Convention on the prohibition of the development

Opened for Signature: 10 April 1972.

Entered into Force: 26 March 1975.

Duration: Unlimited.


Egypt and Syria are among the signatories, but have not yet ratified the convention. Israel is among the countries that did not sign the treaty.

Depositaries: Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Treaty Text

Treaty Obligations: States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Wea-pons and on their Destruction (BTWC) are obligated not to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise ac-quire or obtain microbial or other biological agents or toxins of types and in quantities that have no justifi-cation for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes; not to develop, produce, stockpile, or oth-erwise acquire or obtain weapons, equipment, or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict; to destroy, or to divert to peaceful purposes (not later than nine months after the entry into force of the convention) all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery; not to transfer to any reci-pient, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or in-duce to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, or means of de-livery; to take necessary measures to prohibit the above within their own territories. Although the BTWC (in its title and in Article I) does not explicitly prohibit “use” of biological weapons, the Final Dec-laration of the 1996 Treaty Review Conference reaf-firmed that, although “use” is not explicitly prohi-bited under Article I of the BWC, it is still considered to be a violation of the convention.

Verification and Compliance:

Verification: There is no formal verification regime to monitor compliance. Member States are encour-aged to abide by numerous confidence-building measures (CBMs) prescribed by State Parties at vari-ous review conferences. These include: domestic implementation measures, if considered necessary; consultation and co-operation among parties; lodging of complaints with the UN Security Council; and incentives, such as assistance to victims. Since 1991, there have been efforts to negotiate a verification protocol to strengthen the BTWC’s lack of provisions for an international mechanism to monitor com-pliance. Difficulties in creating a verification regime for the BTWC include: any nation with a developed pharmaceutical industry has the potential to make biological weapons; the emergence of non-state ac-tors makes it difficult to develop effective verifica-tion measures.

Compliance: One example of allegations of non-compliance with the BTWC is the 1981 accusation by the United States that the Soviet Union supplied mycotoxins—poisonous compounds synthesized by fungi—to its Communist allies in Southeast Asia for military use against resistance forces in Laos and Cambodia. The UN Secretary-General dispatched two expert groups to the region to investigate the allegations. Both were inconclusive, demonstrating the need to launch an investigation shortly after an alleged attack, when the forensic evidence is still fresh, and to gain full access to the effected sites and attack victims.

Amendments and Withdrawal: Under Article XI, States Parties may propose amendments to this con-vention. Amendments shall enter into force for each State Party accepting the amendments when the amendment is accepted by a majority of the States Parties to the convention. For each remaining State Party thereafter, the amendment will take effect on the date of acceptance. The convention gives the par-ties a right of withdrawal, provided that notice is giv-en to all other States Parties to the convention and to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) three months in advance. Such notice shall include a state-ment of the extraordinary events the State regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests (Article XIII).

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Review Conference: The Review Conference of the BTWC takes place every five years.

Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs): In the Final Declaration adopted at the Third Review Con-ference of the Parties to the BWC held in 1996, the States Parties agreed to implement a new format of confidence-building measures to improve interna-tional cooperation in the field of peaceful bacterio-logical (biological) activities (BWC/CONF.III/23, Part II, Annex). These included: (1) a declaration form on “Nothing to declare” or “Nothing new to declare”; (2) exchange of data on research centers and laboratories that meet very high national or inter-national safety standards; (3) exchange of informa-tion on national biological defense research and de-velopment programs, including declarations on facili-ties where biological defense research and develop-ment programs are conducted. (This measure also includes information relating to contractors and on available publications.); (4) exchange of information on outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar occur-rences caused by toxins that seem to deviate from the normal pattern; (5) encouragement of publication of results of biological research directly related to the convention and promotion of use for permitted pur-poses of knowledge gained in this research; (6) active promotion of contacts between scientists, other ex-perts at facilities engaged in biological research di-rectly related to the convention, including exchanges and visits for joint research on mutually agreed basis; (7) declaration of legislation, regulations, and other measures, including exports and/or imports of patho-genic microorganisms in accordance with the con-vention; (8) declaration of past activities in offensive and/or defensive biological research and development programs since 1 January 1946; and (9) declaration on vaccine production facilities, licensed by the State Party for the protection of humans. A summary table has been prepared to indicate participation of the States Parties in each of the agreed CBMs since 1997.

