EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016 Special Session 5
Chair: Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS
Ajey Lele, Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Tatyana Novossiolova, Wellcome Trust Scholar, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
Jean-Pascal Zanders, Senior Research Associate, FRS

Provisional Transcript

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Good afternoon, colleagues. As you know, the title of the session is how to maintain the relevance of the BTWC. This is obviously a title, but it is also a kind of overarching question that is on everybody’s mind a few days away from the review conference of the BTWC. And when I say on everybody’s mind, I mean mainly the small but very efficient BTWC community, which is very directly involved in the preparations or in the reflection ahead of the BTWC review conference next week in Geneva. I am also sure that our distinguished speakers will do their best to address this overarching – and very topical indeed – question about how to translate the discussions and the huge preparatory work already done ahead of the review conference into concrete action and concrete common understanding at the review conference itself. We count very much on your active participation and incentive to this debate, which will follow the presentations of our keynote speakers.

Let me now very shortly introduce our keynote speakers. We will start with Tatyana Novossiolova from the University of Bradford, UK, who will speak about the key challenges before the BTWC as identified during the preparatory process, and mainly during the two preparatory committee sessions that took place during the week – and to speak, of course, about the review conference and how the review conference is expected, in fact, to deal with these key challenges and key issues identified already by the prep committees.

After her, Ajey Lele from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India will elaborate a little bit further on a specific topic – that is, science and technology developments relevant to the BTWC and their possible impact on the BTWC, especially on the review conference.

And last but obviously not least, Jean-Pascal Zanders from Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique in France will present his views about some practical progress achieved by the state parties ahead of – not ahead, especially, but in principle in the context of the BTWC, and its possible impact – let us hope, a positive impact – on the proceedings of the review conference itself.

You know that the information about our speakers can be found on the conference’s app. Before giving the floor to our distinguished speakers, let me introduce myself very shortly. I am Emil Kazakov, a Bulgarian diplomat serving with the EEAS since 2011. I have been first posted in the EU delegation to the OSCE in Vienna since 2015, when I moved to Brussels in the non-proliferation disarmament division, where I am dealing with the BTWC, among other issues.

With this, let me give the floor to Tatyana for her presentation.

Tatyana Novossiolova, Wellcome Trust Scholar, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Thank you so much, distinguished Chair, and thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen, for showing up to our panel. I hope that it will be interesting, and I really want to thank the organisers for having me here and giving me the chance to talk a little bit about biological disarmament. It is definitely something that I and the organisation that I represent, the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, have been actively involved in over the past more than 20 years now, since we first started working on strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. And ever since, we have been actively participating in the process. In preparation for the eighth review conference, we have also produced comprehensive document key points that have been submitted to all the diplomats and the Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva, for the attention of the president-designate of the eighth review conference as well. And the purpose of the key points is to outline the main issues that states parties, we hope, would address during the eighth review conference, and outlining as well recommendations and realistic and effective actions that can be taken on any of those issues.

In my remarks, what I am going to address are some of the key issues that have been discussed by states parties throughout the preparatory committee meetings that took place over the course of 2016. I want to begin by making one key observation, and that is that states parties for this review conference – for the eighth review conference – have never been better prepared. They have dedicated a lot of time. There was a twofold preparatory committee meeting process in April and in August, at which a lot of working papers and some other documents have been submitted and a number of issues have been identified. One of the issues that has been discussed is the need for restructuring the intersessional programme. That is one of the issues that states parties addressed on numerous occasions, and working papers have also been submitted. And structural changes are required mainly for facilitating effective action. And one such change could be the annual meeting of states parties to be given decision-making powers. And that is something that is not without a precedent, because if we look at the 2015 meeting of states parties, at that meeting states parties actually make a decision to have this twofold preparatory committee meeting process.

Another key issue that has been on numerous occasions addressed not only during the intersessional process but also during the preparatory committee meetings, and seven working papers have been submitted on this issue solely – that is the need for institutionalised process for review of science and technology. This is something that, if we look at intersessional processes, states parties have not dedicated that much time, unfortunately, addressing this issue, so a more constructive and inclusive and effective process is necessary. One such option would be the establishment of an open-ended working group that is both inclusive and effective for addressing developments and reviewing developments in science and technology. Such an open-ended working group would comprise, potentially, not only scientific experts but also diplomats and policymakers to enable wider participation.

Thirdly, another issue that has been discussed and that has emerged during the preparatory committee meetings is the need for providing reassurance that states parties are actually implementing the convention on a national level. And that is related to the standing agenda item of the intersessional process 2012–15 on national implementation. Indeed, a number of working papers called for strengthening national implementation, and there is even one working paper that has been submitted by – that has 14 depositories cross-regionally – that demonstrates how reassurance can be achieved by demonstrating transparency in implementing the convention nationally. So, to facilitate that process, a second open-ended working group could be established, and that would be tasked specifically with issues to address how states parties can best provide reassurance by implementing the convention nationally. So you can see that the proposals that we have in place here are really for strengthening and institutionalising the processes within the framework of the BTWC – something that has been missing to date.

Another key issue would be the need for enhancing the CBM (confidence-building measures) process. And that will include broader participation, more active participation, potentially further revising the forms where necessary if states parties so decide, and also further developing the electronic facility that was launched last year, and that was funded by the European Union. To that end, a technical working group could be set up, and that technical working group could be tasked with those responsibilities to help and further strengthen this process.

Another key issue that is still standing is the need for universalisation of the convention. And to that end, one way this can be promoted – this objective could be further promoted – is also by institutionalising within the convention by establishing a steering committee. And that steering committee could comprise the chairs and vice-chairs of the annual meetings, together with the chairs of the two open-ended working groups and the technical committee. And that steering committee could then be tasked with and responsible for promoting the action plan on the universalisation, and could also progress the plan in regard to accessions to the 1925 Geneva protocol and the withdrawal of any remaining reservations that states parties may have.

