SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Biological Weapons Convention 40th anniversary

SPRU researcher provides remarks at Biological Weapons Convention 40th anniversary

On Monday 30th March 2015, Dr Caitriona McLeish spoke at the United Nations’ commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which entered into force on the 26th March 1975. This event was attended by a number of governmental representatives as well as NGOs and celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first international agreement to prohibit an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.

Dr McLeish, the Sussex Director of the Harvard Sussex Program (an inter-university collaboration between Harvard University and the University of Sussex), spoke alongside Ambassador Mazlan Muhammad (Malaysia), Mr Ulyanov (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation), Ambassador Rowland (UK), Ambassador Wood (USA) and Ambassador Khan (Pakistan) as the sole representative of academia. The event, which took place in the same room in which the BWC was originally negotiated, also included speeches from the Acting Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva and the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane.

Dr McLeish’s remarks focused on “the 40th anniversary of the BWC: Remembering the origins of the Convention”. The statement drew from an ongoing research project on “Understanding Biological Disarmament: The Historical Context of The Origins of the Biological Weapons Convention”. This project is investigating the context of the negotiations around the Biological Weapons Convention and is being undertaken in collaboration with scholars in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. It is funded by UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The project aims to provide a deep historical account of the genesis of the Biological Weapons Convention and write the treaty into the historiography of the Cold War. To achieve this, the researchers are drawing on a wide range of archival and oral sources to go beyond a blow-by-blow account of the technicalities of arms treaty negotiation.

This commemorative event was followed by an academic seminar to mark the anniversary. This second event, in which Dr McLeish also participated, was co-sponsored by Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

See Also:

Happy birthday to the bioweapons convention – Article in The Guardian authored by SPRU's Dr James Revill and Dr Caitríona McLeish.

James Revill iand Caitríona McLeish are both members of the Harvard Sussex Program. They research public policy on issues involving biological and chemical weapons.

Remembering an overlooked treaty - Article in The Guardian authored by Alex Spelling and Brian Balmer, 
Alex Spelling is a Research Associate and Brian Balmer is a Professor in the Department of Science & Technology Studies, University College London. They are working on the project on the history of the Biological Weapons Convention

* Images: United Nations Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré