Category Archives: Biological

Blog 2 – Experiences of a student at the Meetings of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

This second blog post covers both the second and third Meetings of Experts (MXs) of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). MX2 on science and technology took place on 31 July and 2 August (the day in between being the Swiss national day); MX3 on strengthening national implementation of the BTWC was a one-day event on 5 August.

MX2 impressions

Like at the start of the week I was still sitting behind The Trench nameplate, which was formally represented for the first time in these five MXs of 2019. MX2 was chaired by Mr Yury Nikolaichik of Belarus who decided to modify the agenda order for the sake of efficiency. He thus began with the general information leading to the specifics such as national reports. This change in the order did not bother most delegations. read more

Third tabletop exercise on emergency assistance in case of biological weapon use – First impressions

The day after the presentation of the report on the Article VII tabletop exercise (TTX) held in Lomé, Togo on 29 and 30 May to the states parties of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS) and the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) ran another TTX in the United Nations building in Geneva. This time the focus was on a series of anthrax outbreaks that affected mostly herd animals, but also led to multiple human casualties. The scenario was a deliberate attempt to break with the habitual simulations of increasingly dire human pandemics. After all, the BTWC covers biological weapon (BW) use against animals and plants too. read more

Deciding on emergency assistance in case of biological weapons use

Today, in the Palais des Nations in Geneva we presented the report on the Tabletop Exercise (TTX) on the Implementation of Article VII of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS) and the BTWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU) organised in cooperation with UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (UNREC) organised in Lomé, Togo on 28–29 May 2019.

Presenting the report summary to participants in the BTWC Meeting of Experts

Dr Ralf Trapp sharing his experiences. (With Ms Amélie Delaroche, Deputy Head of French Mission and Dr Élisande Nexon, FRS)

Being one of the more obscure provisions in the BTWC, Article VII only attracted state party attention over the past ten years or so. In follow-up to the decision of the 7th Review Conference (2011), parties to the convention looked for the first time more closely at the provision during the August 2014 Meeting of Experts (MX). As it happened, the gathering coincided with the expanding Ebola crisis in West Africa. The epidemic gave urgency to the concrete implementation of Article VII. The daily images of victims and fully protected medical staff broadcast around the world left lasting impressions of how a biological attack from another state or terrorist entity might affect societies anywhere. read more

Blog 1 – Experiences of a student at the Meetings of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

I am Chiara Barbeschi and study Security Studies (BSc) at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Interning at The Trench and representing the non-governmental organisation (NGO) as a Research Associate at the five Meetings of Experts (MXs) of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is an incredible opportunity that Jean Pascal Zanders granted me. Blogging about it is a chance of sharing my perspective, impressions and account of the conference.

I know that there are also the daily factual reports Richard Guthrie writes and distributes in the meeting room. My posts convey the thoughts of a student experiencing the BTWC meetings for the first time. read more

Disarmament education: Road-testing a master’s course on CBRN dual-use technology transfer controls

From 17 until 28 June I ran an Executive Course on Export Control at the M. Narikbayev KAZGUU University in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), Kazakhstan. Its goal was twofold. First, it tested in a real university setting parts of a master’s course on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) dual-use technology transfer controls I have been developing since February 2018. Its second purpose was to attract interest in organising the full master’s course from other Central Asian academic institutes. read more

Impunity through knowledge management: The legacy of South Africa’s CBW programme

Book review:

Brian Rappert and Chandré Gould, The Dis-Eases of Secrecy: Tracing History, Memory & Justice (Jacana Media: Johannesburg, 2017), 261p.

It took me almost a year to write this book review. There are reasons why. First, the book is not that easy to read. While one can read it linearly (that is one page after another, as one would normally do), it instead invites readers to follow the logic of the argument, which entails dashing back and forwards from one part in the book to another. Second, the insights are profound, and the reader needs to let them sink in. Even in a straightforward linear reading mode, it is simply not possible for one to finish the volume in a couple of hours and claim to have understood the authors’ arguments. And finally, closely linked to the second excuse, while following the trails of various issue threads, I was simultaneously trying to figure out why it is so difficult, if not impossible, to use a country’s past experiences with chemical and biological warfare as a point of departure for education and outreach to prevent the re-emergence of chemical and biological weapons (CBW). read more

The Meaning of ‘Emergency Assistance’

Origins and negotiation of Article VII of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

A new research report

Article VII of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) belongs to the more obscure provisions. It reads as follows:

Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to provide or support assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to the Convention which so requests, if the Security Council decides that such Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention. read more

BTWC MSP 2017 – Final document – draft (scan)

The final document of the 2017 Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) can be downloaded from: 20171208 Final document – draft (scan)

This is a scan of the draft version as it was distributed to delegations in the meeting room. Some modifications were made and insertions added.

For the full official final version of the meeting report, please check in the course of next week the website of the BTWC Implementation Support Unit at

Jean Pascal read more

BTWC Meeting 2017: NGO statement

Joint NGO Statement to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of States Parties

Geneva, 5 December 2017

Mr Chair, Distinguished Representatives:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. I am pleased to have taken over the role as NGO Coordinator from Graham Pearson who so ably carried out this task for 20 years. This year, the NGO community offers a joint statement, to more powerfully focus our key messages to you. I am speaking on behalf of 19 organizations and 40 individuals, the full list of which is attached to the written copy of this statement. The joint statement will be followed by short, individual statements from those who would like to elaborate on points made in the joint statement, emphasise other important areas, express alternate views, or highlight contributions to BWC-relevant initiatives. read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (22)

(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This issue covers items collected between 10 – 16 July 2017.)

CBW disarmament

Scientists Review Innovative Technologies for Chemical Security (OPCW, 7 July 2017): The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) discussed the potential uses innovative scientific and technological tools in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) at a workshop “Innovative Technologies for Chemical Security”, held from 3 to 5 July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Triggering Article VII of the BTWC (Jean Pascal Zanders, 10 July 2017):Last November, during the 8th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS) in cooperation with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) organised a tabletop exercise on the implementation of the BTWC’s Article VII, which provides for emergency assistance in case a State Party Party has been exposed to danger as a result of a treaty violation. (Full report) Choosing a new OPCW head (by Andreas Persbo, 11 July 2017): On Thursday this week, seven candidates hoping to replace Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü will present their candidacies to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). They have been asked by Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal, the chair of the Executive Council, to focus on two pertinent questions: the priorities and future challenges of the OPCW and the management of the Secretariat itself. OPCW endorses plan for the destruction of chemical weapons on San José Island, Panama (Panama, 14 July 2017): Members of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) endorsed the plan submitted by the Republic of Panama for the destruction of eight (8) abandoned chemical munitions located on San José Island. The operation will take place in the last quarter of 2017.

US to destroy chemical weapons from World War Two it left behind in Panama read more