And finally, another key issue that has been long discussed and that has been also discussed in the seventh review conference of the BTWC is the need for enhancing the resources for the Implementation Support Unit. Those of you familiar with the setting and with the Implementation Support Unit would know that this is a three-people office which is currently tasked with providing secretarial support for the convention. One practical proposal to that regard could be the enhancement of resources by adding three more additional posts. That would be a P4 for science and technology, a P4 political officer for the open-ended working group on providing reassurance and P3 political officer to deal with the technical working group on CBMs. And when we calculated the resources required for such an enhancement of the ISU, it turned out that the whole budget that annually – the contributions necessary from states parties – would be 4.5% of what states parties normally pay to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the Chemical Weapons Convention. So, in a way, they can get a lot of institutional support and better support at a very low cost, compared to what they normally would pay for the Chemical Weapons Convention. And you can see that the challenges that the BTWC faces are not any less significant than those faced by the Chemical Weapons Convention. So that can result in a stronger CBW regime altogether.

And with that I would end my remarks and would hope for questions in the end. Thank you.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much, Tatyana, for this comprehensive overview of the key issues to be dealt with during the review conference. And from the broader picture let us now move to a specific area of interest, which is science and technology.

Ajey Lele, Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me thank the organisers for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to speak on this extremely important occasion, because we are going to have, within a few days, the review conference coming up. Let me start – it is not correct to start talk in the evening on the US elections, but let me start to talk with the US elections. A very simple point – at the seventh review conference, we had opening remarks given by Mrs Hillary Clinton. So, from Secretary of State, she is now reaching towards becoming almost the President of the United States, so that is a good quantum positive jump. So I hope, from seventh review conference to eighth review conference, we also will see some positive and interesting changes.

Having said that, what one should speak about BTWC? One very pessimist view is that we have been talking for all these years – same issues again and again. We are trying to interpret and reinterpret every article again and again. Nothing new is there to offer on the table. So it is just a talk shop which will go through the motions as a review conference. On the other side, one can really look at it – is that now we are staying in the area of asymmetric conflict – asymmetric warfare – where the conventional threats are already existing. At the same time, there have been a region of asymmetric threats. Life is dynamic. Technology is changing every day in day out, again and again. So we need to look at these issues from a different perspective. I think all of us broadly agree on these sorts of things. That is why we are sitting over here to discuss this issue.

When I go five years back, when Mrs Clinton had addressed the BTWC, she had basically talked of two issues. One is that we should not take this threat lying down or very lightly. And the other aspect which she said is about interaction at the foreign policy level. I think the second aspect is extremely important in today’s time, particularly when you have got various diseases which have been spreading from one country to other countries. There is a need to have major interaction at a policy level. So if today I have to address these threats, how do I look at these threats? I do not think that there is any sort of a threat from a state actor. Could a state actor covertly support a terrorist organisation? I feel that possibility is very less. On top of it, there is a possibility that there could be disgruntled scientific organisations – scientists. At the same time, there could be a certain amount of accidental release of germs or other sorts of viruses from the scientific labs too, so there is a possibility that exists.

Religious fanatics? Yes, we have seen a certain amount of cases in the past, and there is a possibility that those styles of things could exist. We have seen a case a few years back in Norway where one individual was able to kill 77 or 78 people in one go. And one goes through the entire website of that individual, he has taken a lot of amount of efforts to understand what anthrax is all about. His photographs with the masks and all those things were there. So there was a conviction, at a certain extremist point of view, that, yes, these things are possible and it could help us to kill many amount of a population. I think his prediction was that major anthrax attacks could help around 200,000 people to get killed. So there are religious fanatics. We can call them as a terrorist organisation or a lone wolf attack also. That one individual is thinking something differently – something really radically – and that sort of attack could take place.

As far as terrorist organisations are concerned, I think there is a time which has come that we need to have a fresh look at is. We all know that chemical weapons was a big no-no for all these years, but now ISIS has started using them. So, similarly, there are a certain amount of indications that ISIS is looking at biological weapons too. So, from that perspective, I think it becomes very important that we need to look at these issues freshly. Again, terrorist organisations could learn something which is happening out in the open, because of the natural pandemics. You have got cases like Zika, MURS, Ebola. All these incidences have shown – not only to terrorists, to all of us – that there is a great amount of a danger that the entire society goes through when these sorts of threats are there. With particular cases like Zika we have seen, right from Brazil onwards to Miami, you have got spread of threats which are happening. Because of globalisation and other related issues, the threats are spreading, one can say, very routinely from one country to another country. So if a terrorist organisation wants to control these sorts of weapons also, or just pick up something from nature, it is definitely not impossible.

So, under these circumstances, how should one look at biotechnology? I think, more than looking at biotechnology, one has to look at the entire technology spectrum as a whole, because much is spoken about biotechnology – about viruses where you can have gene weapons which are manufactured in the laboratories, and so on and so forth. But there are positive aspects of various technologies which could be used for the purposes or point of view of biosafety, biosecurity and biodefence too. So I will just name a few technologies over here. We have seen nothing much is known about Agent Defeat Weapons, but we all know that, during the first Gulf War and subsequently in coming years, there is a good amount of research which has happened on these issues. Then are technologies like biotechnology and nanotechnology – basically, information tools and tactics. Sensors are there. Robotics also coming up in a big way which could help in biodefence.

As far as information technology and biodefence is concerned, we all know that we are using information technology for routine purposes. Under Article 10, you can create a database, and so on and so forth. But this technology has got more amount of potential from a medical perspective too. Then this technology could be used for the purposes of modelling and simulation, where a large amount of activities could be worked on. You may not have a classical plume model, which is usually there for any sort of chemical attack, but definitely a certain amount of modelling could be worked out based on information technology tools, and that could help if there is an attack which takes place. Then for public health preparedness also, we require a lot of database generation. We want to know about various activities which are taking place in terms of science and technology, particularly in the arenas of vaccine globally, so this technology could be of much use. This technology also could be used for the purposes of training tools also.

