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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 91, Cover design by Calvert's Press, Photo by Rebecca JohnsonDisarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 91, Summer 2009

Midpoint between Review Conferences: Next Steps to Strengthen the BWC

Nicholas A. Sims

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) is half way between its five-yearly review conferences. This midpoint offers the opportunity to take stock of what has happened since 2006 and consider what needs to take centre-stage at the Seventh Review Conference in 2011. Filippa Lentzos discussed one of the main themes for the Seventh Review Conference agenda in Disarmament Diplomacy 89: how to improve the compilation and analysis of returns for the confidence-building measures (CBMs) inherited from 1987-1991 and reform the CBM programme so that the measures identified actually build confidence.[1] Kathryn McLaughlin's article in the same issue touched on another important subject for 2011: how to continue improving the intersessional process and involvement of scientists, including science-and-technology (S&T) reviews to make sure that developments relevant to biological weapons are considered in the right forum at the right time so that they actually inform the working of the BWC.[2]

This article examines two more key themes for 2011: strengthening structures for remedying the institutional deficit; and an accountability framework for organizing collective scrutiny. They correspond to two chapters in my book The Future of Biological Disarmament, where they are considered more fully under the heading 'BWC: Next Steps'.[3] They ought to be among the subjects nearest the heart of the Seventh Review Conference, prominent on its agenda so that the necessary decisions can be taken by the Conference.

Strengthening Structures for Remedying the Institutional Deficit

Compared with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the BWC has very few institutions. The lack of an Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons (OPBW) equivalent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) may be attributed to the absence of a BWC verification system, and more particularly to the deadlock in the BWC Ad Hoc Group. This body, established in 1995, might have added some 'compliance measures' verging on verification through the strengthening Protocol it was trying to negotiate up to July 2001; and it was on track to create an OPBW. But it failed and the Group, although still notionally living in suspended animation, shows no sign of being reconvened. Any future OPBW, if eventually one is instituted, will have a different origin. It is most likely to arise when the BWC states parties in the medium-to-long term find they have reached the limits of what can be done incrementally by means of 'extended understandings and agreements', a step-by-step route dependent upon the cumulative effect of language agreed for outcome documents of successive review conferences. If BWC parties become sufficiently frustrated by the limitations of this process, they may instead resolve to negotiate a legal basis for new collective tasks (not necessarily verification as traditionally understood) and if they decide that a treaty organization is necessary to carry out such tasks, then an OPBW could be negotiated and agreed at the same time. In the meantime the institutional gap which the OPBW would have filled can best be remedied through less all-encompassing institutions designed to support the BWC as it stands, unamended and without a strengthening Protocol. The defining characteristic of these strengthening structures is that, unlike an OPBW, they take their authority from review conferences and can be adjusted or discontinued as the health of the treaty dictates.

The single most concrete achievement of the Sixth Review Conference was the creation of a BWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) within the Geneva Branch of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. Three full-time posts were guaranteed funding for four years. The ISU came into being in August 2007 and has provided a welcome focus for coordination as well as an information resource and much practical support to the BWC states parties. It has been very careful to respect the limits of its mandate and to avoid trespassing on political preserves.

In 2011 the Seventh Review Conference should at the very least renew the mandate of the ISU for a further five years. It could usefully go further and loosen the tight constraints under which the ISU is having to operate for its first four years. For instance, its role in assisting comprehensive implementation of the BWC could be made as explicit as its role in helping the efforts to promote universalization by the successive Chairs of the BWC meetings between review conferences. In practice these two aspects of BWC promotion are inextricably linked, but as part of a then-necessary compromise the ISU's 2006 mandate fudged the issue. Its CBM-assisting functions could also benefit from restatement in clearer terms. A voluntary fund might be set up to augment the budgetary assessments on states parties (£33,412 from the UK) which have provided its core funding (£280,013 in 2008).[4] Such a fund would enable the ISU to extend its activities when specifically authorized, without detriment to its core tasks. And it would also benefit greatly from a modest expansion in staffing, from three to five as its full-time complement for the next quinquennium, to be augmented as necessary when meetings are in session.

