U.S. Mission in Geneva
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) States Parties held their annual Meeting of Experts in Geneva July 16-20, 2012. For the first time, states worked on an agreed agenda of cooperation and assistance, national implementation and science and technology, which will carry over each year until the next Review Conference, and an additional focus on confidence building measures. This continuing agenda was an innovation of the last Review Conference, as was the creation of a data base on assistance related to the BWC. The U.S. was proud to be the first state to submit input to the data base and also extensively documented its many programs in this area.
In a further effort to highlight U.S. assistance in the biosecurity area, Amb.Kennedy, U.S. Special Representative for BWC Issues, hosted a side event on the Global Partnership (Against the Spread of WMD). Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, U.S.G. chair for the Global Partnership, described the work of the Biological Security Working Group. Key activities include: securing and accounting for material that represent biological proliferation risks; developing and maintaining measures to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the deliberate misuse of biological agents; strengthening national and global networks to identify, confirm and respond to biological attacks; reinforcing and strengthening biological nonproliferation principles, practices and instruments; and reducing proliferation risks through the promotion of responsible conduct in the biological sciences. Reflecting the important interface between the biosecurity and public health communities, the panel also included Dr. Piers Millet of the BWC Implementation Support Unit, and the World Health Organization’s Mr. Ludy Suryantoro.
States Parties reflected on the rapid pace of developments in the life sciences and began more systematic discussion of implications for the BWC and possible steps in biosafety and biosecurity. The U.S. described its programs in this area, including outreach undertaken by the F.B.I. to scientists in academia and industry. The issue of dual-use research of concern was discussed both in plenary and at a July 17 event co-sponsored by the U.S. and The Netherlands. Amb. Kennedy chaired a panel focused on research on the H5N1 virus and the debate among government and international bodies over publication of the research results and oversight mechanisms. Dr. Larry Kerr (U.S.) provided a factual overview of the H5N1 (“bird flu”) publications and the controversy about dual use research. Dr. Marianne Donker (NE), and Mr. Christopher Park (U.S.) discussed governmental policies and the complex deliberations within and among agencies and international counterparts. Participants from government, academia, international organizations, and industry participated in the discussion, including on opportunities for using the BWC forum to advance international engagement and cooperation on the dual use research of concern. This panel also usefully reflected the value of active interaction between the biosecurity and public health communities.