Then there are the virtual reality sort of tools which are being used, particularly in the US, to create a synthetic theatre of warlike situation. So one can create such a type of a synthetic theatre also where patients could be really treated, if the requirement is there. Then there are a certain amount of trends which are being seen as far as sensor technology is concerned. There are detector technologies which are available. There are areas, like command, control, communication, intelligence, information gathering and reconnaissance where both sensor technologies and associated information technology could be used. People have developed a certain amount of sensors which could be placed on board UAVs or small micro-vehicles, which could be floating around in the air, collecting air samples and trying to identify if there is a certain amount of an attack which has taken place. So there are new ideas which are emerging into biodefence weapons systems too. As far as nanotechnology is concerned, I think the basic key is miniaturisation. It has got various amounts of uses in medical sciences, sensing devices, chemical and biological mass spectrometers for detection of biological warfare agents. Then there are single-chip microchips which are also being made, and there are small machines which could be inserted because of the nanotechnology tools. And one can really try to identify exactly how the patient who has been affected by these types of things is happening.

So, after having said that, what I will try to identify is that, under present circumstances, these are the positive aspects as far as development of science and technology is concerned. But how should I place BTWC at the backdrop of all these things? I think we need to understand and appreciate two ground realities which may be difficult to fathom, but they are there as such. First and foremost, we all have learned from the fifth review conference what has happened at that point in time. So any review conference now will have that sort of thing at the backdrop, and everybody will try to see that things are only put on the paper where there is no greater amount of diversification of views within the people. So maybe instead of going for a full hog, we will try to go for a slightly low scale.

The other aspect is that we have been talking about verification protocol and verification mechanisms, but nothing much is going to emerge out of it. We all have seen for all these years that there has been a certain amount of reservations by various countries, maybe to safeguard the interests of the pharmaceutical organisations or other biotechnology organisations, but this is the reality. So when we are looking at the upcoming eighth BTWC, we have got to have a look at these issues, and we have got to understand that, under these limitations only, this review conference will come up. So under these circumstances I think the most important issue that remains over here is the issue of CBMs. I think there is a need to look at these issues afresh. There is a significant amount of work which has been done under CBMs, but one can really try to push this issue, because this is one area which could eventually bring all people together on the table. There are other issues which are related with CBMs which are not finding a place into the way. The entire structure of CBMs is there. Particularly, there are issues which are related to smallpox virus research. There are issues related to aerosols, and so on and so forth. One has to give a certain amount of weight to these issues too. Then one has to look at the agriculture threats also. There are threats like bird flu. There are incidences where the things have gone from the birds to the humans also. So one has to look at the agriculture issues also, and a certain amount of knowledge about the veterinary vaccines and how the large-scale production of plants have been taken out, how animal feed production facilities are being looked at. These issues also could be added into the CBMs.

Then there could be a certain amount of issues vis-à-vis the verification which will definitely not have a sort of agreement with various agencies. So under these circumstances, how can one bypass these issues? I think particularly the threats like viruses – like Zika, even to the extent of a bird flu also. One has understood that there are few agencies which could actually do this job, so one can think of having a certain amount of regional participation from the agencies that already exist. That means you want agencies like SAARC, you want agencies like ASEAN which already exist. So if some sort of a threat is being encountered over there, one can have the BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs which are part of that particular region, because every country is definitely not going to have. So those countries could be tasked that, if something goes wrong into your particular region, one can have a look at it.

The ISU issue has already been raised. I fully agree that we need to do something more as far as ISU is concerned. In case of a disease outbreak, whether it is deliberate or a natural outbreak, they need to have a role for ISU over here.

Then there are a few other things which are being put on the table. Particularly, India has put two things. One is that one has to create a database, the way it has been done for Article 10. On similar lines, it has to be done for Article 7 also. So these are the idea which are there. Then there is the idea of a scientific advisory board under OPCW. This board, as far as BTWC is concerned, has not given very satisfactory results. Can we repeat the same sort of idea, strengthening ISU further to look at a scientific advisory board as far as BTWC is concerned? One can learn from the experiences of OPCW in Syria and try to put them into context as far as BTWC is concerned.

There are, again, a few ideas which have been given about strengthening of Article 3. Then there are a various few ideas which are already there. I will not get into the details of it. Public participation. Then there are a few ideas which are related to development of a global health security agenda. I think these ideas have come basically from the industry point of view or a biotechnology organisations point of view.

So today I can say that, as compared to 2011, we are technologically slightly more superior. So one has to look at what advantages the technology is giving and, at the same time, how these advantages could be misused by terrorist organisations. Another way to look at it is that terrorist organisations are not looking at technology right now. If they have to launch an attack, they will look for more rudimentary technologies, but one has to respond to all those things by using the right amount of technologies.

While ending, I do not want to say it, but let us discuss compliance. I think that is what is more important. I think enough amount of work has already been done as far as the upcoming review conference is concerned. We need to have the ground game correctly. I think that will give a certain amount of success for the upcoming BTWC. Thank you.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much indeed, Ajey, for your very realistic assessment of the BTWC state of play of discussion against the backdrop of the new technology and science developments. Also, true, the focus of the risk of terrorists acquiring and possibly using biological agents as a weapon.

So let me now move to Jean-Pascal Zanders and his presentation.

Jean-Pascal Zanders, Senior Research Associate, FRS

Thank you very much, and thank you for the invitation to speak on this panel. I want to give a couple of reflections, so I am going to start off with the title of this particular session. When I saw it – ‘maintaining relevance’ – I was wondering if the relevance of the BTWC is sinking, one way or another. Is this treaty in jeopardy, or whatever? And I wonder; there is a certain feeling always going around. ‘This is a weak treaty’ is a mantra that goes on. And then my immediate reaction is always, ‘Well, by what criteria are we talking about a weak treaty?’ If I throw out here right now the Chemical Weapons Convention – supposedly a strong treaty. Verification regime and everything on it, but in its almost 20 years of existence, we probably have about 2,000 fatalities as a consequence of chemical warfare and terrorism. If we look at the BTWC, of course, no international organisation – no verification whatever. Forty-one years in existence, but fewer than 100 persons deliberately killed through the deliberate use of disease or toxins. So what do we say about a treaty?