So far, the assumption is that the BWC simply retains an ISU. But there is much to be said for establishing a Standing Secretariat that would subsume the ISU's functions but service the BWC as a whole. Such a secretariat was recommended in 2006 by the WMD Commission chaired by Hans Blix.[5] It would not need to be much bigger, or more expensive, than a slightly-expanded ISU as described above. If given a mandate of broad scope and indefinite duration it could respond more effectively to changing circumstances and needs and promote the treaty in its entirety. By contrast, the ISU by its very nature is more narrowly oriented, and so has the disadvantage of relative inflexibility.

As noted in my book, "In 2006 administration, promotion of universalization and CBM-facilitation appeared as the top priorities, and the ISU was tasked accordingly. But in a few years' time states parties' perceptions of where help is most needed may have shifted. A standing secretariat may then be better placed to adjust priorities."[6] In this perspective, an ISU is a second-best remedy; but renewal of its mandate, preferably expanded, for 2011-2016 would still be much better than nothing if a standing secretariat is unobtainable.

One of the easiest next steps to take would be to formalize the BWC Annual Meeting. The Meeting of States Parties preceded by a Meeting of Experts has been the agreed format for the intersessional programmes of 2003-2005 and 2007-2010. Each year these bodies are confined to their allocated topic or topics. In 2006 the Sixth Review Conference ostensibly rejected the notion of recurrent agenda items. This is despite the fact that it had previously taken other decisions that meant that in the second series (unlike the first) there would always be two recurrent items. This was ensured by requiring the ISU to report on its activities and for the Chair each year to report on progress towards universalization.

It is high time to discard the pretence that each year's work programme is self-contained. A BWC Annual Meeting would be a natural evolution out of the Meeting of States Parties as it has developed through the first two intersessional series. It could still deal with special topics allocated year by year but its core agenda would embrace the central concerns of the treaty. An Accountability Framework (discussed below) would provide at least one substantive session. Collective scrutiny of BWC-relevant developments in science and technology would provide another. And a systematic discussion of each year's CBM returns could be a third.

Freeing up its agenda by removing the constraints insisted on in 2002 would enable the Annual Meeting to serve the needs of the BWC with greater precision and build momentum year on year instead of having to leave most aspects of the Convention to be reviewed at five-year intervals. (Review conferences would still assess the health of the BWC and steer its course for the next five years, but would do their job more effectively if there were annual meetings in between.) Instituting BWC Annual Meetings with a freed-up agenda would also nurture a balanced approach to the evolution of the BWC treaty regime in each of its sectors.[7]

The Chair would continue to report on progress towards BWC universality, and the ISU on its activities. There would be value in taking stock of parallel but independent regime-building developments outside the BWC framework: these might range from the development of prudential constraints on biotechnology and other areas of research (which could help bolster the BWC constraint on weapons development) to the use of the international criminal law to establish individual responsibility and eliminate impunity by specifically criminalizing chemical and biological weapon activities.[8] It is also hoped that the Seventh Review Conference succeeds in adopting an Action Plan on Comprehensive Implementation. This was proposed by the President of the Sixth Review Conference, Ambassador Masood Khan (Pakistan) in 2006, but at too late a point in the Conference to be adopted.[9] Such an Action Plan, embracing elements of Article IV (on national implementation) and Article X (on development / peaceful exchanges of S&T) without limiting itself to either, would provide rich subject matter for comparison of experience and exhortation to greater efforts.

An Annual Meeting could also handle the 'consolidation agenda' of progress towards completion of long-standing collective commitments. The BWC parties long ago committed themselves to joining the 1925 Geneva Protocol and, since it came into existence, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Not all have done so. Those which are already parties to the 1925 Protocol need to complete the process of ridding themselves of reservations which purport to reserve a right of retaliation with bacteriological warfare. BWC Review Conferences called for the withdrawal of such reservations in 1991 and, more forcefully, in 1996 and 2006. They are evidently incompatible with the absolute renunciation of bacteriological warfare which adherence to the BWC logically entails. Ireland, declaring that to maintain its 1930 reservation would undermine the BWC, took action accordingly in 1972; by 2002 nineteen governments had followed its example. But almost as many states parties to the 1925 Protocol and the BWC have yet to take the necessary action.[10]

In 2005, on the eightieth anniversary of the Protocol, further calls for the withdrawal of the remaining reservations came jointly from its depositary government (France) and its host-country (Switzerland), and also from Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General. The UN General Assembly repeated this call most recently on 2 December 2008, in its customary biennial resolution on Measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.[11] It may be that some governments are embarrassed to admit to holding on to legal positions that imply a half-hearted commitment to the BWC; others may consider the reservations politically obsolete or legally superseded. Three review conferences, however, have agreed on what they need to do: simply withdraw their reservations. And if they want to save face, or blame a colonial past from which (in some cases) they may have inherited an unwanted reservation, they can always call it a regularization of their Geneva Protocol status for the avoidance of doubt.

