Peaceful Use or Weaponization: The Lingering Threat of Biological and Chemical Weapons

By ACA Intern Daniel Salisbury

Last week in Switzerland over 100 states party to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) are due to conclude an annual Meeting of Experts. As Global Security Newswire reported August 20:

Law enforcement and public health experts from around the globe will gather next week in Switzerland to discuss the potential use of biological weapons and how nations can improve their preparedness to respond to intentional or natural disease outbreaks...

The meeting is part of the "intersessional process" conducted between the convention's review conferences held every five years. This year's discussion is "perhaps the most lively" in years because "it combines both the peaceful side -- developing public health capacity, disease surveillance and so on -- with the very hard-edged security side that is responding to actual use of a biological weapon," Richard Lennane, head of the treaty's Implementation Support Unit, said last week in a telephone interview.

Along with the 2010 Compliance Report (PDF) released in July by the State Department, this meeting emphasizes the problems of dealing with dual-use technology, especially in terms of the BWC, a treaty with no formal verification mechanism.

A recent Arms Control Association fact sheet compiles state declarations and allegations in relation to Chemical and Biological Weapons stockpiles and programs. It provides up-to-date information that takes into account the findings of the 2010 Compliance Report.