The other thing to bear in mind is, if one looks at the BTWC, it is actually a very active treaty. Since 1991 and the third review conference, states parties have come together in Geneva at least twice a year – ever since 1991. Sometimes it was more, particularly during the negotiation of the legally binding protocol in the 1990s and early 2000s. Of course, there is a lot of frustration with the formal process. But in contrast to that, one can actually see a lot of activity going on at the local and sub-regional levels of activity. This is where I would like to focus the remainder of my comments.

Between March and the end of September of this year, I had the honour, the privilege and the anxiety of assisting the Implementation Support Unit of the BTWC with the implementation of the first part of the European Union Council decision 2016/51 in support of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. That entailed the organisation of four regional and sub-regional meetings in different parts of the world. And what came out of these meetings was quite remarkable, in a number of ways. If one participates in the meetings on science and technology review developments in terms of industrial capacity, new production processes and technologies, there is a lot of anxiety. There is always talk in terms of threats to the convention and, possibly, weakening of the norm. However, if one looks at a number of states we visited – and India was a prime example – everybody sitting behind this table was part of that biological weapons world tour 2016. If we look at India, I still remember, at the thirtieth anniversary of the BTWC in 2005 – I organised a conference in Geneva – and we had an Indian scientist present. And she was referring to the fact that India was actually at the point of becoming a net exporter of biotechnology, whereas before it was a net importer. And she predicted that, with that transition, India would assume new types of responsibilities to govern that new science and those new technologies.

So there I was in August, in Delhi, and a discussion started up. Actually, it was interesting to see the evolution in, for example, India’s export control legislation – how it had adopted a number of principles that only five, ten years ago were extremely controversial internationally. The same has happened with China. It is not just that there is an evolution in terms of national policies, and also the adoption of a certain rationale behind these policies. At the same time, one can also see that the convergence of ideas and the convergence of approaches between states in different parts of the world actually leads to situations where cross-continental and cross-regional cooperation in a number of issues becomes possible. And if you check out the website of the Implementation Support Unit of the UN organisation in Geneva, what you are going to see are actually a number of working papers written by European and Asian states, European and South American states, and the United States with partners in different regions. And it is part of the possibilities that are emerging, which perhaps do not yet translate into formal agreements or formal new understandings. But, in the practice, it is coming there. It is very much alive.

A second aspect – if one thinks of Article 10 of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in terms of international cooperation. Usually a hugely controversial article, just like Article 11 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. But since the end of the Cold War and today, there too there has been enormous development on two levels, I would say. The first one, which really struck me during the various regional meetings, was actually that while, in Geneva, states parties to the BTWC discuss Article 10 almost bloc against bloc in general, abstract principles – very rarely concrete proposals or requests for concrete proposals – what happens on the regional and sub-regional level is that certain states that have taken the lead in technology, science development and so forth actually start processes under Article 10 to transmit and transfer the knowledge and the practices to neighbouring states. So in other words, concretely on the regional level we see patterns of cooperation, of training, of education emerging that are very explicitly done under Article 10. Argentina plays such a role for South America. We see similar things happening in the context of ASEAN, particularly in the area of bio-risk management. So again we see something happening there.

I have mentioned, in Geneva, the abstract nature of many of the debates. On the regional level, what we see is actually very concrete assistance. The elements that come to the fore – I have already mentioned bio-risk management, but it is also on the level of national implementation assistance, assistance with the fulfilment of the CBM obligations and so forth.

Related to that – not specifically Article 10, but the activity taking place on the regional level. In different regions – was it Eastern Europe/Central Asia, was it Southeast Asia or Latin America – one could see the emergence of what I would call a regional identity – something that several of the states participating in the seminars wish to express and wish to develop and articulate more clearly in the forums in Geneva, whether it is the review conference and so on. There is still a bit of reluctance in a number of areas, but definitely that came to the fore. In the context of Latin America, particularly those of you who remember the 2006 review conference, when new, informal groupings popped up. There was the group of the Latin American countries that made a number of proposals as a collective. We had the JACKSNNZ. And the interesting part of that was that a number of the papers, let us say, presented by the traditional antagonists in Geneva were like the outlying propositions, but then the ones that were presented by either JACKSNNZ or Latin America kind of became the centre around which everything started to gyrate at a point and have a certain impact. It is something that, right now, we might see coming again with a greater regional activity – that we see the breakdown of the three big Cold War blocs that still exist in the BTWC forums.

A third element that came to the fore – I have alluded to it – is the disconnect between delegations in Geneva and the desk officers in capitals. In many cases, we have seen two completely different worlds. The people on both sides of the communication have different frameworks, and when the people from Geneva try to obtain instructions from capital, capital does not understand the question. Many people from the countries that we targeted in those meetings find the debates in Geneva are very abstract. From capital, they do not get concrete instructions in terms of putting forward concrete elements, so the debates can remain very abstract and antagonistic, as they were always, simply because of lack of such communication. And that need – how to express oneself in Geneva – for many of the states parties in the regions we visited, is actually an important point that we should further investigate and elaborate so see how certain types of assistance activities can be organised.

