SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

The adoption of chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors

Dr James Revill gave a presentation on the adoption of chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors at the 12th International Symposium on Protection against Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents, June 8-10 2016, Stockholm, Sweden.

Dr Revill outlined several key factors that can be seen as influential in the adoption of chemical and biological agents including the perceived utility of such weapons, their complexity, compatibility with both ideology and organisation, visibility and the broader environmental context.

He also gave an overview of validated historical examples adoption of Chemical and Biological Weapon (CBW) technology by non-state actors to illustrate the significance of such factors, but also to highlight the relatively small number of real events compared with the number of hoaxes and non-events.

The presentation concluded with a note on the potential of Daesh use of chemical weapons, and it was suggested that whilst the opportunistic use of crude chemical weapons was an ongoing concern, the use of CBW on a mass destructive scale would face a significant number of challenges.

The International Symposium on Protection against Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents was attended by policy makers including Jan Lodding, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, who chaired Dr Revill’s presentation session as well as members of the military and academics. The conference aims to create an interdisciplinary forum for the mutual exchange of information regarding protection against chemical and biological warfare agents.