The Chairs of BWC intersessional meetings now report each year on prospects for individual accessions and ratifications, in the framework of promoting universalization. (One notable improvement since 2006 is that they contact the foreign ministers of non-parties and follow this up with their permanent missions in New York, and then report state by state on which non-parties are thought to be nearest to accession or ratification.) Why not also report on the BWC's progress towards completing its 'consolidation agenda'? There would then be a stronger incentive for the minority of BWC parties which have dragged their heels to move forward and become parties also to the 1925 Protocol, without reservation, and to the CWC - and, if already parties to the 1925 Protocol, to withdraw any surviving reservations inconsistent with their BWC obligations.

Another proposal for consideration is whether the BWC Annual Meeting should be preceded by a single Meeting of Experts or served by working groups, which might have a continuing existence. What is important is that the overall allocation of BWC time in the year should not be further diminished from the present two weeks (down from three following a decision of the Sixth Review Conference).

The BWC exists in a scientific context which has altered drastically from the assumptions of the 1972 text and is still changing fast. One way to address this is through establishment of a Scientific Advisory Panel. Science and technology input to review conferences has been spasmodic, and never systematically considered. In any case, in view of the pace of development and innovation in the biosciences, five years is too long an interval for S&T reviews. Kathryn McLaughlin has commented on how S&T matters like the rise of synthetic biology are beginning to appear in the margins of the August BWC Meetings of Experts devoted to specific topics.[12] Assessments need to be pooled and discussed by the BWC community as a whole. These collective S&T reviews need to be undertaken every year in an expert forum. Whether organized as an appointed panel or as a looser network of scientific advisers, a forum of this kind would enable different specialisms, as well as different governments, to feed in their assessments of what is happening in the life sciences and elsewhere in the S&T universe that has a bearing on the health of the BWC. States parties need to be informed, in particular, of those areas where the balance of incentives and disincentives that upholds BWC compliance is coming under pressure, any 'mid-spectrum' gaps emerging between the BWC and CWC, and other issues the Annual Meeting should consider. It does not matter, for example, if some potential weapons, notably toxins, are banned twice over; it does matter if some are not banned at all.

A Legal Advisory Panel could help bring light into some dark corners of the BWC. Most (not quite all) of the outstanding legal issues in contention concern the definition of terms in Article I, and some have a bearing on the vital question of how far biodefence programmes can go without breaching the Convention. Governments may hold on to their own juridical positions as tenaciously as they do their S&T assessments, but in a multilateral treaty it ought surely to be possible to bring them into the open. This requires a panel of legal experts to provide the necessary forum and advise the Annual Meeting.

A possible objection is that such a forum might serve to amplify discordant voices and provide another arena for acrimonious exchanges. As discussed in more detail in my book, such concerns have to be weighed against "the corrosive effect on the BWC in the longer run of allowing rival interpretations to continue indefinitely, with no concerted attempt to resolve them being made by the states parties collectively. If different governments understand their obligations differently, there is an absence of symmetry which at best is unhelpful and at worst erodes the basic reciprocity of obligation on which all treaty relationships are founded."[13]

The BWC's institutional deficit is as noteworthy at the national level as at the international. Under Article VII.4 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, every state party has to "designate or establish a [CWC] National Authority to serve as the national focal point for effective liaison with the [OPCW] and other States Parties". The BWC has no equivalent provision (nor of course an Organization), but the ISU is building up a list of named focal or contact points within governments, for liaison with itself and with the other parties.