A fourth element actually pertains very specifically to Africa. You may have noticed that, so far in my presentations, I have not yet touched upon Africa. And there were a couple of interesting aspects I noticed, mostly because they were absent compared to what I have observed in the other regions. The first one is there are a number of countries on the African continent that clearly are leaders in terms of biology, life sciences and biotechnology. I would say South Africa, Kenya and Morocco are among them. But, from these three countries, three is no radiation to neighbouring countries or within the region. So what we could notice in Southeast Asia or in Latin America simply does not happen. When, in the final session in Addis Ababa, I was asked by one of the participants to compare the three regions, people were actually surprised to learn that, but also acknowledged that it was the case. So, definitely there would be a great interest in stimulating the more advanced countries to engage sub-regionally or regionally in that way.

Another element we had in Africa was unawareness – lack of awareness – of the BTWC, even among the people who were sent by their government to attend those meetings. And in one particular case, I have to say, it was a non-state party, but the question even came up of why we should not use biological weapons. The country is at war, and there was no sense of the normative framework that governs international relations and international security.

It is also the continent with the largest number of non-states parties still with the BTWC, and a lot of activity has to be done. It was really good to notice in different interventions that the African Union is starting to take up the BTWC as a priority issue, and hopefully they will be present next week at the review conference, so it would be good for representatives of states parties to interact with the representatives of the African Union, because they want to set up programmes to stimulate universality, including what I personally call qualitative universality. That is the quality of national implementation of the obligations inside states parties.

And then there is something which – I do not know whether this is entirely politically correct, but I am speaking in my own name, so what the heck. I noticed a big difference between the Anglophone and Francophone countries in attitude towards the treaty, where generally representative from Anglophone countries were quite well aware of issues and Francophone countries far less. And based on that observation, I have spoken with representatives from both linguistic communities, and on both sides they acknowledged that as a fact. The question is, if we are talking about assistance programmes or outreach programmes to these countries, perhaps what needs to be done is some preliminary investigation to see what the causes are of that particular discrepancy. Is it a fact that, like at this particular meeting, it is very easy to speak in English and do everything in English, but nothing equivalent is being done on the Francophone level, so that general awareness and knowledge is lower? Is it because, in the Francophone group, fewer activities take place? I have no idea. I was just struck by the fact that, actually, the people from the region themselves acknowledge that it is not some sort of stupid prejudice on my side.

My final point – the fifth point – is, if I look at this, there are definitely a whole number of issues that should be thought through fundamentally in terms of how to organise assistance and support for the different regions. There are a number of threads taking place that are very interesting – very supportive of the norm that is embedded in the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. And it is a feeling of how we can stimulate it further without being too intrusive in what I would call natural processes in the region. And here we have to see assistance. One element to look at to engender interest in the BTWC is not to depart in those regions from the BTWC. The perspective on the relevancy of an international convention such as the BTWC in other parts of the world might be quite different from the way we look at it in North America and Europe, which has a very strong law-based attitude to international relations. It could also be that we encounter situations where some of the issues, such as terrorism for example, are not that salient in the minds of the people there. However, they may be more interested in biological diversity. They might be more interested in the impact of genetically modified organisms on their environment – their economy. Things like that. And perhaps strategies need to be developed with those local points of interest as a starting point to shift, bring and expand the knowledge about the BTWC and relate the many things that are being discussed under the BTWC – that they actually have relevancy to the world as local people perceive them.

And then a final point that is perhaps something more to the European Union – to the External Action Service – to say. I think the centres of excellence that operate in different parts of the world, including Africa, will actually be a very good point of activity. And perhaps also try to see, in terms of activities – I have already mentioned the African Union, but I think also the UN regional centres – to give them the capacity to conduct a series of activities specifically focused on the BTWC. That might actually be quite useful, because these people, more than we ever can do, actually impart from the local reality. And with that, I will end.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much, Jean-Pascal, for this very comprehensive presentation, based almost entirely on your very rich insight from the EU-funded regional workshops. And just to pick up your last point, indeed we see a very important role of the centres of excellence in the implementation strategy of the Council decision. We have submitted, as European Union, a working paper outlining the support provided by the EU member states, but also by the EU institutions, including through the centres of excellence under Article 10. This is one of the modest contributions the European Union has made to the preparations for the review conference.

And just another point, as far as I am personally concerned. I feel myself entirely connected with the delegation in Geneva. We are in constant touch with our colleagues in Geneva, especially in this very busy context of the preparations for the review conference. With this, colleagues, let me without further ado proceed to the questions-and-answers session. Just to make a couple of obvious housekeeping remarks, this session is on record, so please introduce yourself when asking questions by name and affiliation, and please speak into the microphone. Thank you very much.

Professor Dr Paula Vanninen, Director, Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN), University of Helsinki

I am a chemist. Actually, when I am listening to your talks, it seems to be that BTWC is a very strong convention. Could you at least – each of you – tell one thing that is missing? And perhaps you do not have to go to the declarations of verification – issues which are very important for the Chemical Weapons Convention. And then I think that you were touching, Jean-Pascal, a very important issue. What is the norm? I think that, for the older people, it seems to be totally clear, but what about youngsters? Do they understand what is the norm not to use chemical weapons or biological weapons? I think that perhaps you should take actions on this, because it is not the norm for the youngsters. It is those ones who have lived that and have more historical background have this type of thinking.

Professor Dr Mohamed Derdour, Executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE)

I do not speak as executive secretary; I speak about the former number of biological and chemical members in my country, Algeria. The first thing – biology convention – there is no binding legal provision, measures and norms to force a country to implement that convention. Does it mean there is nobody in charge to take implementation control and verification of that milestone in that convention, as does IEA in non-proliferation, the organisation of chemical and CTBT once the CTBTO – once the CTBT in force? The weakness in this convention is that it is not binding, and this convention you do not institute to create a body in charge of verification if there is any binding milestones in the convention.

