views on the Sixth Review Conference,
which will take place within the three weeks from November 20 to
December 8, 2006. The scheduled topic for the meeting was supposed
to be codes of conduct for scientists, but only the United States
adhered strictly to this. Most general statements used the
opportunity to address the future of the Convention at the end of
the 'new process' of 2003-2005. Directly or indirectly they began
to set the scene for the Sixth Review Conference.
Among the key questions for the Review Conference are: whether
to institute a second intersessional work programme; whether to
hold Annual Meetings of States Parties; establishing a scientific
advisory body and implementation support; and developing a
consolidation agenda and action plans for strengthening the BWC.
Though there are fears that high levels of bilateral hostility
between the United States and Iran may block attempts to get
agreement, constructive proposals and approaches are also in
NAM General Statement
The statement from the Group of BWC States Parties who are
members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), was delivered by
Malaysia on December 5. It picked up the pieces from the BWC's
famously 'lost decade' of 1991-2001 - "not so much an evolution as
an attempted revolution" - and
gave a good indication of the line it would expect its members to
follow in 2006:
"The Group further recognises the particular importance of
strengthening the Convention through multilateral negotiations for
a legally binding Protocol to the Convention...The Group stresses
the particular importance of all States Parties to pursue the
objectives that were set forth by the Fourth Review Conference in
1996, as we strongly believe that the only sustainable method of
strengthening the Convention is through multilateral negotiations
aimed at concluding a non-discriminatory legally binding agreement,
dealing with all the Articles of the Convention in a balanced and
"The Group is deeply disappointed at the inability that has been
demonstrated in the endeavours of the States Parties of the BWC to
successfully undertake initiatives to strengthen the implementation
of the Convention. We further regret the limited nature of the
decision that was taken during the resumed session of the Fifth
Review Conference in November 2002. We are also disappointed that
the opportunity to strengthen the Convention was foregone and that
limited work, which at best only had the potential of enhancing the
implementation of certain aspects of the Convention, was all that
could be achieved despite our best endeavours. The Group reiterates
that the BWC forms a composite whole and that, while it is possible
to address related issues separately, it is necessary for all the
inter-linked elements of the Convention to be dealt with in a
balanced and comprehensive manner, whether they relate to
regulation, compliance or promotion."
As their statement showed, the NAM were defensive and reactive.
Notwithstanding that some NAM members had been markedly
unenthusiastic about bringing negotiations on a strengthening
Protocol to an early conclusion,
they continued to be resentful of the United States' dramatic veto
on those negotiations in July 2001 and suspicious of its attitude
to the BWC ever since. In December 2005 that stance appeared well
entrenched, and the United States has given the NAM little reason
to reconsider. Herein lies the most evident threat to the
Conference ever reaching agreement on its Final Declaration.
However unexceptionable the NAM propositions may appear at first
sight, in the hands of hard-line delegations - most obviously Iran
- they could be used in December 2006 to block one initiative after
another as partial or unbalanced, to antagonise still further the
United States and to stall progress towards agreed language for the
Final Declaration. High tension between the United States and Iran
during 2006 makes this scenario all the more plausible. If they
wish, their delegations will be fully capable of leading the
Conference straight into deadlock.
Even though the BWC is not the most central issue in their
acrimonious relationship, it will be all too easy for each to blame
the other for the debilitated condition of the treaty. Fortunately
there are other delegations which can be relied upon to put the BWC
first and prevent bilateral hostility monopolising the proceedings.
It is not only NGOs that feel strongly that the diplomacy of
biological disarmament deserves better. But it will take hard work
to overcome this threat to the Conference.
'Positive' Canadian and EU Statements
On the opening day, the most positive statements about outcomes
to be sought from the Sixth Review Conference came from Ambassador
Paul Meyer (Canada) and Fiona Paterson (UK), the latter delivering
the European Union (EU) statement, endorsed by 36 European
states, as the UK then held the EU
Canada saw the Review Conference as "a major opportunity to take
a fresh look at our progress to date and to address areas of
deficiency." It encouraged States Parties "to start examining
possibilities for Review Conference 'deliverables'", and rehearsed
Canada's own suggestions, while emphasising that additional ideas
from others would be welcome as "the types of practical steps that
the membership should consider adopting to reinforce the strength
and authority of this Treaty which bans a deadly class of WMD".
Canada also advocated: "the formulation of action plans for BTWC
universalisation and national legislation; the further elaboration
of transparency and confidence-building measures; continued annual
BTWC meetings; the establishment of a BTWC Scientific Advisory
Body; and provision for BTWC implementation support."
The EU statement was remarkable
for the very welcome priority it gave to biological
disarmament in its categorisation of the BWC: "The Convention
remains the fundamental legal and normative foundation of our
individual and collective obligation to biological disarmament, our
efforts to prevent the proliferation of biological and toxin
weapons, and the means to counter the threat of biological agents
and toxins being developed as weapons. The EU remains committed to
developing measures to verify compliance with the BTWC."