Sixty-one states (38% of States Parties) submitted CBM information requested during the Sixth Review Conference. Several States Parties approached the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) to enquire if, in the interests of transparency, their CBMs could also be made available in the publicly-accessible area of the ISU website. For 2008, nine CBM country reports have been placed in the publicly-accessible area of the CBM section of the website (they also remain available in the restricted area).


2009: The 2009 BTWC Meetings will be chaired by Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada. The Meeting of Experts will be held from 24-28 August and the Meeting of States Parties will be held on 7-11 De-cember.

2008: The following states acceded to the BTWC in 2008: Zambia (15 January), Madagascar (7 March), United Arab Emirates (20 June), and Cook Islands (5 December).

The 2008 Meeting of Experts was held in Geneva from 18-22 August 2008. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Georgi Avramchev of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The meeting dis-cussed and promoted national, regional, and interna-tional measures to improve biosafety and biosecurity, including laboratory safety and security of pathogens and toxins, and oversight, education, awareness rais-ing, and adoption and/or development of codes of conduct with the aim of preventing misuse in the context of advances in bio-science and bio-technology research with the potential of use for pur-poses prohibited by the Convention.

The meeting included three panel discussions on the topics of risk management, industry, and education and awareness-raising. Experts were invited to share their opinions and to offer suggestions on the ques-tions raised by the Chair and the delegates. Some of the main themes were: developing an integrated net-work of information that could be shared between developed and developing countries, informing and engaging the public when outbreaks occur, training scientists to respond to outbreaks and crises, and creating stronger alliances between industry and gov-ernment.

The meeting featured the ISU’s first ever poster ses-sions on 19 and 21 August. These sessions gave ex-perts an opportunity to meet their counterparts among the various delegations and present details of their work. All States Parties, International Organizations, Nongovernmental Organizations, and private sector delegations were invited to participate, and nearly 30 posters were presented in total. The sessions were enthusiastically received and will likely continue in the future.

The Meeting of States Parties was held in Geneva on 1-5 December, 2008, and was chaired by Ambassa-dor Georgi Avramchev of the Former Yugoslav Re-public of Macedonia. The meeting consolidated the work of the Meeting of Experts in a final report. Many States Parties stressed the need for universali-zation and the necessity for countries to continually

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submit their CBMs. Although CBMs are not legally binding, some States Parties, such as Switzerland, noted that they are politically binding and part of the obligations of the treaty. Some States Parties also suggested expanding the ISU duties to include an international scientific advisory panel as part of the seventh review conference.

94 States Parties attended the meeting and 39 States Parties made statements.

2007: On 28 June, Kazakhstan acceded to the BTWC.

The 2007 Meeting of Experts was held in Geneva from 20-24 August 2007. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan. In accor-dance with the decision of the Sixth Review Confe-rence, the meeting dealt with ways and means to en-hance national implementation, including enforce-ment of national legislation, strengthening of national institutions and coordination among national law enforcement institutions, and regional and sub-regional cooperation on implementation of the BWC. The meeting concluded on 24 August by adopting its report by consensus and the presentation of an Inte-rim Universalization Report by the chairman.

On 20 August, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) was officially launched. The ISU was created to assist states parties in the implementation of the BWC by providing administrative support to States Parties, facilitate communication, promote confi-dence-building measures, and to work towards the universalization of the convention.

The 2007 Meeting of States Parties was held in Ge-neva from 10-14 December 2007. Ninety-five states parties and six signatories participated in the meeting, which was chaired by Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan. In accordance with the decision of the Sixth Review Conference, the Meeting of States Parties considered the work of the previously held Meeting of Experts. The meeting concluded with a consensus report mainly addressing procedural issues.

2006: The Preparatory Committee for the Sixth Re-view Conference was held in Geneva from 26-28 April and made the procedural arrangements neces-sary for the Review Conference.

The Sixth Review Conference was held from 20 No-vember to 8 December in Geneva. In his opening remarks, Secretary General Kofi Anan called on the states parties to not repeat the deadlock of the 2001 Review Conference and stressed the importance of the convention and moving forward. Masood Khan of Pakistan was elected president of the conference and stressed the need to allow for no complacency in ad-dressing the threats posed by biological weapons.

