Harvard Sussex Program
on chemical and biological warfare armament and arms limitation

Dual-Use Bio-Technology Prospects for Governance through Arms Control


This research is about the role of arms control in the governance of dual-use technology. It assesses this role by looking at one type of dual-use technology - bio-technology - and two arms control and disarmament treaties - the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It aims at understanding whether governance of dual-use technologies is possible through an arms control regime, a multilateral tool of governance, and hence preferable to unilateral governance tools.

This research is important for at least two reasons: first, despite the rejection of the BWC Protocol, there is still a need to strengthen the BWC. This study suggests measures that would tend towards such a purpose. Secondly, it furthers our understanding of dual-use technologies and of their control. This research first examines whether it is possible to identify a set of 'critical' dual-use bio-technologies for a governance system to focus on. It then analyses what lessons can be learned from the current technology control of dual-use chemicals for the governance of dual-use bio-technologies, and examines two systems of governance - the Australia Group and the CWC - with a special emphasis on the latter.

Finally, it explores the role the CWC may have in the governance of dual-use bio-technologies and shows how dual-use bio-technologies may be controlled by the CWC and BWC General Purpose Criterion (GPC) - a special tool upon which the CWC and the BWC are both rooted. This research shows that given the difficulty of identifying 'critical' dual-use bio-technology and the experience of controlling chemical dual-use technologies, arms control will not be good at controlling dual-use bio-technologies unless there is full implementation of the GPC. This would be achieved by involving three sectors (the public, private and civil sectors), particularly with the participation of civil society.

Emmanuelle Tuerlings