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Biological Chemical

COVID-19 pushes BTWC Review Conference into 2022

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As noted in the blog posting of 29 November, COVID-19 has seriously interfered with the meeting agendas for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

A new schedule is emerging for the BTWC while it appears possible that the second part of last year’s CWC Conference of States Parties may take place later than April.

BTWC meetings for 2021

The Chairperson of the 2020 Meeting of States Parties (MSP), Ambassador Cleopa Mailu of Kenya, has notified delegations that the Meetings of Experts (MX) will now be held one year after the originally planned dates, namely from 30 August to 8 September 2021. Last November the expectation was that the MXs could take place not earlier than April 2021.

The five MXs are now scheduled as follows:

  • MX1 (Cooperation and Assistance, with a Particular Focus on Strengthening Cooperation and Assistance under Article X): 30-31 August
  • MX2 (Review of Developments in the Field of Science and Technology Related to the Convention): 1-2 September
  • MX3 (Strengthening National Implementation): 3 September
  • MX4 (Assistance, Response and Preparedness): 6-7 September
  • MX5 (Institutional Strengthening of the Convention): 8 September


BTWC Meeting of the States Parties in 2019 (Source: Permanent Mission of France to the UN)

The MSP is scheduled for 22-25 November, which means that the two sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the Review Conference will have to take place in the early spring of 2022 with the Ninth Review Conference being pushed back until later in the year, possibly November or December.

Unused meeting funds budgeted for this year will cover next year’s costs. Probably states parties will have to adopt an additional decision at the MSP next year to authorise funds for the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) for 2022. Personnel and operational costs for the ISU covering the next intersessional period and review conference are approved at review conferences.

CWC meetings

The 26th session of the CWC Conference of States Parties (CSP) is due to take place on 29 November – 3 December.

However, CSP-25 has not yet been completed due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and international travel. Last year, states parties met for two days primarily to adopt the budget for 2021. However, other agenda items had to be delayed because rules require delegates to be physically present. For instance, on the agenda is still the adoption of the report confirming CW use by Syrian government forces by the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team, which is politically highly charged. The threat to suspend Syria’s voting rights in the international organisation may also cause sparks to fly. Lack of consensus means voting.

The intention was to resume CSP-25 in April at the latest but given the current evolution of the pandemic and the emergence of more infectious variants, it is becoming increasingly likely that a later date will have to be selected.

At the time of writing, Netherlands rules for indoor meetings only allow for 30 persons in the same space. Arrivals in the Netherlands must self-quarantine for 10 days, a period that can only be shortened after a test on the fifth day proves negative.

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