The most important decision of the Review Confe-rence was to establish an Implementation Support Unit consisting of three full-time staff members to provide support and confidence building measures. The conference endorsed the consensus documents from 2003-2005 meetings of the States Parties, de-cided for 2007-2010 to hold four annual meetings of the states parties of one week duration each year to discuss and promote common understanding and ef-fective action. The conference also made a decision concerning confidence-building measures, namely that the Implementation Support Unit should develop an electronic format of the existing confidence-building measures forms, and centralize requests and offers of assistance regarding the submission of these by states parties. On the promotion of universaliza-tion, the conference agreed that a concerted effort by states parties was needed to persuade states not party to the convention to join.

2005: The Third Meeting of Experts from States Par-ties to the convention met in Geneva from 13-24 June. 82 States Parties participated in the Meeting of Experts. Egypt, Madagascar, and the Syrian Arab Republic also participated as signatories, who hold no decision-making power in the meeting. Israel par-ticipated as an observer. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador John Freeman of the United Kingdom.

Experts from various international organizations, such as the International Organization of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Health Organization (WHO), were granted observer status. Twenty-three scientific, professional, academ-ic, and industry bodies participated informally as guests of the Meeting of Experts. Sixteen non-governmental organizations and research institutes also attended the meeting.

The Meeting of Experts held two public meetings on 13 and 24 June, respectively, five open sessions, and three working sessions. At these gatherings, experts discussed the options for development and imple-mentation of codes of conduct for scientists to help prevent contravention of the BWC. Participants also discussed the merits of a universal code system ver-sus multiple codes, and the relationship of voluntary or contract-based codes of conduct to enforceable legislation and regulations.

The experts reached general agreement that the codes of conduct should uphold central tenets of the BWC while also working to balance the need for scientific

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freedom against the need to prevent deliberate and inadvertent scientific misuses. Alternatively, on the issue of increased education, participants varied in their opinion of who should be responsible for prom-ulgating codes of conduct and whether the approach should be a “top-down” or “bottom-up” strategy.

At the end of the meeting, the chair prepared an in-formal paper listing the considerations, recommenda-tions, and conclusions drawn from the gatherings. While the paper has no official status, it was the chair’s view that the paper could assist delegations in their preparation for the upcoming Meeting of States Parties.

2004: A two-week Meeting of Experts of the States Parties to the Convention convened in Geneva from 19-31 July, in accordance with a three-year program established at the Fifth Review Conference. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Peter Goosen of South Africa, and attended by representatives of 87 States Parties, four signatories, and two observer States to the convention. In addition, experts from various international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health, which are aiding in the creation of contingency plans for responding to disease outbreaks, also attended and participated in the conference as observers.

The Meeting of Experts held public sessions on 19 and 30 July, and 17 additional working meetings. During the first week of the session, participants fo-cused on addressing means of “strengthening and broadening national and international institutional efforts and existing mechanisms for the surveillance, detection, diagnosis and combating of infectious dis-eases affecting humans, animals, and plants.” During this time, participants heard nearly 100 statements, presentations, and interventions and considered a number of working papers on the subject submitted by States Parties.

The following week, the primary agenda item was to discuss the enhancement of “international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease.” States Parties, signatories, and observers heard and dis-cussed a number of presentations, statements, and working papers related to this topic. In addition, par-ticipants utilized several background papers prepared by the Secretariat regarding mechanisms being im-plemented by intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations in terms of disease surveillance and disease outbreaks, and on mechan-isms available to States Parties to investigate the al-leged use of biological or toxin weapons and provide assistance within the context of the convention.

At the conclusion of the conference, the chair com-piled a paper, including conclusions, recommenda-tions, proposals, and ideas drawn from the Experts Meeting. The paper was not given any official status and does not represent the views of all States Parties or signify indicate that a consensus was reached. Ra-ther, it is intended to assist delegates in their prepara-tion for the Annual Meeting of States Parties, which took place from 6-10 December in Geneva.

The 2004 Meeting of States Parties convened in Ge-neva from 6-10 December, with Mr. Peter Goosen of South Africa as the chair. 87 States Parties to the convention participated in the Meeting of States. Four signatory states, Egypt, Madagascar, Myanmar, and the United Republic of Tanzania, participated in the meeting without taking part in decision-making. Two additional states, Israel and Kazakhstan, joined the meeting as observers.

Among other observers were The Food and Agricul-ture Organizations (FAO), the International Commit-tee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Health Or-ganization (WHO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Fourteen NGOs and research institutes also attended.

The Meeting of States Parties held two public meet-ings on 6 and 10 December, respectively, as well as multiple working sessions and, on 6 December, a general debate in which 28 States Parties made statements.