Its key sentences on the Sixth Review Conference read: "Without
losing sight of our long-term objectives for the Convention"
[presumably a discreet reference back to the verification sentence]
"the EU believes that the Review Conference must contribute
actively to continued enhancement of the implementation of the BTWC
and that our efforts should focus on specific, feasible and
practical enhancements to strengthen the Convention and its
The EU also reiterated "that States Parties to the BTWC must be
fully alert to the challenges posed by biological and toxin weapons
and their potential use. We cannot shirk our responsibilities and
we must address the threat by whatever means we can. The Review
Conference in 2006 is a good opportunity to take this important
A second intersessional work programme
Indicating one specific way forward, the EU made agreement on a
second intersessional work programme a major goal for the Sixth
This involves putting the most positive spin possible on the
experience of 2003-2005: "We believe that the three-year work
programme has been very successful. The agreed topics were directly
relevant to States Parties' obligations under the BTWC. And we have
achieved a wide degree of information exchange on the full list of
topics. States Parties now have a better understanding of the range
of approaches that have been taken, and can be taken, with a view
to implementing fully our obligations under the Convention. We have
all had an opportunity to learn from these meetings and to improve
national approaches on the topics where appropriate."
This rosy view is consistent with the optimistic line taken by
the UK and like-minded governments since 2002. Relieved that the
United States had at least relented sufficiently to allow some
multilateral activity between Review Conferences, they were
determined to make the most of what was allowed. But it ignores the
tight constraints placed by the United States in 2002 on the
content of the agenda, and on what States Parties would be allowed
to do with it. Among these brakes on the 'new process' were:
- the narrow selection of topics
(omitting several of at least equally direct relevance to the
Convention, like verification, compliance, biodefence research,
dual use, Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs), and most if not all
aspects of Article V and Article X );
- the disjointed structure of the 'work programme', which in fact
consisted of three deliberately disconnected years; and
- the limited ability of successive Chairs to persuade their respective Meetings of States
Parties to add value to the documentation received from their
preceding Meetings of Experts by developing their analyses and
syntheses into the substantive final documents which each of them,
in different ways, sought to achieve.
Even given the absolute ban on negotiation, it should have been
possible to use the solid staff work of the Chairs and secretariat
to agree more significant final documents each December, to
demonstrate that the stated criteria of "common understanding and
effective action" had been fulfilled. But with severe limitations built into the
process, and so little allowed, it is not surprising that despite
the three Chairs' best efforts their achievements were modest.
If the EU has its way, the 2003-2005 'new process' looks like
being continued into a second intersessional sequence: "...building
on the success and the lessons of the current work programme, we
believe that there should be a further intersessional work
programme and are currently considering the topics that could
usefully be covered in such a programme."
Work on selecting topics began under the UK presidency of the EU
in 2005 and continues in 2006 under the auspices of Austria and
Finland. Austria's EU Presidency coordinator for the BWC was seen
in its delegation to the December Meeting of States Parties.
Finland, too, has a creditable long-term record of taking the
Review Conferences seriously (and also, in recent years, the NGO
'friends of the Convention').
The best thing that could be done with the 'new process' would
be to supersede it with Annual Meetings, unrestricted in their
coverage of the Convention as a whole, together with implementation
support and a scientific advisory mechanism. But if Annual Meetings
of that kind are not allowed, a few modest improvements might help
to 'upgrade' the second intersessional work programme.
Even the optimistic EU statement quoted above recognised that
there were "lessons" to be learned from the experience of
2003-2005. Here are some:
- specific topics should be replaced by broader
themes, so that a distinct aspect of the Convention can be
considered in its entirety;
- over the intersessional period 2007-2010, whether there are
eight topics or (preferably) four themes, the aim
should be to cover the whole of the Convention systematically,
preferably with nothing ruled off-limits;
- the progression each year from Meeting of Experts to Meeting of
States Parties, and the proceedings of the States Parties'
meetings, should be less tentative in terms of developing analysis
and synthesis, with a view to securing substantive final-document
outcomes which match the stated criteria of "common understanding
and effective action";
- the three weeks allocated each year could, with some minor
changes in organisation, be put to better use;
- follow-up from year to year should be introduced (there was no
way of reporting to the Meeting of States Parties in 2005 on
progress in biosecurity, penal legislation or other national
implementation measures since 2003, or on follow-up to the 2004
topics, because the 'new process' required each year's work to be
strictly self-contained, so no momentum could build up);
- time should be made available within the three weeks allocated
each year for progress reports to be made on the Action Plans on
universality and on national implementation, and on the
'consolidation agenda', together with a scientific advisory report,
if these targets for the Sixth Review Conference (as outlined
below) are achieved.
Action Plans and Consolidation Agenda
This section proposes two Action Plans and a Consolidation
Agenda as "specific, feasible and practical enhancements to
strengthen the Convention and its implementation" which the Sixth
Review Conference ought to be able to adopt. They deliberately
build on foundations already laid by consensus, and, avoiding
contentious areas of BWC diplomacy or interpretation, encourage
instead the completion of longstanding, politically binding
commitments which many, but not all, States Parties have already
Action Plan on National Implementation
BWC States Parties have been subject to national implementation
obligations ever since the Convention entered into force for them,
because Article IV requires that each one of them "shall, in
accordance with its constitutional processes, take any necessary
measures to prohibit and prevent the development, production,
stockpiling, acquisition or retention of the agents, toxins,
weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in Article I of
the Convention, within the territory of such State, under its
jurisdiction or under its control anywhere."