This minimal infrastructure was commended to all states parties in 2006. One aim for 2011 should be an upgrading of this commendation of focal or contact points to a clear call for BWC National Authorities in each capital. The Seventh Review Conference could declare this to be part of fulfilling Article IV (on national implementation), as the Sixth already declared that penal legislation is integral to effective national implementation. The National Authority would coordinate implementation and reporting, and all aspects of fulfilment of the state's obligations. Some states parties might co-locate their BWC and CWC National Authorities or even, like the Czech Republic, merge them into a single National Authority. It would be useful at the Seventh Review Conference for states to share their experience in such areas and discuss the Prague model and other mechanisms, with a view to helping everyone identify the essential components and build on best practice, which could be adapted as necessary to their own circumstances.

What is important is that the institutional deficit in capitals, as well as at Geneva, should be remedied. Otherwise it looks as if governments are taking the BWC less seriously than the CWC, or are making the mistake of supposing they can have biological disarmament on the cheap.

Returning to the remedies at the international level, the question of integration/separability arises. As discussed in greater detail in my book, there is an evident synergy among the institutions proposed: "They could stand alone; but there is also a logic of integration according to which the Annual Meeting would be able to operate better for receiving advice from panels of scientific and legal experts, and for being served by a standing secretariat... Likewise, the panels and the secretariat would be able to operate better for the regular political direction of the Annual Meeting to which they would report. In more abstract terms, the interplay between the technical and political realms, and between law, science and diplomacy, would be enhanced by such integration. Throughout the history of disarmament, these have been recurrent and damaging disjunctions. There is a good opportunity to overcome them in the case of the BWC, and the next steps for the Convention should therefore include a determined attack on the institutional deficit by the addition of new strengthening structures or interim support mechanisms to the ISU agreed in 2006."[14]

Accountability Framework for Organizing Collective Scrutiny

Accountability should be a key concept in a healthy multilateral treaty. Every state party accounts to every other state party for the performance of its treaty obligations. Because it is multilateral, the BWC affords them the convenience of universal accountability, accounting to everyone in a single document instead of explaining themselves to each treaty partner separately. The downside is that with 163 states parties, of which some are more conscious than others of their responsibilities and some are more conscientious in the exercise of those responsibilities, reciprocity is imperfect; and the obvious remedies available to an aggrieved party in a bilateral treaty if openness is unequal or compliance one-sided are simply not available. Some parties do not join in but still receive information from others because accountability is universal. Some free-rider problems are inevitable; a diffuse reciprocity is the most we can hope for. The challenge now is to organize accountability on a systematic basis which maximizes the value of that diffuse reciprocity. This can best be done by taking forward, independently, the accountability framework proposed by Canada to the Sixth Review Conference.[15]

States parties' accountability arises from a treaty relationship between states and is primarily towards one another. But to see that as the end of the matter accords ill with a human security perspective, or notions of global civil society, or the still newer concept of disarmament as humanitarian action. At its simplest the concept of accountability has to be widened beyond the state-to-state dimension because others have a legitimate interest in the BWC too. Biological disarmament is championed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society actors, including those of the medical and scientific professions with a stake in the health of the BWC. Many such actors have their own ideas to contribute, along with the credibility and experience born of long-term commitment to the Convention. As Kathryn McLaughlin observes, over recent years the ranks of these 'Friends of the Convention' have been "visibly growing, as BWC discussions have evolved to encompass a broader range of stakeholders from different government departments, the scientific communities and increasingly the private sector".[16] She also notes that the role of NGOs in the life of the BWC is in transition, towards a closer involvement.

However, governments must not be let off the hook. It is still they who determine most directly the trajectory of the BWC, and who can do it the most harm or good. So let accountability start with governments and build on existing practice, which the wider community of 'Friends of the Convention' can encourage them to develop more imaginatively.

An accountability framework for the BWC could build on the practice of national compliance reporting to review conferences. This practice goes back to 1979; a request from the very first PrepCom generated 27 reports to the First Review Conference, in March 1980, from among the then 87 states parties. Unfortunately this practice has remained, over three decades, patchy and unsystematic. Some states parties report more fully and informatively than others; many, not at all. In 2006 there were only 22 national compliance reports to the Sixth Review Conference from among 155 states parties, a diminution only partly attributable to the advent of concurrent CBM returns from 1987 onwards.

