The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, was opened for signature on 10 April 1972. The BWC entered into force on 26 March 1975. As mentioned in the text of the Convention, the States Parties to this Convention are determined to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards general and complete disarmament, including the prohibition and elimination of all types of weapons of mass destruction, and convinced that the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons and their elimination, through effective measures, will facilitate the achievement of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

BWC relies primarily on a network approach based on coordination with international, regional, and nongovernmental organizations and initiatives as well as other non-proliferation regimes in order to address the interconnected nature of biological threats in a holistic manner. Under the framework of the BWC, improved coordination would provide positive externalities for managing disease, whatever the cause. Such an approach ensures that resources are used optimally to provide benefits for many.

Disarmament has been a key objective of the Non-Aligned Movement since its inception, The Movement has taken cognizance of the threats posed by biological and toxic weapons and thus has reiterated the significance of the BWC. NAM Member States that are party to BWC have reaffirmed that the possibility of any use of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins as weapons should be completely excluded, and the conviction that such use would be repugnant to the conscience of humankind. They recognized the particular importance of strengthening the Convention through the resumption of the multilateral negotiations for a legally binding Protocol dealing with all Articles of the Convention, in a balanced and comprehensive manner, including through verification measures bearing in mind that the lack of such verification regime poses a challenge to the effectiveness of the Convention, and urged the party rejecting negotiations to reconsider its policy.

NAM has reiterated the call to promote international cooperation for peaceful purposes, including scientific-technical exchange. The Movement has underlined the importance to maintain close coordination among the NAM States Parties to the Convention and highlighted that the BWC forms a whole and that, although it is possible to consider certain aspects separately, it is critical to deal with all of the issues interrelated to this Convention in a balanced and comprehensive manner.

NAM Member States have been active participants in the Review Conferences on BWC. At the 17th NAM Summit held in Venezuela in 2016, NAM highlighted the key role of its Member States in the the adoption of the important decisions related to the implementation of Article X of the BWC, especially by emphasizing the need for enhancing international cooperation, assistance and exchanges in toxins, biological agents equipment and technology for peaceful purposes, bearing in mind the Action Plan on the implementation of Article X submitted by the NAM States Parties at the Sixth Review Conference, and the additional NAM States Parties proposal on a mechanism for the full, implementation of Article X of the Convention presented more recently.

NAM has further encouraged the BWC States Parties to implement the Article X, as set forth in paragraphs 50-61 of the Final Document of the Seventh BTWC Review Conference. NAM has also welcomed the outcome of the Seventh Review Conference and in particular its decision to include cooperation and assistance as one of the Standing Agenda Items, with a particular focus on strengthening cooperation and assistance under Article X, as well as the Conference’s decision to establish a database system to facilitate requests for and offers of exchange of assistance and cooperation among States Parties, and the establishment of a Sponsorship Programme, funded by voluntary contributions from States Parties, in order to support and increase the participation of developing States Parties in the meetings of the inter-sessional programme in the framework of the BWC.

NAM has reaffirmed that the respective mandates of this Convention and other international organizations should be respected, while utilizing the experiences of the relevant multilateral organizations dealing with human and animal health on issues that are of direct relevance to the Convention, and that no actions should be taken to undermine the convention and/or interfere with its mandate.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava