United Nations official calls for system to respond to bioterror

A senior United Nations anti-terrorism official has recently warned that UN member states have well developed systems for responding to nuclear or radiological emergencies but lag behind in developing similar procedures for chemical and biological threats.

Geoffrey Shaw, the chairman of the UN Working Group on Preventing and Responding to Weapons of Mass Destruction Attacks, announced that member countries must look at ways to ensure that the international community can respond effectively the in case of a major nuclear or radiological incident, according to the UN News Center.

Shaw said that, according to a review by the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, there is a potentially effective system in place that has been implemented through the International Atomic Energy Agency.  The IAEA has been granted the central role for coordinating any response between various agencies and is responsible for alerting the UN to any major developments.

The problem, according to Shaw, is that many member states are unaware of the system and how it operates as the focal point of public information coordination in the wake of an international incident involving nuclear and radiological weapons

Shaw contends that one of the reasons that there has been a slower understanding of the manner in which the system works is that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons only began ensuring that the Chemical Weapons Convention was being followed in 1997, and there is currently no such mechanism for biological weapons, UN News Center reports.

“If there was a biological attack by terrorists, what would be expected of the UN system?” Shaw said, UN News Center reports. “These are the kinds of questions we need to answer to ensure we can respond if needed.

"There’s a hell of a lot of material out there – how do you protect that? You could try to establish verification protocols… but it could be impossible to verify. There are lots of questions that have to be looked at.”