However, about the second remarks of Zanders about the culture between French and English, first there is a difference in culture attitude of people, due to the pragmatic spirits of English and the Latin and, if I say, Byzantine spirits of the French one. Secondly, the main weakness is that IT culture is not so diffused in these countries. When IP is very strong, like in South Africa, we have also a strong development of this. In the other countries, the IP is very weak, and mainly the IP regarding the biological issues, because in biological issues Europe and the US patent all biological, but in Europe is another convention and so on. And I can speak a lot about IP cultures in Africa, but if you kick about the door of AU, you are wrong, because AU know you can kick the website of AU. It is down: 15 days, my email box – AU is off. Does that mean AU needs to be reformed and to look to benchmark AU systems? Because African Union make good resolutions. They conquer the issue for themselves. There is no binding like in EU directives – binding applied to each state. This is the difference. What does it mean? If you want to work in Africa – if you want to kick African Union – you have to reform African Union. It is a very young lady, but like a dolly he has the gene of his mother, and he has all the sickness of his mother, but he is very young.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Do you have a specific question to the speakers?

Professor Dr Mohamed Derdour, Executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE)

No, I have not. Just to highlight some issues, because I know very well the African system, the African countries, the AU; that was my contribution to this.

Dr Richard Guthrie, Coordinating Editor, CBW Events

I want to follow up on what Jean-Pascal was saying. You were suggesting you had identified a disconnect between delegates and the governments. I think I would interpret that a little bit differently, and so I think this is worth teasing out, because it may have some implications for the forthcoming review conference. I think I would agree with you that there is a disconnect between people who have a speciality or a focus on the BWC and some of the broader government officials. I think you are correct in saying there are some quite esoteric arguments that are perceived. I wonder how we might overcome this. One that I think we are failing in is that we do not really identify BWC alumni. There are a lot of people who have come through dealing with the BWC and have slowly risen through their government systems, and we are not keeping track of them. I think it would actually be very useful, because it can be quite a difficult subject to brief people on because there are a diverse range of issues that come up with the BWC. It might be worth us looking at that.

The second is on the Francophone Africa thing. On the daily reports – and I give the daily reports a plug. If you have not signed up for the new mailing list, please do so. Come and find me. One of the requests I had in the past was whether these could be translated into French, simply because there is a difficulty of good material – good material that, shall we say, generalists can access that outlines the issues with something like the BWC, because there is a lot of very dry, very technical material that is quite difficult for the generalist to get hold of. I wonder whether that is also a symptom of what you are identifying. Thank you.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much, Richard. Thank you very much, colleagues, for your questions. Let us now try to give you answers to these questions. Just to remind, the first question was about the weaknesses of the BTWC – at least, one weakness to be signalled. And then the issue about the norm, the issue of verification – again, the lack of verification. And, last, Richard’s question about the need to keep track of experts in the BTWC field. Colleagues, the floor is yours.

Jean-Pascal Zanders, Senior Research Associate, FRS

Thank you very much for the questions and comments. Yes, most of what was said is kind of confirmation of my own experiences. Let me take a little bit. I think what Richard touched upon is absolutely pertinent. To have a number of basic materials available, they should be available in different languages so that they can be reached out. The core problem is that, again, there is no centralised organisation to support the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. If I compare the regime development of the BTWC with the CWC, many of the issues that were controversial during the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and during the prep comm phase, if one compares the late 1990s with today, the mere fact that the organisation was able to stimulate certain programmes – it actually overcame many of the differences that existed. For certain things, the political angle has definitely been defused. So yes, I think there is a real need to set up a process of both education and outreach – education in terms of basic knowledge and training experience, and outreach to draw in more communities from the different parts of the world into the BTWC process.

The other thing perhaps to say is I was entrusted with the implementation of the very first European Union joint action in 2006, before the ISU existed. If I compare the situation, particularly in Africa, there is also big evolution over the past 10 years. When I was organising events in Africa, a person was contacted through the Foreign Ministry. That person in the Foreign Ministry was in a single pipe – no colleagues on the same level. It was desk officer, superior, director-general or whatever. And that person had no lateral contacts even with equivalent functions in other ministries. Today you can clearly see that all the countries we have contacted for the meetings this year were aware that different ministries and different agencies had to be involved. Many of those lateral contacts had been established. So it is another point of evidence of how, on the local sub-regional level, things are actually advancing. More importantly, people are aware of their equivalent colleagues in other countries. It is one of the reasons why, in different meetings, we emphasise the need to have a national contact point for the BTWC – a focal point – so that people could interact even more laterally.

The last point I would like to take up in the comments is about verification. Paula and I, we are going to discuss the norm. We can spend many weeks and months on that one. But on verification, if you make the comparison with IAEA or CTBT or CWC, I think for the BTWC we have to depart from a completely different perspective, and perhaps not the declaration/inspection-based type of system, but rather something that functions more on having the relevant facilities to meet certain standards and verify whether the standards are being met. So it is more or less a process, similar by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) undertaking. And just look at what ISO does to assist countries and economic units inside the countries to meet the ISO standards. They develop so many activities that one could consider as Article 10-type of activities under the BTWC.

A different type of issue that is starting to bubble up in the context of the future of the BTWC in Geneva is audit-based approaches to verification where people actually start monitoring and looking into the activities, and start detecting anomalies. As soon as there is an anomaly, one starts to dig deeper into why that anomaly exists. It is something similar, but it is a different approach than trying to testify to the presence or the absence of a particular type of technology in a specific location at a particular time. It is more process-oriented. And we have to harness all the new technologies – all the new types of information we have available about institutions, scientific organisations, industry and so forth. So this is something that really deserves deeper reflection. I personally do not think that the old idea of copying the CWC verification system into the BTWC is the right approach. I really started doubting it in 1999–2000, because it dealt with yesterday’s problems, not the ones that are coming towards us.