During the meeting, States Parties considered broa-dening and strengthening national and international institutional efforts and existing mechanisms for the surveillance, detection, diagnosis, and combating of infectious diseases affecting humans, animals, and plants. Members agreed on the importance of sup-porting existing networks of relevant organizations, such as the WHO, FAO, and OIE, as well as develop-ing national and regional disease surveillance capa-bilities.

Members also discussed enhancing international ca-pabilities for responding to, investigating, and miti-gating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease. The States Parties recognized the need to continue to develop their own national capabilities for response, as well as cooperative efforts and provisions for in-ternational assistance.

At its closing on December 10, the Meeting of States Parties of the convention approved the nomination of

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Ambassador John Freeman of the United Kingdom as the chair of the Meeting of Experts and the Meeting of States Parties in 2005.

2003: From 18-29 August, the first meeting of ex-perts from States Parties to the BTWC was held in Geneva under the chairmanship of Ambassador Tibor Toth. The meeting was the first stage of a new process established by the Fifth Review Conference of the BTWC; its purpose was to prepare the ground for the annual meeting of States Parties, scheduled for 10-14 November 2003.

The meeting addressed two topics: the adoption of necessary national measures to implement the prohi-bitions set forth in the convention, including the enactment of penal legislation: and national mechan-ism to establish and maintain the security and over-sight of pathogenic microorganisms and toxins. The first topic of national legislation was divided into the following sub-topics to promote discussion: (1) legal, regulatory, and administrative (e.g., civil legislation, penal legislation, regulations, guidelines); (2) prohi-bitions (e.g., direct implementation, war materials, development, production, possession and use, com-plementary legislation); (3) restrictions (e.g., classifi-cation, operational framework, intangible technolo-gies, sanctions); (4) practical implementation and enforcement (e.g., national infrastructure, interna-tional cooperation, education and training, experts); (5) criminalization and law enforcement (e.g., infor-mation sharing, enforcement, international arrange-ments).

The second topic of bio-security was divided into the following sub-topics for discussion: (1) legal, regula-tory and administrative (e.g., national and interna-tional models and standards, risk assessment, pro-gram design and consequence management); (2) fa-cilities (e.g., facility planning and management, sto-rage, containment, custody and disposal of dangerous pathogens); (3) personnel (e.g., personnel issues for pathogen management, training and continuing edu-cation in pathogen security); (4) transport and trans-fer (e.g., transport and transfer of dangerous patho-gens, type of recipient facility); (5) oversight and enforcement (e.g., issues of licensing, accreditation and authorization).

The experts discussed technical aspects covering a range of experiences and ideas related to national implementation of the BTWC. In addition to national delegations, experts from a range of international organizations, including the World Health Organiza-tion (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) shared their knowledge. It re-mains unclear how the States Parties will make use of the information presented at the meeting.

From 10-14 November, the meeting of the States Parties was held in Geneva. At the meeting, con-vened under Chairman Tibor Toth of Hungary, repre-sentatives of 92 States Parties, four signatories, two observer States, and several intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations developed the work begun at the August expert meeting. Two public meetings and seven working sessions were held, the first of which consisted of a general debate. During the remainder of the working sessions, discussion focused on consideration of necessary national meas-ures to implement the prohibitions set forth in the convention, including the enactment of penal legisla-tion and national mechanisms to establish and main-tain the security and oversight of pathogenic micro-organisms and toxins. Specifically, the second work-ing session addressed prohibitions of the convention, the third addressed licensing issues, the fourth consi-dered enforcement issues, the fifth was dedicated to evaluations and implementation of bio-security pro-cedures, and the sixth focused on licensing and rele-vant efforts by international organizations.

In the process of discussion, delegates utilized a number of working papers as well as a CD-ROM-based information repository prepared by the Secreta-riat that included States Parties’ implementation of national measures related to the convention. In con-cluding the meeting, States Parties approved the nomination of Mr. Peter Goosen of South Africa as chairman of the 2004 Meeting of Experts and Meet-ing of States Parties.

In 2004 the focus of the new process will shift to enhancing international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological weapons or suspicious out-breaks of disease, and to strengthening national and international efforts against infectious diseases. The 2005 meetings will address codes of conduct for scientists.