The First Review Conference, as long ago as March 21, 1980,
exhorted everyone to take such measures "immediately". An Action Plan on National
Implementation could put on a systematic and continuous basis,
under the authority of the States Parties as a whole, the hitherto
spasmodic attempts to get more governments to take this obligation
seriously. It would need to take into account:
- the agreed understandings concerning Article IV, including the
encouragement of sharing texts through the United Nations for
purposes of consultation (since 1980), and of notifying the status
of legislation as part of the CBM programme (since 1991), which
previous Review Conferences recorded between 1980 and 1996 in
"successive layers of consensually agreed language";
- an increasing emphasis on penal legislation and on the closing
of any jurisdictional loopholes;
- an impressive body of work by VERTIC both to establish the
current state of affairs worldwide and, together with ICRC lawyers, to develop
capacity-building and technical assistance tools including draft
model legislation to suit the diverse legal traditions within which
Article IV has to be fulfilled.
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) experience is instructive.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has
run an Action Plan on CWC Article VII obligations since 2003. Its origins lie in the CWC's First
Review Conference although it takes its authority from the
Conference of the States Parties in regular session later the same
year. Legal advisory staff are tasked with implementing the Action
Plan, and progress reports are made to the CWC States Parties by
the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW through the Executive
The BWC, notoriously, lacks a comparable structure of permanent
institutions. That does not excuse the States Parties from finding
ways and means to get a comparable Action Plan launched for BWC
Article IV. If it impels the States Parties to think seriously
about support structures for the BWC, such as an Annual Meeting and
provision for implementation support, so much the better.
Two other things have already come out of CWC experience which
may be relevant to the BWC. One is that many governments appreciate
technical assistance under the Action Plan: no fewer than 78
"received legislative assistance in the form of feedback on their
draft legislation or on their first drafts, or with the whole
process of drafting the legislation". The OPCW Technical
Secretariat also conducted 41 technical assistance visits (TAVs)
between the inception of the Plan and October 17, 2005 and also
supported 11 bilateral TAVs that were organised directly between
The other is that there remain wide disparities between the
percentages of CWC States Parties which have adopted legislative
and administrative measures to implement that Convention, and under
Article VII.5 have informed the OPCW Technical Secretariat of the
fact (60%, at October 17, 2005), those which have submitted the
texts of the measures they have taken (48%), and those which have
"adopted legislation that covers all key requirements of the
The 'adequacy gap' between the 60% which have taken some
measures and the 34% which have taken sufficient measures to
cover all key CWC requirements was already evident in 2002 when the
equivalent figures were 48% and 27%. That it was still just as wide three years later
is disturbing. It indicates a predictable need for BWC States
Parties to exercise collective scrutiny, and to target technical
assistance, with a view not just to penal legislation but to
comprehensive legislation. Article IV of the BWC sets a
stringent criterion ("any necessary measures to prohibit and
prevent"), which should be upheld in the action plan on national
Action Plan on Universality
BWC States Parties have been committed since their Third Review
Conference in 1991 to seeking universal adherence to the
Convention. Yet here again
diplomatic demarches to signatory-only states (16 of the early
signatories from 1972-73 have still not ratified) and
non-signatories (about 20) have been spasmodic rather than
systematic. So there is also a strong case for an Action Plan on
Again there is useful experience to be gained from the CWC's
comparable Action Plan since 2003, such as the close cooperation
the OPCW Technical Secretariat has maintained with regional
organisations including the African Union and the Organisation of
American States, and with the African Group of CWC States Parties
at The Hague.
In a first stage a BWC Action Plan on Universality might aim to
close the gap between the BWC and CWC rosters (currently 155
against 175): if all those states which have accepted the CWC would
also join the BWC, the latter would be much closer to universality.
The Action Plan in a second stage could then concentrate on the
deliberate 'hold-outs' from both Conventions and similarly tough
Some States Parties have been active in the quest for
universality, persuading outsiders to join. Others have not acted
on this 1991 commitment. Even among the most active the effort has
been discontinuous and unsystematic. With the benefits of CWC
experience, it is high time that it became continuous, systematic
and undertaken under the auspices of the States Parties as a
collectivity and with their full support.
A Consolidation Agenda would usefully remind BWC States
Parties of politically binding commitments they undertook to get
their treaty status into conformity with their BWC obligations and
to build one another's confidence.
The oldest component of a consolidation agenda derives from the
exhortation States Parties issued to one another on March 21, 1980,
in the Article VIII section of the Final Declaration of the First
Review Conference. In this, they pledged to comply strictly with
the provisions of the Geneva Protocol of June 17, 1925 and, if not
already party to it, "to ratify or accede to it at the earliest
possible date"[emphasis added]. Yet a quarter of a century after that exhortation
was issued, no fewer than 30 of the BWC States Parties were still
to be found outside the Protocol altogether: one (El Salvador) had
yet to ratify its 1925 signature and 29 others had yet to
Some 20 others are party to the Geneva Protocol but have
yet to regularise their treaty status and render it consistent with
their BWC obligations by withdrawing reservations to the Protocol
that purport to reserve a right of retaliation with bacteriological
(as well as chemical) methods of warfare.
