Focus begins for December 2011 BWC meeting

An August meeting of experts on the Biological Weapons Convention allowed delegates to focus on the review conference being held in December 2011.

The meeting was chaired by the Chilean representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Pedro Oyarce, and was attended by representatives of 89 states-parties, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations, according to The last regular BWC review conference was held in 2006.

The gathering was not officially focused on the review conference, but it was clearly on the minds of its attendees. Some of the opening statements featured language that looked towards the December 2011 review.

“On the margin, there was a great deal of discussion about what to expect for the review conference,” Christopher Park, a U.S. Department of State Delegate said, according to

Park added that countries are just now gearing up to set their agendas for next year’s review. Diplomats agreed that the next few months would be critical in determining the nature of the event.

Informal seminars held throughout the weeklong meeting allowed the discussion of specific topics for future negotiation.

The Geneva Forum, for example, chaired a discussion on its ideas to modernize the treaty’s voluntary information-exchange system, a major confidence building measure. It was suggested that information shared on the use of biodefense research facilities be broadened due to their dual-use capabilities.

Another seminar looked at the advances in synthetic biology, a much anticipated December 2011 topic as states have begun to wrestle with the impact of new advancements of scientific technology on the BWC.

During plenary sessions, experts in the fields of public health, law enforcement and other public areas gave presentations on methods for investigating the alleged use of biological weaponry, providing international assistance to mitigate the impact of their use and improving national and international capabilities in conducting disease surveillance, reports.

There was no public controversy over a July report issued by the U.S. State Department that noted concerns about compliance to the BWC by some attendees, including Russia and Iran.