2002: On 11 November, the resumed session of the Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the BTWC started in Geneva. After opening the Confe-rence, the chairman, Ambassador Tibor Toth, sus-pended the formal session and called for informal consultations on a draft proposal ? in the form of a draft decision ? developed by him after consultations with many governments. Ambassador Toth’s propos-al attempted to find a middle ground between the hard-line position of the United States and substan-tive proposals made by States Parties such as the

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United Kingdom and South Africa since the Decem-ber 2001 session of the Conference. The decision mandated a one-week meeting of States Parties in each of the three years (2003-2005) leading up to the next Review Conference. The purpose of these meet-ings would be to promote common understanding and effective action on issues of concern to all States Par-ties. Each annual meeting would be preceded by a two-week expert level meeting.

The first meeting in 2003 would be devoted to the adoption of national measures to implement the pro-hibitions set forth in the convention, including the enactment of criminal legislation as well as national mechanisms to establish and maintain the security and oversight of pathogenic micro organisms and toxins. In 2004, the discussions would consider en-hancing international capabilities for responding to, investigating, and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspi-cious outbreaks of disease. The meeting will also consider strengthening and broadening national and institutional efforts and existing mechanisms for the surveillance, detection, diagnosis, and combating of infectious diseases affecting humans, animals, and plants. The final meeting to be held in 2005 would consider the role and responsibility of the scientific community and look at the content, promulgation, and adoption of codes of conduct for scientists.

Ambassador Toth’s proposal was incorporated in the Final Report of the Conference. In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Toth stated that it was the re-sponsibility of each and every State Party to make the upcoming meetings work and to identify ways to strengthen the convention.

2001: On 12 February, the BTWC Verification Pro-tocol Ad Hoc Group (AHG) began its 22nd session with the task of completing the negotiations before the Fifth BTWC Review Conference scheduled to take place in November-December 2001. Some dele-gations said that the AHG’s method of negotiation had been exhausted and called on the chair to pro-duce a “vision text” ? the chair’s proposal of what the end product should look like. Other delegations believed that the introduction of the vision text would endanger the friendly and cooperative atmosphere and kill the negotiations and the Protocol. They said that any departures from textual negotiations (based on the rolling text) would need to remain informal.

On 30 March, the AHG chair released a “composite text” ? the chair’s proposal for a verification in-strument to the BTWC. The document received a mixed reaction. The Western countries plus some “conservative” representatives of NAM (Brazil, Chile, South Africa) supported this effort. Other del-egations, namely Pakistan, Iran, and China, were re-sistant to it, calling the “composite text” a good ref-erence or background document, but insisting that the rolling text remained the basis of the negotiations.

On 25 July, at the beginning of the 24th session of the AHG, the United States formally announced its rejec-tion of the Verification Protocol – not only in its cur-rent draft version, but also of further efforts to nego-tiate such an agreement. The United States concluded that “the current approach to a Protocol” was not “capable of strengthening confidence in compliance with the convention; it would not improve the ability to verify compliance” and would “do little” to deter countries seeking biological weapons. The United States announced that it would not support the chair’s composite text, even with changes, as an appropriate outcome of the Ad Hoc Group’s efforts. Instead of a Protocol, the United States said it would develop other ideas and different approaches that could help to achieve the objective of effectively strengthening the BTWC. The United States argued that the draft protocol could not achieve the objective of covering illicit activities, as there was no great promise of pro-viding useful, accurate, and complete information to the international community, as well as deterring or hindering a rogue State’s ability to conduct illicit activities. Furthermore, the United States argued, regular on-site activities ? transparency visits ? risked damaging innocent declared facilities, and putting national security and commercial propriety information at risk. The United States stated that it could not agree to subject itself to such risks when there was no corresponding benefit in impeding proli-feration efforts around the globe. With respect to ex-port controls, the United States said that the conven-tion was a disarmament instrument, not a trade in-strument. The United States also voiced its displea-sure with calls to abolish existing export control ar-rangements such as the Australia Group and referred to attempts to fix the meaning of the convention’s terms ? a reference to Russia’s interest in definitions ? as well as to investigations of disease outbreaks that the United States felt were too restrictive.

