Statement to the UNGA 1st Committee by the Global Civil Society Coalition for the Biological Weapons Convention

[Endosed by The Trench]

Statement to the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 12 October 2016

Delivered by Kathryn Millett on behalf of the Global Civil Society Coalition for the Biological Weapons Convention

Mr. Chair,

Disease, especially deliberate disease, poses a major risk to international security, whether directed at humans, animals, or plants. Public health emergencies connected to Ebola and Zika virus have illustrated how far we have to go before we are sufficiently prepared to overcome challenges in global health security. The human, economic, social and political costs of natural, accidental, and deliberate disease can be immense: the World Bank estimated $7 billion USD was spent on fighting Ebola, which ultimately infected approximately 28,000 people and caused 11,000 deaths. It is clear that disease can decimate countries, derail development, stigmatize thousands, and cause longer-term health issues. The effects of Ebola will undeniably be with us for decades.

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Happiness is the road

Now one month ago, my contract with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) ended. It was an unexpected 6-month stint to assist the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) with organising a series of four regional workshops in preparation of the 8th Review Conference of the BTWC next month. These workshops were sponsored by the European Union (EU) under Council Decision CFSP/2016/51 of 18 January 2016 (Project 4). They targeted Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Astana, Kazakhstan on 15–16 June), Latin America (Brasilia, Brazil on 22–23 August), South and South-East Asia (New Delhi, India on 29–30 August), and Africa (African Union Commission, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 13–14 September).

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Crowd control with chemical agents: Fundamental questions raised

Book review

Michael Crowley, Chemical Control: Regulation of Incapacitating Chemical Agent Weapons, Riot Control Agents and their Means of Delivery (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2015), 378p.

Crowd control-sAnybody who has attended one of Michael Crowley’s annual presentations at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the challenges posed by riot control and incapacitating agents for the future of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) knows his passion for the subject matter. And his overwhelming knowledge about the latest developments in science, technology, industry and government policies. These characteristics also typify his book on the topic, Chemical Control, published late last year.

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Nuclear Terrorism – Book published

Nuclear Terrorism: Countering the Threat

Edited by Brecht Volders and Tom Sauer

Routledge, 262 pages

About the Book

This volume aims to improve understanding of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism.nuclear terrorism

Nuclear terrorism is perceived as one of the most immediate and extreme threats to global security today. While the international community has made important progress in securing fissile material, there are still important steps to be made with nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material spread around the globe. The volume addresses this complex phenomenon through an interdisciplinary approach: legal, criminal, technical, diplomatic, cultural, economic, and political. Despite this cross-disciplinary approach, however, the chapters are all linked by the overarching aim of enhancing knowledge of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism. The volume aims to do this by investigating the different types of nuclear terrorism, and subsequently discussing the potential means to prevent these malicious acts. In addition, there is a discussion of the nuclear security regime, in general, and an important examination of both its strengths and weaknesses. In summary, the book aims to extend the societal and political debate about the threat of nuclear terrorism.

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Am I an academic?

My good friend Sven Biscop at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels wrote this witty piece last year. I have just rediscovered it while clearing out old e-mails. It reminds me of teaching experiences; debates on research versus analysis; inventing labels to prove originality, but which are clear only to the inventor; and my eternal frustration about certain uses of footnotes (from legalised plagiarism to citing friends or renowned academics, because it is the thing to do) that just add nothing to the train of argument. With Sven’s permission, I reproduce his thought piece here.

I know: it is not about disarmament or chemical and biological weapons. But it has an enormous lot to do with the field I work in. Self-reflection is good.

Jean Pascal

Am I an academic?

‘We have invited think-tankers and academics’. This sentence, often spoken by conference organisers, never fails to annoy me. Certainly if in the next sentence gratitude is then expressed for the think-tankers’ willingness to convey the academics’ ideas to policy-makers. Read: nothing very substantial is expected from the think-tankers themselves. Their job is just to translate academic brilliance into terms that even practitioners, who apparently are even lower in the academics’ esteem, can understand.

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No humanitarian justification for biological weapons

On 11 January Digital Journal, an online publication touching upon current events and with a penchant for science and technology affairs, published an Op-Ed by Megan Hamilton, an animal and nature-loving journalist based in Costa Rica, on Technology and the art of modern warfare. The piece is worrying enough for all the new technologies under consideration: fast-firing guns that could be deployed on satellites, direction-changing bullets, laser guns to knock out enemy drones, and so on.

The item that caught my attention was a discussion about a project once run by US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that turned insects into surveillance cyborgs (See also the Gizmodo blog). As Hamilton described it:

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Chemical weapons in Syria: The reports 2013–16

Chemical weapon disarmament in Syria

Monthly reports

[In preparation]


Investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons

Investigations under the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism

Investigations by the OPCW Fact-Finding MIssion

Summary report of the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria covering the period from 3 to 31 May 2014 (16 June 2014) Second report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria: Key findings (10 September 2014) Third report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria

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Syrian soldiers exposed to ‘sarin or a sarin-like substance’

In November I presented the main findings of the preliminary Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) report of 29 October. This particular investigation of alleged use by the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had been requested by Syria. Government officials had transmitted four Notes Verbales alleging  26 chemical weapon (CW) events resulting in 432 casualties. The preliminary report focussed primarily on incidents at Jobar (northeast of Damascus) on 29 August 2014. While the investigators believed that government soldiers had been exposed to an irritant, they could not confirm that the chemical had been used as a weapon. They as good as ruled out chlorine or a neurotoxicant, such as sarin, as the causative agent.

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