Even among those governments which report to every review conference there is no standard structure or set of categories. Most discouraging of all, perhaps, there is no forum for consideration and discussion of the national compliance reports that some governments do take the trouble to offer to their treaty partners. The officials compiling such reports may wonder whether they are going to be read, or will simply disappear into the void. Hence, it is hardly surprising that some are lightweight, reading as if submitted only for form's sake. A review conference which does not organize itself to provide a forum for scrutiny offers little incentive to states parties to supply such reports.

This is where Canada's 2006 idea of an accountability session within the Annual Meeting comes in. At such a session, as the concept has been independently developed, states parties would focus squarely on their accountability, to one another in the first instance, and ultimately beyond the state-to-state dimension to the wider humanity they represent. The knowledge that their reports would be collectively scrutinized in a forum set aside for the purpose should provide a powerful incentive to compilers to take the practice seriously.

The basis would be reports on how the BWC is being made to work: what each party is doing to implement it, obligation by obligation, or sector by sector, which means largely (but not exclusively) article by article. (Some cross-cutting issues might need to be added where they do not fit comfortably under one article heading. And Articles IV (on national implementation) and V (on consultation and cooperation) have for some time now been conventionally subdivided for purposes of report and commentary.) Using the articles of the Convention, slightly extended and modified, as the basic building-block of an accountability framework has the advantage of using a structure with which governments are reasonably familiar and which several have chosen to use in their national compliance reports since 1979.

If it is thought impractical, within an accountability session of manageable length, to scrutinize every state party's entire performance every year, there could be a five-year cycle over which the parties' reports would be distributed. Alternatively, there could be a thematic rotation. Under this alternative, all states parties would report on a specific, limited, group of articles in a given year, and on another group of articles the year after. Such an arrangement would highlight the sectoral quality of the treaty regime by grouping articles into themes or sectors. It would also have the advantage of blending well with the allocation of topics to years for special consideration within a third intersessional programme for 2012-2015, if the pattern of intersessional meetings continues beyond the Seventh Review Conference (preferably with their BWC Annual Meeting status made explicit and a freed-up agenda which allows recurrent items alongside specific topics allocated to particular years).

Would an accountability framework ever subsume annual returns in the CBM mode? Eventually perhaps, but only when firmly established. In the short term it is more important to reform CBMs in their own right[17] than to fit them into a new framework. So, for example, in the period 2012-2015 an accountability framework could run alongside CBMs, with the advantage of not being limited to their subject matter. Each state party can reflect on what it has done to implement the BWC and announce whatever it considers pertinent under the relevant article or sector or theme. In scrutinizing a state's report, other parties can query gaps and ask for clarification or further information. They can even, if necessary, challenge the veracity of a report. Accountability is not always comfortable. It has an inherently hard edge to it.

Because of this hard edge, the accountability framework might even be seen as a more systematic form of 'appropriate international procedure' under Article V, less adversarial than the Consultative Meeting (available since 1980 but only ever used on one occasion, by Cuba in 1997) but less ad hoc than individual demarches. It would give substance to the Article V obligation to consult and cooperate. Of course, the Article V contingency mechanism of a Consultative Meeting would still be available for grave issues of compliance diplomacy. So, too, would the ultimate resort of complaint to the Security Council under Article VI (noting, however, the stringent conditions built into its text which have narrowed its applicability so much that it has not been used even once in the history of the BWC). But one of the advantages of the accountability framework is its flexibility. It is neither inherently adversarial nor inherently limited to being a mere mutual admiration society of the virtuous.

Every state party has an interest in demonstrating its own compliance and seeking reassurance over the compliance of others. An accountability framework is the best way of organizing this collective scrutiny. It maximizes the value of diffuse reciprocity. It builds on existing (patchy) practice and makes it more systematic. As a potential outcome of the Seventh Review Conference it would take the treaty relationship of BWC states parties into a new era. But first the idea has to be promoted: "To get it on to the 2011 agenda will require sustained effort and a widening consensus that the accountability framework offers an egalitarian method of demonstrating compliance, available to all states parties without exception."[18]

UK Commitments to Strengthen the BWC

Parliamentarians and others in civil society have a vital role to play. Some governments need encouragement to give higher priority to strengthening the BWC. Other governments, already committed to such strengthening, can be asked precisely what they propose to do about it at the Seventh Review Conference, item by item. Here is a recent example of such a statement.

