Statement of Dr. Marie Isabelle Chevrier
Chair, Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Weapons
The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation
At the Meeting of the States Parties to the BTWC
Thank you, Ambassador Khan for your invitation to address the States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and to participate in this Round Table Exercise. I am here in my role as Chair of the Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington DC. I wish to thank the members of the Working Group and Dr. Alan Pearson, the director of the project at the Center.
It is appropriate that national implementation is a topic for the first intersessional meeting of the States Parties following the 2006 Review Conference. My colleagues around the table have discussed very important aspects of national implementation. National legislation criminalizing activities prohibited by the BTWC, enforcement of those laws and monitoring of relevant scientific activities are necessary components of national implementation. Nevertheless, national implementation is not limited to these requirements.
Fundamentally, national implementation of the BTWC requires that States Parties implement Article I of the Convention prohibiting the production, development, acquisition, retention, etc. of biological agents and toxins of types and in quantities that have no prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes in their territory or under their control. Article IV, of course, requires States Parties to take “any necessary measures” to ensure that these obligations are carried out in a robust fashion. Governments must ensure that their own houses are in order, that their own activities including those in biodefense and anti-terrorism are in compliance with the BTWC and do not cross that ephemeral line between defensive and offensive activities. Governments are required to exercise appropriate oversight not only of their own work, but of all relevant biological activities including commercial, academic, and public health. Without that appropriate oversight it cannot ensure that its national legislation is effectively enforced. Moreover, national implementation includes implementation of all articles of the BTWC and the politically binding obligations to submit completely the material for the annual information exchange typically labeled CBMs (Confidence Building Measures).
Various topics on the future intersessional agenda overlap and are interconnected with national implementation. Raising awareness and education, for example, are within the scope of national implementation – in order to ensure that all scientists and others that are in the position to violate national laws are aware of the prohibitions contained therein.
Given these serious obligations of governments, what role can and should non-governmental organizations play in national implementation? The roles of NGOs vary depending on the form of government, national culture, and the history of government NGO relations. The presence of NGOs here today and additional NGO’s from industry on Thursday reflects a changing culture and history within the States Parties to the BTWC and the United Nations more generally, recognizing the positive role that NGOs can play.
One of the advantages of NGOs is their flexibility and ability to take on tasks with a minimum of bureaucratic or administrative burdens. The Scientists Working Group has provided scientific expertise to government agencies, established web-based educational modules for scientists on their obligations under national laws, and other modules for policy makers explaining the scientific and technological advances relevant to the BTWC. As NGOs we and others have taken part in brainstorming sessions, participated in emergency response exercises, and provided publicly available independent analysis of BW risks and threats and will continue to do so. NGOs have organized meetings and conferences to promote dialogue between relevant national and regional government agencies, scientists, and other experts to reach common understandings of, for example, the appropriate levels of transparency and secrecy for biosecurity, biodefense, and dual use work in R&D. We can raise awareness regarding emerging threats from scientific and technological advances and develop codes of conduct. NGOs can promote the objectives and purposes of the BTWC among legislatures and the general public and work to keep BTW disarmament and nonproliferation a priority on executive branch agendas. NGOs can be a component of assistance activities coordinated by the BTWC Implementation Support Unit. NGOs can easily share information and participate in each other’s activities to promote best practices and avoid reinventing the wheel. I could go on.
NGOs are not a substitute for governments. But, when governments demonstrate the political will to implement all of their responsibilities under the BTWC, NGOs can often support governments in carrying out those duties. The role of NGOs in national implementation of the BTWC is only limited by the imagination of the parties and resources available to accomplish these critical tasks.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for this opportunity and thank you to the delegations for your kind attention.