Magazine article UN Chronicle

Second Treaty Review Conference Calls for Measures to Strengthen Biological Weapons Ban

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Second Treaty Review Conference Calls for Measures to Strengthen Biological Weapons Ban

Article excerpt

Second Treaty Review Conference calls for measures to strengthen biological weapons ban

States Parties to the Convention onthe Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, concluding their Second Review Conference, declared their strong determination to exclude completely the possibility of biological agents being used as weapons, and reiterated their commitment to the goal of achieving early agreement on a chemical weapons ban.

Sixty-three of the 103 ConventionParties, and four signatory States, attended the three-week Conference (Geneva, 8-26 September).

In a 10-article Final Declarationadopted by consensus on 26 September, the Conference agreed that States Parties should implement measures to prevent or reduce "the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts or suspicion" regarding bacteriological activities and to improve international co-operation in peaceful microbiology use.

Those measures include exchangingdata on research centres and laboratories established for handling high-risk biological materials; exchanging information on all outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar occurrences caused by toxins that seem to deviate from normal patterns; actively promoting contacts between scientists engaged in biological research; and encouraging publication of research results.

The Conference decided to convenein Geneva from 31 March to 15 April 1987 an ad hoc meeting of scientific and technical experts from States Parties to complete the modalities for exchange of information.

Conference President, WinfriedLang (Austria) told participants the main purpose of the meeting would be to strengthen confidence in the Convention as a "genuine disarmament measure" that had actively eliminated the possibility of an arms race in at least one important area. In his opening statement, he also urged them not to overlook the peaceful uses of the biosciences, or the need for international co-operation in microbiology to benefit the developing countries in particular.

Secretary-General Javier Perez deCuellar, in a message delivered to the Conference by Jan Martenson, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, said the biological weapons Convention had "aptly been called the world's first disarmament treaty," as it was the first and, so far, only international instrument binding States Parties to prohibit and prevent the development, production and stockpiling of "an entire category of weapons of mass destruction," as well as, "most importantly", obliging them to destroy such weapons or divert them to peaceful purposes.

"[The Convention] continues toserve as a guide to the international community in its efforts to achieve genuine disarmament measures regarding other types of weapons and their systems", the Secretary-General affirmed. "Limitation, reduction and eventual elimination of weapons of mass destruction . . . [are] to be regarded as imperative, but there can be no progress in that direction unless the arms race, particularly in the nuclear field, is arrested. Meanwhile, the international community should take every opportunity to affirm and strengthen existing agreements."

The 15-article Convention wassigned in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. It was drawn up on the basis of work carried out by the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, a predecessor of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, which is currently negotiating a chemical weapons ban.

The Convention called for a ReviewConference to be held within five years of entry into force to assure that its provisions were being carried out, taking into account any relevant new scientific and technological developments. The First Review Conference was held in 1980. A Third Review Conference should be held at the request of a majority of States Parties no later than 1991, it was decided at the Second Conference. …

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