The US announcement was met with deep disap-pointment on the part of all other States Parties. Most of the delegations reacted quite moderately because such an announcement had been largely anticipated. Although some delegations urged the AHG to con-tinue negotiations regardless of the US announce-ment, many were not willing to proceed with finaliz-ing the text without US participation and quickly turned their attention to the question of how best to salvage the Protocol and the process. In the end, the

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States Parties decided not to finalize an agreement without the United States, but instead, they agreed to start drafting the AHG’s report, while preserving what had been achieved thus far. By the end of the 24th session, the AHG failed to agree on the final report on its negotiations on a protocol for the con-vention. On one hand, there was a realization that the report would not be binding with regard to the AHG’s future. On the other hand, the report would put on record some important agreements, most nota-bly, that the AHG considered that its mandate was still in force and had yet to be fulfilled. In addition, the report would emphasize the principle of multila-teral negotiations and recognize the two texts ? the rolling text and the chair’s composite text ? as the products of the six-and-a-half years of negotiations.

The Fifth Review Conference of the BTWC was scheduled for 19 November-7 December 2001. Pre-ceding the Conference, on 1 November, US President George W. Bush stated that despite the BTWC, the scourge of biological weapons had not been eradi-cated. Instead, the threat was growing, mainly posed by rogue States and terrorists who possess these wea-pons and are willing to use them. The president stated that the United States is committed to strengthening the convention as part of a comprehensive strategy for combating the complex threats of WMD and ter-rorism and proposed the following measures “to fa-shion an effective international approach to streng-then the BTWC”: enact strict national criminal legis-lation against prohibited biological weapons (BW) activities with strong extradition requirements; estab-lish an effective UN procedure for investigating sus-picious outbreaks or allegations of BW use; establish procedures for addressing BTWC compliance con-cerns; commit to improving international disease control and to enhance mechanisms for sending ex-pert response teams to cope with outbreaks; establish sound national oversight mechanisms for the security and genetic engineering of pathogenic organisms; devise a solid framework for bio-scientists in the form of a code of ethical conduct that would have universal recognition; and promote responsible con-duct in the study, use, modification, and shipment of pathogenic organisms.

On 19 November, in the statement at the Fifth BTWC Review Conference, the United States reiterated that it rejected the draft verification protocol to the con-vention on the grounds that the defiant States and non-State actors would never be hampered by this Protocol and that the arms control approaches of the past would not solve the current problems. The Unit-ed States argued that such States and non-State actors would not have declared their current covert offen-sive programs or the locations of their illegal work ? nor would the draft Protocol have required them to do so. The United States also stated that by giving proli-ferators the BTWC stamp of approval, the Protocol would have provided them with a “safe harbor” while lulling other signatories into a false sense of security. The United States claimed that many governments had privately told the US delegation that they shared their reservations. The United States further ex-pressed concern with the activities of Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Iran, Sudan, and Syria to acquire biological weapons. The United States called on the States Parties to “look beyond traditional arms control measures to deal with the complex and dangerous threats posed by biological weapons” and reiterated proposals for strengthening the convention announced by President Bush on 1 November.

In the course of the proceedings, Iran, Iraq, and Libya rejected US accusations. Iraq claimed that its BW program had been destroyed as part of the disarma-ment mandate of the UN Special Commission (UN-SCOM), and feared it was about to be attacked by the United States on the pretext of proliferation concerns. Iran rejected the accusations “categorically,” adding that such accusations would lead to confrontation rather than cooperation in the Conference and ex-pressed suspicion that this might be the intention, since the United States was now clearly opposed to multilateralism. Libya said the allegations were “nothing new” and asked the United States not to use the Conference as “a launching pad for accusations” since this would only damage the prospect of reach-ing consensus at the Conference. The delegates gen-erally believed that the US accusatory statement would only serve to make the work of the Conference more difficult, while its proposals, unless comple-mented by more comprehensive, multilateral and legally binding arrangements, would not be received favorably by many States Parties. China called the US position “neither fair nor reasonable.” Cuba feared that the United States had forced the Member States to lose 10 years of progress, arguing that Washington’s new stance was completely inconsis-tent with the US delegation’s previous demands to ease several of its clauses, only to reject it after in-voking, among other reasons, its weaknesses.

On 21 November, the Member States heard the views of non-governmental organizations (NGO) on the strengthening of the convention. The NGO, including the Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Verifica-tion Research, Training and Information Centre

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(VERTIC), researchers from Bradford University, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Sunshine Project, researchers from the University of Michigan, and the Quaker United Na-tions Office in Geneva, presented a variety of views, all stressing the need for a multilateral legally bind-ing instrument to strengthen the BTWC.