In its report of 14 June 2009 entitled Global Security: Non-Proliferation, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK House of Commons concentrated understandably on the NPT and other nuclear-weapon policy issues. But it did not neglect the BWC and CWC (or conventional weapons). On the BWC it stated:

"We conclude that strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention should be a priority for the Government in the absence of a verification protocol. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should comment on the specific suggestions aimed at achieving this end, set out in previous paragraphs, and outline what measures it intends to pursue further at the Seventh Review Conference in 2011. The suggested measures include an Accountability Framework, Action Plan for Comprehensive Implementation, better collective scrutiny of developments in technology, an expansion of the role and staff of the Implementation Support Unit, formal annual meetings, work to refine and improve the Confidence-Building Measures, a consolidation agenda of politically-binding commitments agreed at earlier Review Conferences and criminalization of biological weapons activities at the individual level."[19]

Optimistic Context for Next Steps

The context in which these institutional remedies and accountability framework are proposed is a relatively hopeful one for the BWC, marked by the recovery of self-confidence which the modest successes of the Sixth Review Conference engendered. It is a context in which small steps are more likely to prove acceptable than drastic changes. The process of reinforcing the strength of the treaty is assumed to be incremental and evolutionary. Its success depends on building on what already exists, using the Convention as it stands more creatively and maximizing its value as a working treaty.

So the next steps in remedying the institutional deficit include: extending the existing ISU into a Standing Secretariat (or, failing that, renewing the ISU with an improved mandate and slightly larger staff); formalizing a BWC Annual Meeting towards which the meetings of the second intersessional series have been moving; putting scientific and technological review on to a more frequent and systematic footing, with advisory panels to pool expertise on S&T issues, and perhaps legal issues too, as befits a multilateral treaty; and extending the focal points of contact in capitals into BWC National Authorities. Likewise, development of Canada's proposed accountability framework should build incrementally on the 30 years old, but patchy, practice of national compliance reporting.

Is this wish-list realistic? Much depends on the attitude of the United States. John Bolton's undiplomatic forays to Geneva in 2001 and 2002 left a legacy of distrust in the United States and constrained the first intersessional programme (2003-2005). This was particularly evident in the run-up to the Sixth Review Conference when the pervasive question was 'How much will the US allow?' Even in late 2007 the US delegation was still warning the Europeans against stretching the limits of the ISU mandate by task expansion into new, unauthorized areas. In over-reacting to a mild EU initiative to help the ISU do its job properly, this US 'shot across the bows' produced a frisson - as no doubt was the intention.[20]

The US was not, however, the only brake on progress in 2006. Assuming a less grudging attitude to BWC reinforcement from President Obama's administration, there are two other necessary conditions.

One is the formation of a core group of like-minded states, not necessarily as clearcut and prominent as those which steered the Ottawa Process to the landmines ban in 1996-97 and the Oslo Process to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2007-08, but with a similarly shared vision of the outcome they desire. It might be based on the JACKSNNZ group,[21] with some overlap with the EU-plus and Latin American groups which were the other two most productive groupings at the Sixth Review Conference. Its role would include mapping out the common ground (of which the three groupings had found a great deal in 2006), identifying viable proposals and steering the main ones into the agenda-setting process. This needs to be done earlier, and with greater deliberation, than in 2006. Key stages in this process will include the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the Seventh Review Conference.

Canada tried in vain to make the April 2006 PrepCom a substantive occasion, but it remained stubbornly procedure-only. The attempt to give the PrepCom an extended role should be resumed for 2011. There is no good reason why 'preparation' should be limited to procedure, when there is so much more that could be prepared on matters of substance. Why not, for example, work on draft elements for the final document? Then it would become clearer which parts needed intensive textual work after the PrepCom. This would still leave the more intractable issues and related decisions to be negotiated at the Conference itself, where the core group's solidarity and determination would be critical to success.

The other necessary condition is the insulation of the BWC, so far as may be possible, from the repercussions of nuclear antagonisms. The BWC's Seventh Review Conference will be boosted by the success of the NPT's Eighth Review Conference, which occurs in May 2010. Conversely, failure at the 2010 NPT Conference could undermine the chances of BWC success in 2011 much more than was the case in 2005-2006,[22] because the stakes are higher and the potential demoralization greater.

