Last Friday the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (Paris) presented its new report on Article VII of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) during a side event of the Meeting of States Parties (3–6 December). The publication summarises the third tabletop exercise (TTX) to better understand how a party may request international assistance under Article VII if it has been exposed to a danger resulting from a treaty violation. Such a danger may include the use or threat of use of biological weapons (BW) by another state party.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 http://bit.ly/2kFSj6c
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.