SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Presentations at 8th Review Conference of the BWC

Dr Caitriona McLeish and Dr James Revill attended the first week of the 8th Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention that took place at the Palais de Nations in Geneva between 7-25 November 2016. During the week Drs McLeish and Revill participated in three side events and also delivered a statement to the Review Conference.

On 7 November, Dr McLeish participated in a panel briefing for civil society members attending the Review Conference that had been organized by Disarmament Dynamics. Dr McLeish was invited to speak about the prospects for enhancing the Implementation Support Unit, the small unit tasked with supporting, amongst other things, the implementation of the Convention. Whilst trying to remain optimistic about what might be achieved, Dr McLeish noted that in a consensus-based decision-making forum it took just one state to object to enhancing the Unit for nothing to be achieved. She noted that whilst the majority seemed in favour, several states had gone on record as stating their resistance to change in this area. 

On 9 November, Dr McLeish also spoke at another side event, this time on why understanding the historical origins of the treaty is important with respect to its current and future operation. This presentation was based on the Understanding Biological Disarmament project, funded by the AHRC, that Dr McLeish has been engaged in with colleagues from UCL for the past 3 years. The event was co-organized with the launch a new book Biological Threats in the 21st Century, edited by Filippa Lentzos, to which members of the project had contributed three chapters. Dr McLeish was also one of the invited group that took part in a roundtable on ‘The future of biothreat governance’ the transcript of which sits as the final chapter of the book. 

Later that same day, Dr McLeish also delivered the NGO statement to the Review Conference on behalf of The Harvard Sussex Program (HSP). In the statement she highlighted three areas of work where HSP strongly urged the assembled States Parties to make progress. They were:

  • The need for a more robust, regular and open review of science and technology developments of relevance to the Convention;
  • The need for more work to be done to prepare should it be determined that a State Party has been ‘exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention’; and
  • The need for an agreement about examining the issue of compliance with the Convention in a more structured and systematic way.

Dr McLeish joined seventeen other NGOs in making statements to the floor of the Review Conference. 

On 11 November, Dr James Revill participated in a panel discussion concerning the EU Council Decision in support of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which had been organized by the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, together with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. 

Dr Revill spoke on enhancing the consultative provisions under Article V of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Drawing lessons from past BWC experience and practices in other treaties, Dr Revill laid out a number of options for consideration by States Parties. His work has informed the development of a European Union working paper "Enhancing the effectiveness of the consultative provisions of Article V of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." 

This EU event marked the 10th anniversary of the EU's support for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and took place in the margins of the 8th Review Conference of the Convention. The event provided an opportunity to present the results of four regional workshops and inform interested States Parties of the EU's upcoming assistance activities over the next two years. The disappointing results from the review Conference suggest that such EU led activities will be important in the future. 

Dr Revill and Dr McLeish had attended three of the four regional workshops as well as preparatory meetings in Brussels and Geneva. Through the Harvard Sussex Program (HSP), an inter-university collaboration for research, communication and training in support of informed public policy towards chemical and biological weapons, they will continue to support the evolution of the BWC through a number of routes.  

Further reading

Preparing for next review of the Biological Weapons Convention

EU Regional (European) Workshop on the Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention

EU Regional (South & South East Asia) Workshop on the Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention


Image courtesy of CBW Events via @CBWEvents on Twitter.