Withdrawal of reservations became a politically binding
commitment, a collective exhortation by the BWC States Parties,
tentatively at the Third Review Conference in 1991 and unequivocally at the Fourth in 1996. Significantly its importance was
reinforced in the UN Secretary-General's official message to the
Meeting of States Parties at its opening session on 5 December
2005. It was given further
impetus the same day in a joint declaration of the French and Swiss
governments recording their Geneva seminar to commemorate the
eightieth anniversary of the 1925 Protocol.
A consolidation agenda should both highlight the actions of BWC
States Parties in ratifying or acceding to the 1925 Protocol or (if
already party) in withdrawing reservations, and reaffirm the
politically binding commitments on the remaining states which have
yet to take the necessary action. Still seeking conformity in
treaty status, it should also draw attention to BWC Article IX,
which since the conclusion of the CWC has been interpreted as
mandating a politically binding commitment on BWC States Parties to
become parties to the CWC as well. Most have, but not all.
Last but not least, it could embrace the CBM programme
inaugurated in 1986 and enhanced and expanded in 1991.
Consolidation of politically binding commitments already agreed
must include providing the United Nations by April 15 each year
with declarations under each of the CBMs (including the
user-friendly formats with 'nothing to declare' and 'no change'
options which have been available since 1991). More needs to be
done to improve the usefulness of the CBM programme, but
participation by all States Parties is the most basic goal for a
consolidation agenda to include.
The idea of a consolidation agenda has much in common with the
action plans for national implementation and universality. Like
them, it calls attention to longstanding commitments which the
States Parties adopted by consensus, in the politically binding
context of their Review Conference Final Declarations, and which
challenge them to show that they take the BWC seriously.
The consolidation agenda aims to provide the BWC with a firmer
platform from which to move forward. That platform would see all BWC States Parties
having joined also the 1925 Protocol, without reservation, and the
CWC, so that their absolute renunciation of chemical and biological
weapons and warfare was internally consistent and logically
unequivocal. It would also see them building one another's
confidence through reporting annually on each element in the agreed
Annual Meetings, Implementation Support and Scientific
One of the key decisions facing the Sixth Review Conference will
be whether to institute an Annual Meeting of States Parties.
To do so would be a natural development from the topic-limited
Meetings of Experts and of States Parties which took place in
Governments have got into the habit of devoting three weeks a
year to BWC discussions in a multilateral format. The rules of
procedure of the BWC Review Conferences have been borrowed and
adapted as necessary. Several times it has been observed that
statements made in the Meeting of States Parties and even the
preceding Meeting of Experts have ranged wider than the official
topic, as if governments felt the need to take stock of the state
of the Convention each year and register their policy positions.
A good example is Brazil, with its insistence (repeated at every
opportunity) on the Convention being an integrated group of fifteen
Articles which must not be subjected to selective emphasis, because
all are equally valid as parts of the whole. Some have even taken to using the title 'Annual
Meeting' or even, in a few cases, 'Annual Conference' in the titles
of their national statements, although more have not.
There is a strong case for an Annual Meeting of States Parties,
perhaps using themes to organise the agenda, but not narrowly
restricted topics as in 2003-2005. Most importantly, the Annual
Meeting would be able to address current problems, receive progress
reports on the action plans and the consolidation agenda, and spend
a serious proportion of its time assessing relevant developments in
science and technology. It would
enable the States Parties to do whatever was needed to nurture and
strengthen the treaty, of which they are simultaneously the
regulators and the beneficiaries, preferably with advice and
participation from NGO and other civil society constituencies,
nationally and internationally.
Canada, which has been foremost in proposing an Annual Meeting,
envisages two weeks' duration for this event each year. The
2003-2005 differentiation between Meetings of Experts (two weeks)
and of States Parties (one week) would be removed. A hard-working,
well-organised Annual Meeting ought to be able to deal with
substantive business and achieve realistic outcomes in two
Two other innovations are proposed by Canada: provision for implementation support, and a
Scientific Advisory Body. Implementation Support could be
built on the present arrangement, under which the UN Department for
Disarmament Affairs (DDA) provides a small staff complement for BWC
meetings. It would make more likely the success of the action plans
and help implement the consolidation agenda, including the
added-value element of processing CBM declarations each year.
Staffing based on DDA would be modest in numbers but high in
quality and rich in experience.
It ought to be possible to persuade the United States and other
doubters that this would not be a mini-OPBW smuggled in by the back
door. It would take its authority and implementation tasks directly
from the Review Conference and, between Review Conferences, from
the Annual Meeting of States Parties. Logically it should be funded
by all States Parties, pro-rated from the Review Conference budget.
If that is not possible then a substitute might be an
Implementation Support Unit funded by particular States Parties on
the model of the 1997 Ottawa Convention which banned anti-personnel
landmines. Though not ideal, such
a Unit would be much better than nothing.
A Scientific Advisory Body is perhaps the most widely
supported of all proposals for alleviating the BWC's notorious
institutional deficit. Under the name 'Scientific Advisory Panel'
the concept was supported by the UK in 2002.