Tatyana Novossiolova, Wellcome Trust Scholar, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Two very quick points. One is about the BTWC and what is missing. In a way, to echo what Jean-Pascal says, in my opinion what is missing is coordination. There is a lot of great work happening on the ground, and those who have been involved in biosecurity and biological non-proliferation and disarmament over the years know that there are a lot of NGOs, a lot of organisations and a lot of excellent work going on in terms of not only raising awareness but engaging industry and trying to engage different stakeholders, developing standards and so on and so forth. The problem is that there is no coordination. In a way, one hand does not know what the other is doing. And very often it happens that one and the same different donors fund projects and priorities in one and the same region or country, and that leads to problems. People get overwhelmed with a lot of work, and it is a very difficult to keep track of what is actually happening on the ground. So, better coordination of projects and activities would help overcome some of the limitations.

In terms of the norm and actions for engaging the younger generation, by all means, yes. Education and awareness-raising – those of you who are familiar with the work in Bradford will know that, for the past eight years, we have been actively involved in promoting education and awareness-raising on biosecurity. This year we ran a seminar with kids as young as 16 and 17 years of age, to demonstrate whether they can be actively engaged with biosecurity through the prism of responsible science. And the main question was: what does it mean to be a responsible scientist in the twenty-first century? It is not about what is a biological weapon or what is a chemical weapon. It is more about responsibility in the twenty-first century, and from an educational point of view I think that is a better approach to reach out, not only to the younger generation but also to practising researchers and scientists in academia.

Ajey Lele, Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

I think what is missing has already been brought out. I entirely agree with Jean-Pascal that verification protocol per se is not the last word. The only advantage with the verification protocol sort of mechanism is there is an interest of industry. As far as chemical weapons are concerned, there is a good amount of interest of industry, which is slightly missing as far as biotechnology industries are concerned. So that is one area which is missing.

Another area, as has been directly pointed out, is that you do not have an IAEA or OPCW sort of organisation. It is jokingly said by a few people that ISU has got one or one and a half people working on it. So there is no support that is out there. And one interesting aspect which comes to my increased notice is that, when you talk of nuclear you have 5,000 NGOs which are working. When you talk of biological, you have one BWPP or Trend[?] or somebody who are working. So there is not much amount of awakening in the form of NGOs. What happens is that the advantage of an NGO – there are a lot of disadvantages, but the advantage of an NGO is that it makes media aware. And, fortunately or unfortunately, subsequently it makes the politicians aware. And the funding comes usually because of these reasons. This is what I feel is missing.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much. Just a short addition to this. Indeed, the lack of verification is a reality on the ground, and we can also see it from another point of view. As a reality on the ground, it is triggering a lot of mitigating initiatives – additional measures to reinforce the implementation and effectiveness of the convention. In this context, there are a lot of ideas on the table. There are a lot of working papers. In particular, we as the European Union have submitted a working paper very recently on how to reinforce the consultative mechanism provisions. This is only one of the working papers that actually have been submitted in this direction. One can also see it from a positive point of view, broadly.


Good evening. I am a government relations professional. I represent rather the private sector. I would like to ask a question in this respect: given that the industry has a role, especially in the supply chain, and also in a globalised world in the failed states, I think the industry can be even more important in contributing. So my question is, are you satisfied with the dialogue that is taking place right now between, on the one side, the government actors that are trying to improve the convention and the industry, and on the other hand if you foresee any changes in the future?

Professor Dr Mohamed Derdour, Executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE)

Just to contribute to this debate, because I am a former member of biological and chemicals and nuclear in my former country. I would like to say, what relationship between this convention and that convention of vegetable variety? There is a convention called Convention on Vegetable Varieties. That convention is a specific convention. If you want to be a party, there is some requested to be in, and this is very important to protect all the patrimony of the genetics of vegetables in many countries, mainly in Africa. It is a very specific Convention on Vegetable Varieties. It is not like this – you have to be a party – but a convention you have mandate – of this convention as a pre-request of a country to be a member of this convention and to play a great role in the conservation of all the genetic patrimony in many countries. In Africa – as you tell, Zanders – there is the weakness of the IP. IP is very important in Africa, and mainly in French countries too, because there is no culture. Why is there a culture of IP? Because the region is socialist and, in the socialist system, IP is property of the state. So I think if you push to move up – upgrade – the IP levels in these countries, we can move up some more the issue regarding to take care of all the biological ecosystems. I speak of ecosystems, not only varieties and so on. Thank you.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much, Mr Derdour, for your further contribution to this debate. Next question? If not, let me allow the speakers a chance to reply to your questions, in particular the question on the interaction between industry and the non-governmental stakeholders with the BTWC community.

Tatyana Novossiolova, Wellcome Trust Scholar, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Thank you so much. When you look at the BTWC process, industry does feature. Bio, for instance – they do come to the meetings, they address the conference, they have side events. So, in a way, they are there. They are present. The problem is whether the relationship is as active as it can be. The answer, of course, is that there is room for improvement, and there are ways how this can be improved. Hopefully, one possible scope for improvement would be the introduction of internationally recognised standards by risk management, and that is the SEN agreement that is currently being converted into an ISO. It should soon be made available as an ISO standard. That would effectively be a standard that not only private but also public laboratories and companies would require if they are doing anything with biological materials.

Also, when you look at the International Federation of Biosafety Associations, they have recently launched a certification programme. It is an international certification programme for professionals, and they have a number of different specialties and categories for becoming a professional. Biosecurity is one, and if you want to qualify for a biosecurity professional then you would be required to have some awareness of the different agreements, including the BTWC but also the Chemical Weapons Convention, dual use, bioethics, of the WHO standards and so on and so forth. So, in a way, there are initiatives that are made available to the life science community writ large, including industry. And it is one way the industry can also take advantage, and once they take advantage it of course would be highly desirable for firms and associations to come and brief the states parties that their activity is taking place. It is a two-way process. So it is about states parties sitting in Geneva and making decisions, but it is also about industry flagging up that they are taking care and doing these activities, are participating and want to be engaged. In that sense, it is a two-way process.