The best antidote to such demoralization is of course a successful outcome to the NPT review in 2010. But meanwhile there is much to be done within the BWC to promote its own health. At this midpoint between reviews the next steps to make it work better are clear. The major responsibility for achieving them continues to rest on the governments of all states parties. "With confidence, ingenuity and determination they can strengthen the BWC and reinforce it as a permanent structure on the international scene and the cornerstone of the treaty regime guarding against the deliberate weaponization of disease. The future of biological disarmament demands no less.".[23]


[1] Filippa Lentzos, 'Reaching a Tipping Point: Strengthening BWC Confidence-Building Measures', Disarmament Diplomacy 89 (Winter 2008), pp 52-57.

[2] Kathryn McLaughlin, 'Bringing Biologists on Board: Report from the 2008 Meeting of BWC Experts', Disarmament Diplomacy 89 (Winter 2008), pp 38-51.

[3] Nicholas A. Sims, The Future of Biological Disarmament: Strengthening the Treaty Ban on Weapons (London: Routledge, 2009), chapter 6 'BWC next steps (1): an Accountability Framework for organising collective scrutiny', pp 94-114; chapter 7 'BWC next steps (2): strengthening structures for remedying the institutional deficit', pp 115-140.

[4] Figures provided in UK House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, Global Security: Non-Proliferation, Fourth Report of Session 2008-09, HC 222 (London: The Stationery Office, 2009), p 85, paragraph 196 of main report.

[5] Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms (Stockholm: Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, 2006), p 119, Recommendation 34.

[6] Sims (2009) p 128.

[7] Sectoral analysis of the BWC treaty regime in Nicholas A. Sims, The Evolution of Biological Disarmament, SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies 19 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) identified at different stages in their evolution a multi-layered regime of compliance, a regime of development and a regime of permanence, incomplete without (in addition to remedies for the institutional deficit) a regime of research.

[8] Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms Limitation, 'A Draft Convention to Prohibit Biological and Chemical Weapons under International Criminal Law', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 42 (December 1998), pp 1-2.

[9] Masood Khan, 'The 2006 BWC Conference: The President's Reflections', Disarmament Diplomacy 84 (Spring 2007), p 15.

[10] Sims (2009), pp 25-28.

[11] UNGA Res. 63/53; Disarmament Diplomacy 89 (Winter 2008), p 12, p 22.

[12] McLaughlin (2008), p 47.

[13] Sims (2009), pp 125-126.

[14] Sims (2009), p 137.

[15] Canada, 'Accountability Framework', BWC/CONF.VI/WP.1 (20 October 2006).

[16] McLaughlin (2008), pp 46-47.

[17] Lentzos (2008).

[18] Sims (2009), p 112.

[19] UK House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee (2009), paragraph 211, p 91. The 'previous paragraphs' referred to are paragraphs 193-210 within chapter 4 'Biological and chemical weapons' (paragraphs 166-218) of the main report, pp 73-94.

[20] Sims (2009), p 130. The fullest report of this episode is in Graham S. Pearson, 'The Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties, December 2007', The CBW Conventions Bulletin 78 (February 2008), pp 8-9, p 16.

[21] The JACKSNNZ (pronounced "Jacksons") is an informal grouping of seven BWC states parties which takes its name from their initial letters: Japan, Australia, Canada, Korea (Republic of), Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand. All are non-EU and non-nuclear-weapon members of the Western Group. They emphasize the flexibility of their grouping and their preference for loose coordination, as opposed to tight control, of policies and papers which remain national for each. The JACKSNNZ grouping's significance at the BWC Sixth Review Conference, and its potential role at the Seventh, are discussed in Sims (2009), pp 85-88.

[22] The BWC Sixth Review Conference adopted its final document following a series of failures to agree outcome documents elsewhere in the realm of disarmament diplomacy, a pattern of which delegates were well aware and which they were keen to break. The failure of the Seventh NPT Review Conference to agree a final declaration was only one of a succession of disappointing conference outcomes in 2005 and 2006 and by November 2006 had been somewhat overshadowed by others at New York and Geneva.

[23] Sims (2009), p 176.

Nicholas A. Sims is a Reader in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His latest book is The Future of Biological Disarmament: Strengthening the Treaty Ban on Weapons (Routledge, 2009, ISBN 978-0-415-47580-8, £70 hardback).

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