Five years is too long an interval over which to let new
developments in science and technology take place without
collectively assessing their relevance for the BWC. No one is
advocating a statutory body like the OPCW Scientific Advisory
Board, which is one of the permanent institutions of the CWC. The BWC needs a less formally
entrenched arrangement: a reasonably nimble, readily adaptable
mechanism through which expert views can be brought to bear on
relevant developments in science and technology.
It would not need any amendment to the Convention and would not
require permanent establishment. An analogy may help. Just as the
States Parties decided in 1980 that a single Review Conference, as
prescribed by Article XII, was unlikely to suffice, and made
provision for what became a sequence of reviews through a
succession of discrete decisions at each subsequent Review
Conference, so in 2006 the States
Parties should decide that quinquennial assessment of scientific
and technological developments is likewise insufficient.
They would then need to make provision for a scientific advisory
mechanism, though this should be on an equally interim basis of
discrete, reversible, decisions. The advisers should be appointed
on the nomination of States Parties and should meet at least once a
year, making themselves available to the Annual Meeting to which
they would report and feed in assessments.
There has long been a need for States Parties to find ways of
demonstrating their own compliance with all the obligations flowing
from the Convention; and to demonstrate this in more effective
ways, so as to build confidence in the Convention and generate
reassurance as widely as possible.
But how can this be done consistently with the legitimate
requirements of secrecy in threat assessments and protective
programmes so as not to reveal areas of vulnerability? How can the
perceptions of potentially offensive capabilities that may result,
and the associated suspicions and anxieties, be minimised?
Scientific advisers might have a role in the continuing search for
answers to these difficult questions, which connect biodefence and
They could also recommend to the States Parties prudent
constraints on research, in the spirit of the original intention
that the BWC should include an undertaking "not to conduct, assist
or permit research aimed at production of the kind [of weapons or
substances] prohibited" on a par with the intended prohibitions on
development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, retention and
use whether by infection or infestation.
Prudent constraints on research would lessen the
pressures on the prohibition of weapons development in the
Convention by pushing back the limits. The BWC remains vulnerable
without an accompanying 'regime of research' (or any surviving reference to research in its
text). But only scientific advisers, appointed by the States
Parties and acting in the service of all, can study this subject
collectively and bring in authoritative recommendations on this and
other urgent questions that go to the heart of the Convention and
how it is to be upheld.
The decision to introduce such a mechanism is one of the most
important facing the Sixth Review Conference. If necessary it could
stand alone; but it would make better sense as one of three
innovations, alongside provision for implementation support and
reporting to an Annual Meeting of States Parties.
Preparatory Committee, April 26-28 2006
Just as Canada sees the Review Conference as "a major
opportunity to take a fresh look at our progress to date and to
address areas of deficiency", so "[I]n the same light, the April
Preparatory Committee should be structured in such a way as to
foster substantive discussions."
This would make a welcome change. The Preparatory Committees
(PrepComs) for the first five BWC Review Conferences resembled the
first five NPT equivalents (1975-1995) rather than the
'strengthened' PrepCom sequences of 1997-1999 and 2002-2004
mandated by the NPT Review and Extension Conference of 1995. They
did not engage in "substantive discussions" but confined themselves
to organisational decisions: approving the draft rules, agenda,
budget and documentation requirements of the forthcoming Review
Conference, and allocating its vice-presidencies and committee
chair and vice-chair nominations. These were relatively
straightforward tasks, except in the week of April 8-12, 1991 when
the PrepCom found itself deadlocked for four and a half days over
rival Argentinian and Hungarian claims to the presidency of the
Third Review Conference and had to cram its whole agenda into the
For 2006, Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan has already been
nominated by the NAM, whose turn it is, to chair the PrepCom and
preside at the Sixth Review Conference.
In April 2006 the PrepCom will meet over just three days. Even
if the Canadian hope for "substantive discussions" cannot be fully
realised in such a tight timetable, the PrepCom could still
usefully go a little further than its predecessors. It could, for
instance, authorise technical work by its secretariat to bring
fuller documentation than usual to the Review Conference.
Without this authorisation, the chances of the Sixth Review
Conference getting the BWC back on track are diminished. Such
technical work might be applied to the preparation of outline
programmes and budgets for proposed action plans on national
implementation and universality; for implementation support; and
for enhanced processing and collective scrutiny of the information
provided under the BWC's CBMs.
These outline programmes and budgets are needed to enable the
Review Conference to take informed decisions on proposals such as
those known to be coming forward from Canada, as well as any others
which the PrepCom can identify in April. They should be produced in
addition to the usual advance documentation for Review Conferences.
Any fears (however unwarranted) of such an expanded workload
involving secretariat officials in political decisions could be
allayed by placing these new tasks under the authority of the
bureau (president and vice-presidents designate) between the
PrepCom and the Review Conference itself. Then political oversight
would be assured.
Dynamics of BWC diplomacy in 2006
The dynamics of BWC diplomacy in 2006 is unpredictable. Will the
Canadian proposals attract the wide support they deserve within the
Western Group, and beyond? What initiatives will China, India and
Russia bring to the BWC? Will Brazil and South Africa prevail over
Iran in setting the tone of NAM politics? How will Pakistan choose
to exercise leadership between April and November? What role will
be played by the United States? One thing is already clear: the EU
role could be pivotal, financially and politically.
