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Increasing Transparency in Biodefence: A 2016 Visit to a German Military Medical Biodefence Facility

EU Non-proliferation Paper no.52

EU Non-proliferation Paper no. 52

Publisher: SIPRI
November, 2016

States with biodefence programmes have a special responsibility to ensure high standards of transparency. Most submit declarations about their programmes under the confidence-building measures (CBMs) of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Some states have recently gone further in their voluntary efforts through interactive information exchanges and on-site visits.

In 2016 Germany invited BWC states parties to visit its main military medical biodefence facility to evaluate its compliance with BWC obligations. During the visit, Germany described its biodefence activities and the related laws, regulations and practices that are in place to ensure that the activities are carried out safely, securely, responsibly and in line with the requirements of the BWC. Visitors were shown the laboratories and equipment, and engaged in constructive dialogue with facility staff. The visitors concluded they had been given valuable insight into the activities of the facility. They acknowledged that the hosts’ cooperation had helped to promote transparency and confidence with regards to the BWC and provided reassurance that the facility’s activities are within the permitted prophylactic, protective and other peaceful purposes of Article I of the BWC.

This paper details the two-day exercise from the perspective of the author, a civil society observer invited to take part alongside the 20 state party representatives.


Dr Filippa Lentzos is an Associate Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Armament and Disarmament Programme.