The Conference commenced an article-by-article review of the convention’s operation and considered the issue of the work of the Verification Protocol AHG. The US delegation reportedly announced that it would not support the continuation of the AHG in any form. In contrast, the general view of other dele-gations was that the Group’s mandate remained in force and that the strengthening of the convention needed to take place in a multilateral setting and in a legally binding way. In particular, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries asked for the reconven-ing of the Group to allow it to complete its task. Most States, including many Western countries, wanted to continue efforts to strengthen the convention, but did not indicate when, where, or how, or whether this meant they wanted to reconvene the AHG.

The deliberations on the convention’s review were, by all accounts, conducted smoothly and without any major tension. All countries agreed that the Confe-rence was taking place at a critical juncture, and that rapid advances in science and technology posed chal-lenges to the BTWC regime that needed to be ad-dressed more frequently.

Other matters discussed included the need to meet more frequently to respond to new challenges, and to agree to a follow-up mechanism for the Review Con-ference, e.g. annual meetings of States Parties, prepa-ratory committee meetings for the next Review Con-ference, and expert meetings. In the absence of an Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Wea-pons (OPBW), calls were also made for some kind of interim support structure to facilitate and advance the convention’s implementation. Iran expressed concern over the fact that the BTWC does not prohibit the use of BW and proposed that States Parties decide either to insert the word “use” in the convention’s title and Article 1, or require those countries, which still main-tain reservations to the Geneva Protocol, to withdraw them. Iran and others, including the European Union (EU), called on countries that maintained reservations to the Geneva Protocol to withdraw them. Russia reminded the States Parties that it had withdrawn its reservations on 6 December 2000. With respect to CBMs, the EU proposed that “some” of the political-ly binding CBMs be made legally-binding, but did not specify which. Canada regretted that participation in CBMs had been “disappointing,” saying that this highlighted “the shortcomings of a voluntary ap-proach” and that States Parties need “to get some law on our side.” South Africa proposed that States Par-ties declare facilities working with animal and plant pathogens as a CBM. The United Kingdom suggested additional CBMs and proposed to make some of them mandatory. The developing countries, in partic-ular, highlighted the importance of scientific and technical cooperation.

During the second week of the Fifth BTWC Review Conference, delegations submitted their proposals on the language of the Final Declaration, after which the chair of the committee released an informal docu-ment outlining all the proposals and possibilities for common ground. Based on that document, which reproduced the language of the 1996 Final Declara-tion and the delegations’ proposals, the Drafting Committee was tasked with identifying acceptable formulations for the Final Declaration by 4 Decem-ber. The most controversial issues were export con-trols, scientific and technological cooperation, and the issue of possible clandestine BW programs in non-compliance with the convention, as well as ques-tions on how to deal with them.

The Fifth Review Conference of BTWC was closed in disarray on the last day, 7 December, after the United States proposed the termination of the Ad Hoc Group. On the last day of the Conference, it was im-possible to get any agreement to adopt a final decla-ration or document containing measures to strengthen the BTWC. As a consequence, States Parties decided to adjourn the Conference to prevent outright failure until 11-22 November 2002, allowing a year-long “cooling-off” period.

2000: Four sessions of the Verification Protocol Ad Hoc Group were held during the year 2000: 17 Janu-ary-4 February, 3-13 March, 10 July-4 August and 13-24 November. The year 2000 was the sixth year of negotiations for an additional Protocol. During the year, the Parties were able to make slow but steady progress by clearing almost 50 percent of the brack-ets that were in place in 1999. However, due to the slow pace of the negotiations, some delegations, e.g., Australia, Brazil, and the EU, called for new working methods. Others, such as India, Iran, and Russia, un-derlined that the rolling text developed by July 1997 was to be the basis for negotiations and they were satisfied with the slower bracket-to-bracket approach. Different interpretations remained as to the AHG’s mandate and whether the Review Conference marked a deadline or a target date. Nevertheless, the delega-tions had less than seven weeks of negotiations left

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before the Review Conference. There were concerns that missing the date could potentially unravel the whole process. To facilitate the work in the time re-maining, Ambassador Tibor Tóth of Hungary, the chair of the AHG, introduced the chair’s “composite text,” to “bring clarity to the outstanding issues.” The draft consisted of some 210 pages and included near-ly 1,200 “square brackets” signifying areas of disa-greement or disputed text.