Financially, the follow-up EU Joint Action foreshadowed in Fiona
Paterson's December 5 statement is the most likely source of
funding for any BWC outreach and assistance until universal
pro-rated contributions can be authorised. According to her
statement, the EU targets are: "to enhance the universality of the
Convention through outreach and to help States Parties improve
their national implementation through the provision of
New mechanisms such as those proposed above will in turn make it
easier for an audit-conscious EU to find a sufficiently
'institutional' channel through which to support the BWC, in the
continuing absence of an OPBW to match the obvious recipients -
IAEA and OPCW - of its financial support for the NPT and CWC under
comparable Joint Actions.
Politically, the EU has the best chance of ensuring the
Convention's stability with regard to verification and related
'compliance measures' such as those envisaged in the Protocol
negotiations. This was the subject area of successive shocks in
2001-2002, and it still holds much potential for
If the United States is so misguided as to repeat John Bolton's
'killer amendment' of December
2001, which sought to have the 1994 mandate abolished together with
the Ad Hoc Group whose work US representatives had denounced in
July 2001 as fundamentally flawed, the EU - forewarned this time -
ought to mount a better organised resistance. (In December 2001 it
did at least prefer the adjournment of the Fifth Review Conference
to letting Bolton have his way; the 1994 mandate, and in theory
also the Ad Hoc Group, survived.)
Once bitten, twice shy: the EU's indignation over the Bolton
demands (and rather more over the lack of warning, even to close
allies) was all the greater for the obliging way in which European
countries had prevented overt blame being attached to the United
States for the breakdown of the Protocol negotiations. The same
indignation probably contributed to the growth of backbone which
the EU and other Western Group governments demonstrated in
September 2002 when they successfully opposed a Bolton proposal for
wrapping up the Fifth Review Conference quickly and quietly and
allowing no BWC meetings of any kind until 2006.
Equally, if any NAM states were rash enough to attempt to
reactivate the 1994 mandate prematurely by seeking to reconvene the
Ad Hoc Group, the EU would no doubt oppose this or, for that
matter, the inclusion of acrimonious language about the United
States in the Final Declaration of 2006.
It may be best to say nothing about verification, and not to
mention the 1994 mandate (last reaffirmed in 1996), let alone the
Ad Hoc Group or its negotiations on the Protocol. So even the
language used in the December 2005 NAM general statement is likely
to prove unduly provocative at this time, whatever its value in the
longer term. This is because it
will be seen as introducing a coded reference to a Protocol at a
time when the United States remains ideologically opposed to any
new, legally binding, instrument for the BWC even without
Will the Sixth Review Conference be a success? In the diplomacy
of the BWC, NGOs and 'reformist' governments are accustomed to
lowering their sights for particular meetings in the name of
realistic expectations. Few if any expect this conference to
relaunch the BWC on the road to verification or endow it with a
complete set of institutional structures or compliance measures.
Even expecting to get BWC diplomacy solidly back on track is
pitching it high if efforts have to be diverted into preventing it
from running straight into deadlock.
To change the metaphor, the first task of 'friends of the
Convention' remains the same as for some years past: to stop the
treaty disintegrating, before constructive work can go into its
reinforcement. Consolidation precedes advance. Yet all the time
those same 'friends of the Convention' have to keep showing States
Parties how it could be reinforced and persist in their advocacy of
constructive proposals even if political conditions mean that they
are not immediately practical or achievable.
Sometimes this is acknowledged by delegates impatient with the
aridity of their formal sessions. Ambassador Paul Meyer, for
example, ended his national statement for Canada with a plea for
the Meeting of States Parties "to set aside one session in this
week's schedule for a discussion on future perspectives", and
noted, "we shouldn't be leaving all the policy-rich discussion to
lunch-time side-events". Since
the BWC's NGOs provided a full programme of presentations and
discussions across the hallway from the formal sessions, and these
were well attended by delegates,
this remark was taken as a compliment by NGO people listening.
Three years ago, I reflected that strong NGO engagement was one
of two necessary conditions for the BWC's recovery from the debacle
of 2001-02. Since then, NGOs have arguably become an even more
coherent, better organised expression of civil society, although
they remain under-utilised on the margins of BWC diplomacy. But
there is still no sign of the second necessary condition being
fulfilled, let alone of these two new developments converging as
"the way out of the doldrums in which BWC diplomacy has got
That second condition was the emergence of a nucleus of key,
like-minded States Parties, cutting across regions and groups,
which would take "the lead in defining and promoting among
governments a new agenda for the recovery of the BWC treaty regime
[and] provide the core of a draft Final Declaration for 2006"
around which others could coalesce. Unfortunately there is no evidence of such a 'new
agenda coalition' or 'like-minded group' developing for the BWC. So
we are still stuck in the diplomatic doldrums, with recovery
For December 8, 2006 the test of success will be a final
declaration that ties up loose ends and registers where the BWC
stands, with some positivie indications of how it can move forward.
