Issues for upcoming Geneva biological weapons revealed

Arvind Gupta, the Lal Bahadur Shastri chair at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, recently revealed the upcoming issues to be discussed at an upcoming Geneva biological weapons convention.
Gupta said that the seventh review conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons will include general debate and discussion on multiple issues such as compliance, verification and monitoring. The event is scheduled to be held from December 5 through December 22.
According to Article XII of the convention, the review conference will "review the operation of the convention, taking into account, inter alia, new scientific and technological developments relevant to the convention; the progress made by states parties on the implementation of the obligations, under the convention; progress of the implementation of the decisions and recommendations agreed, upon at the sixth review conference."
Gupta said that the BTWC does not have a formal verification process and provides for an approach to the UN Security Council to carry out investigations. While Russia and Iraq have pursued a bioweapons program during and after the Cold War, the provision has not yet been invoked.
According to Gupta, another issue is the lack of a legally binding protocol to the treaty, which is partially the result of the United States rejecting a draft in 2001. Gupta said that the U.S. withdrew from negotiations because the county does not want its biotechnology industry to be subject to any verification measures under the treaty.
Another issue is the presence of the confidence building measures of annual reporting to promote transparency and information sharing.
"The format for reporting has not been updated since 1991," Gupta said. "Moreover, only half the members have done any regular reporting. A useful innovation of the last few years has been the setting up of the mechanism of inter-sessional meetings (ISU) of experts as well as states parties. These meetings have been found to be useful as they promote exchange of views and strengthen confidence building. Whether the ISU mechanism should be extended, and if so, in what form, will be an issue for discussion at the 7th BTWC revcon."
Gupta also noted that the BTWC has only been ratified by 164 countries, making it less popular than the Chemical Weapons Convention or the contentious NPT. He also said that a lack of BTWC progress has led to ad hoc measures outside the convention, such as the  UNSCR 1540, which calls for the strengthening of measures against bioterrorism nationally.
"Without effective verification, BTWC will remain weak," Gupta said. "However, the prospects of evolving such a mechanism are not too bright. A large dose of political will, particularly on the part of the United States which has refused to accept the draft protocol to the convention, will be required to address these concerns."