The main issues of contention were export controls, bio-defense cooperation, visits and investigations, technical cooperation, and compliance. On export controls, there were differing views between the Western Group and the NAM. Some NAM delega-tions wanted existing export control arrangements such as the Australia Group to be eliminated after the Protocol’s entry into force, while the Western Group supported the continuation of such arrangements. With respect to visits and investigations, the most important problem was the security of intellectual property rights and the confidentiality of business information. Pharmaceutical industries expressed support for simple declarations and objected to any routine on-site inspections. Many developing coun-tries underlined the importance of their right to enjoy the fullest possible exchange of equipment, material, and scientific and technological information related to the use of biological agents and toxins for peaceful purposes. Conversely, delegations from developed countries stressed the need for export control policies and to refrain from transferring any of the above-mentioned items. With regard to non-compliance, delegations were divided between “red light” and “green light” procedures for the initiation of investi-gations.

1996: The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the Fourth BTWC Review Conference met in Geneva, from 9-12 April. It decided that the Conference would be held in Geneva, from 25 November – 6 De-cember, and that Ambassador Michael Weston (UK) would be President of the Conference. The Confe-rence elected Ambassador Michael Weston as chair, Sola Ogunbanwo (Nigeria) as secretary-general, Am-bassador Jorge Berguno (Chile) chair of the Commit-tee of the Whole, and Ambassador Tibor Toth (Hun-gary) chair of the Drafting Committee.

The 1996 BTWC Conference was attended by 138 States and focused on the scope and speed of progress on concluding a verification regime. The Final Declaration (BWC/CONF.IV/L.1) called for such a regime to be in place no later than 2001. Ne-gotiations on a Protocol to the BTWC to entail verifi-cation and compliance measures, as well as provi-sions for technical cooperation and cooperation on outbreaks of disease were underway in Geneva. It was hoped that the Protocol would be completed be-fore the Fifth BTWC Review Conference, to be held in Geneva in 2001.

1994: On 23 September, the Special Conference to consider verification measures for the BTWC was held in Geneva. The Conference decided to establish an AHG open to all States Parties. The objective of the AHG was to consider definitions of terms and objective criteria, to incorporate existing and en-hanced CBMs and transparency measures, to deter-mine appropriate measures, including possible verifi-cation measures, and draft proposals to strengthen the BTWC. Such proposals would be included, as appro-priate, in a legally binding instrument to be submitted for the consideration of the States Parties.

1993 and 1992: The AHG of Governmental Experts to Identify and Examine Verification Measures from a Scientific and Technical Standpoint (VEREX) held four sessions during which it identified 21 potential verification measures, and concluded in its report that some of the potential measures would contribute to strengthening the effectiveness and would improve the implementation of the convention. As was de-cided by the Third Review Conference, if a majority of States Parties asked for the convening of a confe-rence to examine the report, such a conference would be convened, and it would be preceded by a prepara-tory committee.

An agreement was reached between Russia, the Unit-ed Kingdom, and the United States during 1992 giv-ing Parties access to their biological research facili-ties to check compliance with the BTWC. Under this agreement, reciprocal visits took place in 1993 and 1994.

1991: At the Third Review Conference, held from 9-27 September, delegates decided to establish an AHG of Governmental Experts (VEREX) to identify and examine potential verification measures from a scien-tific and technical standpoint. Delegates also adopted three new CBMs covering declarations of legislation and other legal and regulatory measures taken to im-plement the BTWC; declarations of past activities concerning defensive and/or offensive biological re-search and development programs; and declarations of facilities involved in the production of vaccines for humans.

1986: The Second Review Conference, held from 8-26 September, sought to increase transparency through a set of CBMs in the form of politically bind-ing data exchanges. Delegates agreed on the follow-

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ing CBMs: an exchange of data on research centers and laboratories containing bio-safety level 4 con-tainment facilities; efforts to encourage publications concerning biological research of direct relevance to the convention; information exchanges regarding outbreaks of infectious diseases; and the development of contacts between scientists engaged in research related to the terms of the convention.

1980: The First Review Conference was held in Ge-neva from 3-21 March under the provisions of Article XII to review the operation of the convention and to assure that the purposes of the preamble and the pro-visions of the convention were being realized.

Points of Contact:

Secretariat of the BWC Meeting of Experts

Ambassador Richard Lennane

Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 2230 or +41 (0) 22 917 7144


Dr. Piers Millett

Political Affairs Officer

Tel: +41 (0)22 917 34 63


Ms. Ngoc Phuong Huynh

Associate Political Affairs Officer

Tel: +41 (0)22 917 22 61



Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0034