And the question about the convention on vegetable variety – one of my colleagues would use the phrase ‘web of prevention’. By web of prevention, what he says is that in order to have a strong Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, we need a whole web of different preventive policies. And that will include interaction with different international regimes, including for example the Convention on Biological Diversity, the different WHO standards and national export control polices. Intelligence would count to that, biosecurity and biosafety. In a way, all regimes – all different agreements that are there. And when you look at biotechnology governance regime, you see that there are something like 33, if I am not mistaken, international organisations that are, in one way or another, involved in the governance of biotechnology on international scale. So it is a densely populated landscape, and there are a lot of different agreements. You mentioned intellectual property. There is a host of different intellectual property rules, and not only the ones under the World Trade Organization. There is also the convention on plant variety, and so on and so forth. So there are a lot of those, and states have to implement all of them. And the thing is that implementing any of those provisions and all of those regimes contributes one way or another to preventing, in a way, and fulfilling the objectives of this regime – of securing the biotechnology. The biotechnology is used only for peaceful purposes, which is at the heart of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Ajey Lele, Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

One small point as far as industry is concerned is something like laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. There, industry plays an important role. Another area where industry could be engaged is as far as your naturally occurring diseases are concerned, because there are a few, at least from the part of the world which I come from, where industry feels that, particularly in regard to vaccine development and other areas, they are not given that much amount of assistance, one can say, or they are not encouraged that much to get into all these sorts of business. So when they become a part of the entire gamut, I think they will have a more constructive role in BTWC.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you. Allow me, at the end, just to provide you with a bit of additional information. During the course of next year, the ISU in Geneva will implement and organise five more workshops. There are workshops this time focused not only on the preparations for the review conference but on stimulating interaction and exchanges between industry and non-governmental experts and policymakers in the field of science and technology. These could be a good opportunity, in fact, to advance in the area of science and technology interaction between all stakeholders.

Colleagues, I will take further questions.

Professor Dr Mohamed Derdour, Executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE)

[Inaudible] assistance about experiences about these biologicals in comparison to chemicals and nuclear. For chemicals we have inter-ministerial committees – executive secretary. The convention is binding – signed, ratified and projected in the law – national law. Nuclear also, we are a member of the NPT, a member of the CTBT. We sign many conventions, so we internalise and project all these treaties and conventions in national law. But for biological, as it is not binding, there is no structure that obliges the state to have this. Because we need to project this to articulate according to what is binding in the convention, so that the biological has nobody to implement this, so it is not well taken. It is taken in charge, but it is not well taken in charge as nuclear and chemicals ones. Thank you.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you once again. I see now reactions in the panel: Tatyana first, and then Jean-Pascal.

Tatyana Novossiolova, Wellcome Trust Scholar, Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Thank you so much. Just one quick point about the BTWC. Actually, for states, it is the states that are parties to the convention. That means that, if a state has signed and ratified a convention, that means the convention is legally binding. And also, such states need to provide a national focal point or contact point, which is usually somebody at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Defence who is responsible at national level for collecting information and actually implementing the convention or coordinating activities related to the convention. But the convention is binding: if a state is a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, it is a binding document. I just want to make this clear. Thank you.

Jean-Pascal Zanders, Senior Research Associate, FRS

I fully agree with Tatyana. The BTWC is an international convention, and states parties must be in compliance. And while it is true that there may not be an international organisation to oversee implementation, there is the collectivity of states parties. The ownership is with the states parties. If there is an international organisation, be also aware that many states parties do not assume many of their obligations, because they think the international organisation can do it. In the BTWC, the dynamic is sometimes quite different than what we may see when there is an international organisation. But I would like to link that a bit to your question about globalisation. In certain ways, again, while BTWC institutionally is perceived to be very weak, I sometimes wonder if actually it is not better equipped to meet the challenges of the future. Because instead of having fixed institutions, with agreements that states parties are always extremely reluctant to modify, even a comma in a sentence, so to speak, in the BTWC the possibility exists to move towards a format of governance that would involve states, among others. It would also involve responsibilities by industry, scientific community, civil society and so forth.

There are a number of ways, and if I look back at some of my writings around 2006 and later I was actually constructing possible models of how the governance aspect could go. That has a bit evaporated recently, and one of the reasons why – and this is also something we need to factor in when thinking about the future of the convention. You used the term ‘globalisation’, and I attach to that a different concept of polycentrism. Polycentrism is understood that the levels of decision-making are layered vertically, from civil society individual companies to the state level, international organisations, transnational organisations or corporations. And each of them have major impact on the way we look at the BTWC, and they all have their own interests. However, in polycentrism, the other aspect you have is that you get more regional centres of decision-making. In other words, we already see that certain interactions become much more intense within the region or a sub-region. And very often we can already see the germs – excuse the pun – of what I would call development of relatively autonomous sets of values and expectations and so on. In other words, we could come to a situation of regional fragmentation, which then, of course, we have to ask where we go with the norm embedded in the BTWC. In other words, it challenges the concept of universality in a certain way.

Also, if we involved different types of stakeholders, somehow we often assume that they would all be pulling the rope in the same direction. That is not necessarily the case. They have different interests. There are going to be conflicts of interests. In certain situations, we are going to see a synthesis coming out of that, but in other areas it is simply going to pull fabric apart. And it is probably that type of dynamic environment that we have to capture in trying to understand what the future of treaties such as the BTWC is going to be. But yes, in the context of the OPCW, I am involved in developing strategies for reaching out to a variety of stakeholders and trying to get them actively involved in the treaty regime. Again, the advantage is there is an OPCW, and you can get all the people coming to that organisation, even if one reaches out on the regional or sub-regional level. The BTWC will have to find ways of dealing with that, of course.

Emil Kazakov, International Relations Officer, Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

Thank you very much, Jean-Pascal. I think we could not have a more appropriate conclusion of our discussion tonight. Having reached the time limit of our discussion, I would like to thank once again our speakers, to thank you for your involvement, and to express our hope for a successful outcome of the review conference, which would be in any event a reality check of our discussion. Thank you very much once again.

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Brussels, 3-4 November 2016

EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016