Ideally the language of the Declaration will achieve confluence of
the 1980-1996 and 2003-2005 streams of biological disarmament
diplomacy. This task will require an integration of "the recent
outcomes of the annual meetings of 2003 to 2005 with the
longer-term development of extended understandings, definitions and
procedures through the cumulative language agreed by consensus in
the Final Declarations of the first four Review Conferences and
thus restore a much-needed continuity to the review process in its
fullest perspective." It will
also need to record agreement on action plans, a consolidation
agenda and better collective use of CBMs and scientific advice, and
should equip the BWC with a modest set of mechanisms to enable the
States Parties to see it safely through to 2011. If this is
achieved, then progress can be made, laying the groundwork for the
Seventh Review Conference to take the treaty regime of biological
disarmament forward with greater confidence, and organise it more
effectively as a permanent structure on the international
 Editor's note
re abbreviation. Both BWC and BTWC are in common use. Some argue
that 'BTWC' ensures that toxin weapons are not forgotten. Others
note that, both the BWC and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention
(CWC) cover toxins and 'BWC' is the form used in the UN
classification system.. Both authors preferred 'BWC', but in direct
quotes, the speaker's choice is reproduced.
 Graham S.
Pearson, 'The Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States
Parties, 2005: Report from Geneva, Review No.24', The CBW
Conventions Bulletin 69+70 (Sep/Dec 2005) pp 15-27, includes
extracts from many national statements, and summaries of all,
within a comprehensive account of the Meeting and related NGO
Littlewood, The Biological Weapons Convention: A Failed
Revolution (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), p 11.
 Statement by
the Delegation of Malaysia on behalf of the Group of Non-Aligned
and Other States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention,
Geneva, December 5, 2005.
2005, pp 209-212.
 The 25 members
of the European Union and eleven other states: Albania, Bosnia
& Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Moldova,
Norway, Romania, Serbia & Montenegro, Turkey and Ukraine.
 Statement by
Paul Meyer, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to
the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, December 5, 2005.
 Statement by
Fiona Paterson, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the
Conference on Disarmament, on behalf of the European Union, Geneva,
December 5, 2005.
 The five
topics were defined, and allocated to years, in the Decision of the
Fifth Review Conference (BWC/CONF.V/17, paragraph 18) as follows:
i. the adoption of necessary national measures to implement the
prohibitions set forth in the Convention, including the enactment
of penal legislation (2003); (ii) national mechanisms to establish
and maintain the security and oversight of pathogenic
microorganisms and toxins (2003); (iii) 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); (iv) strengthening and
broadening national and international institutional efforts and
existing mechanisms for the surveillance, detection, diagnosis and
combating of infectious diseases affecting humans, animals and
plants (2004); (v) the content, promulgation and adoption of codes
of conduct for scientists (2005).
 The Chairs
were Tibor Tóth (Hungary) in 2003, Peter Goosen (South
Africa) in 2004 and John Freeman (UK) in 2005.
 In December
2005 "the inability of the States Parties to take a further step
forward by adopting a more textual approach, as proposed by the
Chairman, to the substantive outcome, despite the widespread
statements of support for the [September 20, 2005] synthesis
document, served as a reminder that the States Parties appear to be
most at ease in following similar approaches to those adopted
previously." Pearson 2005 (see endnote 2) p 26.
BWC/CONF.V/17, paragraph 18.
 EU statement
2005 (see endnote 8).
 Graham S.
Pearson and Nicholas A. Sims, 'Article IV: National
Implementation', in Graham S. Pearson, Malcolm R. Dando and
Nicholas A. Sims (eds.), Strengthening the Biological Weapons
Convention: Key Points for the Fifth Review Conference
(Bradford: Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford,
2001) pp 45-60, quotation from p 48.
 Pearson and
Sims 2001 (see endnote 15), pp 51-58; 'A Draft Convention to
Prohibit Biological and Chemical Weapons under International
Criminal Law', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 42 (December
1998) pp 1-5; 'International criminal law and sanctions to
reinforce the BWC', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 54
(December 2001), pp 1-2.
Woodward, Time to lay down the law: national legislation to
enforce the BWC (London: VERTIC, 2003).
B. Harland and Angela Woodward, 'A model law: the Biological and
Toxin Weapons Crimes Act', International Review of the Red
Cross 859 (2005), pp 573-586.
speaking the Action Plan authorised by a Decision of the Eighth
Conference of the States Parties (CSP) on October 24, 2003
(C-8/DEC.16) ended on November 7, 2005, but the Decision of the
Tenth CSP on November 11, 2005 (C-10/DEC.16) on follow-up to the
Action Plan has ensured continuity into the next stage. For an
authoritative account of both stages and the relationship between
them, see Santiago Oñate, Ralf Trapp and Lisa Tabassi, '
Decision on the follow-up to the OPCW Action Plan on Article VII:
ensuring the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons
Convention', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 69+70 (December
2005) pp 5-10.
 OPCW, 'Update
on the Action Plan on National Implementation', Chemical
Disarmament Quarterly, vol 3 no 4 (December 2005) p 33.
Trapp and Tabassi 2005 (see endnote 19), p 6.
