9th Biological Weapons Conference: UN calls for progress even in 'times of geopolitical challenges'

The ninth review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention is being held from November 28 to December 16 in Geneva after being delayed for a year by the Covid-19 pandemic. On this occasion, the United Nations pleaded for progress even in “times of geopolitical challenges”.

Despite certain current geopolitical tensions, multilateralism and diplomacy are essential to advance global issues, said the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu.

“The 50-year history of the Convention demonstrates that even in times of geopolitical challenges, States Parties can cooperate and significant progress can be made,” she said, noting that despite the current challenges, she continues to believe that this review conference offers the best chance for substantial and meaningful progress.

Growing tensions in the world are causing a geopolitical crisis that is putting multilateral disarmament to the test, the UN diplomat further underlined, recalling that “multilateral processes have been blocked or reduced”.

While urging the international community to “stay alert”Nakamitsu pointed out that vigilance is required, especially as “We have seen the standards against other previously banned weapons erode in recent years.”

No country professes a desire to acquire biological weapons

In the same vein, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs welcomed the“no country today professes the desire to acquire biological weapons, nor the need for such weapons for reasons of national security”.

The manager also called for making this Geneva meeting a success, and going beyond the status quo that has prevailed for many years.

All delegations must do “flexibility with respect to long-held positions, renewed commitment, and honest and good-faith negotiations. And it will require all parties to listen, compromise and always keep in mind the main objective, which is to prevent the hostile exploitation of biology,” she indicated.

It should be noted that six years after the last conference, work could focus on how to modernize the treaty.

It is thus a question of following the rapid evolution of science, which can offer interesting possibilities in the field of health and vaccines, for example, but also risks with regard to biological weapons.

Other key issues include recent developments in science and technology which may have a serious impact on the future implementation of the Convention.

No subject should be left out

Under the Italian presidency, the conference could also focus on examining Russian allegations regarding the development and production of biological weapons in Ukraine. And for the UN, this review conference therefore represents a crucial opportunity for States to come together to strengthen this vital convention.

According to Izumi Nakamitsu, no subject should be left aside in the quest to strengthen the Convention. States Parties could consider a range of different options.

Under these conditions, States should “operationalize” the Convention by giving substance to its provisions aimed at supporting peaceful scientific cooperation, enhancing the transparency of research and promoting the beneficial applications of emerging technologies.

It is also a matter for the States to study how to verify compliance with the obligations of the Convention. This issue was last considered over 20 years ago, and much has changed since then, both the threats we face and the technologies to verify compliance.

For the UN official, “ it will take the next generation of biosecurity professionals to come up with innovative ideas on how to leverage the tools of modern science to develop a politically acceptable verification protocol.”

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