Building Information Networks for Biosecurity
ANNE L. CLUNAN
In the event of the release of harmful biological agents, which could spread across borders before being detected in the country originally affected, the benefits of information sharing are obvious. Governments currently seek to develop organizational and institutional innovations in response to perceptions that nontraditional transnational threats are on the increase and that intelligence failures have been widespread. A pressing threat is that biological weapons may be used against states by other states or by non-state or state-sponsored terrorists.1
Accurate and timely information to help manage such threats is therefore of central concern to policymakers. This is illustrated by the November 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS spread within 24 hours from China to six countries, and within five months to 28; it is estimated to have caused global economic losses of $40 billion in 2003.2 China was widely criticized in the international community for withholding information about the outbreak of the disease; it was blamed for delaying identification and response, and thus facilitating the spread of the disease. The SARS outbreak highlights the problematic nature of biological agents and the vital importance of establishing transnational early warning and information networks before a crisis—intentional or otherwise—occurs.
Sharing information about the possessors and users of biological warfare