 The Article
XIV section of the Final Declaration of the Third Review Conference
(BWC/CONF.III/23) added this new third paragraph ("encourages
States Parties to take action to persuade non-parties to accede to
the Convention without delay") to the earlier appeals to
non-parties to join the Convention, issued by the First Review
Conference in 1980 (BWC/CONF.I/10) and the Second Review Conference
in 1986 (BWC/CONF.II/13), which it reissued.
Pfirter, 'Address by OPCW Director-General to the Tenth Session of
the Conference of the States Parties, The Hague, November 7, 2005',
Chemical Disarmament Quarterly, vol 3 no 4 (December 2005),
 Scott Spence,
'Achieving effective action on universality and national
implementation: the CWC experience', Review Conference Paper 13,
April 2005, in the series Strengthening the Biological Weapons
Convention edited by Graham S. Pearson and Malcolm R. Dando
(Bradford: Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford,
BWC/CONF.IV/9. "This was a much stronger statement than could have
been agreed in 1991. It reflected the evolution of biological
disarmament. The persuasive efforts which had begun in 1971 bore
fruit in 1996." Nicholas A. Sims, The Evolution of Biological
Disarmament (Oxford: OUP for SIPRI, 2001) p 160.
Nations Secretary-General: Message to the Meeting of State Parties
to the BTWC, Geneva, December 5, 2005.
 France and
Switzerland: Final Declaration of Franco-Swiss Seminar, Geneva,
June 9-10, 2005, to mark the 80th anniversary of the signing of the
Geneva Protocol, distributed at the BWC Meeting of States Parties,
December 5, 2005.
 The Article
IX section of the Final Declaration of the Fourth Review Conference
(BWC/CONF.IV/9) added a new fourth paragraph calling on all BWC
States Parties which had not yet done so "to sign and/or ratify
without delay" the CWC, then (December 6,1996) in its 180 days'
run-up to entry into force on April 29, 1997.
 Iris Hunger
and colleagues in the Study Group on Biological Arms Control,
University of Hamburg, have continued to do valuable work
monitoring the CBM programme and coordinating NGO attention to this
aspect of the BWC. See Iris Hunger, Confidence Building Needs
Transparency: A Summary of Data Submitted under the Bioweapons
Convention's Confidence Building Measures 1987-2003 (Austin,
Texas & Hamburg: The Sunshine Project, 2005).
 Nicholas A.
Sims, 'A proposal for putting the 26 March 2005 anniversary to best
use for the BWC', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 62 (December
2003) pp 1-6.
 Nicholas A.
Sims, 'Remedies for the institutional deficit of the BTWC:
proposals for the Sixth Review Conference', Review Conference Paper
12, March 2005, in the series Strengthening the Biological
Weapons Convention edited by Graham S. Pearson and Malcolm R.
Dando (Bradford: Department of Peace Studies, University of
Bradford, 2005). http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc
 Most recently
in the Statement by the Brazilian Delegation at the 2005 Meeting of
the States Parties to the BTWC, December 5, 2005.
 Sims, 2005
(see endnote 34) offers terms of reference for the Annual Meeting
of States Parties in the form of draft text for possible inclusion
in the Article XII section of the Final Declaration of the Sixth
statement 2005 (see endnote 7).
 On a modular
approach to BWC implementation support and the functions such a
unit could perform, see Trevor Findlay and Angela Woodward,
Enhancing BWC Implementation: A Modular Approach, WMD
Commission paper 23 (Stockholm: WMD Commission, 2004) pp 8-9. http://www.wmdcommission.org
Kingdom, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Strengthening the
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: Countering the Threat from
Biological Weapons, April 29, 2002 (Green Paper). http:www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/btwc290402,0.pdf
 CWC Article
VIII, paragraph 21(h).
 Nicholas A.
Sims, The Diplomacy of Biological Disarmament: Vicissitudes of a
Treaty in Force, 1975-85 (London: Macmillan, 1988) pp
Kingdom, Draft Microbiological Warfare Convention, 10 July
1969 (ENDC/255) and 26 August 1969 (ENDC/255/Rev.1); Draft
Biological Warfare Convention, August 8, 1970 (CCD/255/Rev.2).
The text is from Article II of each successive draft. The ENDC
became the CCD at the end of August 1969 and continued its
 Sims 2001
(see endnote 28) pp 173-182.
statement 2005 (see endnote 7).
 EU statement
2005 (see endnote 8).
 Jonathan B.
Tucker, 'In the shadow of anthrax: strengthening the biological
disarmament regime', The Nonproliferation Review, vol 9 no 1
(Spring 2002) pp 112-121, quotation from p 114.
 NAM statement
2005 (see endnote 4).
statement 2005 (see endnote 7).
 Pearson 2005
(see endnote 2) p 24.
 Nicholas A.
Sims, 'Biological disarmament diplomacy in the doldrums:
reflections after the BWC Fifth Review Conference', Disarmament
Diplomacy 70 (April/May 2003) pp 11-18, quotation from p
 Graham S.
Pearson and Nicholas A. Sims, 'The BTWC Sixth Review Conference in
2006', Review Conference Paper 15, November 2005, in the series
Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention edited by
Graham S. Pearson and Malcolm R. Dando (Bradford: Department of
Peace Studies, University of Bradford, 2005) p 25. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc.
Nicholas A. Sims is a Reader in International
Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science,
University of London.
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