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13. Chemical and biological weapon developments and arms control



I. Introduction

II. Biological weapon disarmament

III. Chemical weapon disarmament

IV. Allegations of chemical and biological weapon violations and past programmes

V. Remaining verification issues in Iraq

VI. Bio-terrorism prevention and remediation

IV. Conclusions


Read the full chapter [PDF].


The Sixth Review Conference of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) took place in Geneva from 20 November to 8 December 2006. The participants agreed that a series of annual meetings should be held in 2007–10 to consider measures to promote effective implementation of the BTWC; improve bio-safety and bio-security at biological facilities; and improve national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection and diagnosis. The participants also established a temporary unit to provide administrative support to the annual meetings. The unit will additionally facilitate the annual exchange of information among the BTWC parties, which will serve as a confidence-building measure.


At the 11th Conference of the States Parties to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took place in December 2006, it was decided that representatives of the Executive Council should visit chemical weapon facilities on the territories of states parties that have requested extensions of chemical weapon destruction deadlines. This decision reflected heightened concern among the parties to the CWC that the convention’s deadline for destruction of all chemical weapon stockpiles—29 April 2012—will not be met by all states in possession of chemical weapons.


There was increasing recognition in 2006 that achieving universal adherence to the BTWC and the CWC and effectively implementing their provisions will substantially reduce the risk of proliferation and terrorism. The fundamental policy challenge is to define the threat posed by chemical and biological weapons (both generally and in specific cases) and identify what combination of national and international measures would best mitigate such threats.


Bio-security and bio-safety-related developments were addressed in various initiatives and frameworks in 2006, including ad hoc arrangements and activities at the national and regional levels. Some efforts were devoted to improving disease surveillance and response, others to international non-proliferation and disarmament assistance measures. Further allegations were made about the development or use of chemical and biological weapons and more information became available about past programmes.


A proper appreciation of the threats posed by chemical and biological weapons requires an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses historical, legal, political and technical factors. However, there is still too little authoritative public information that can be used to evaluate proliferation threat assessments and accusations that state and non-state actors wish to acquire, develop or use such weapons. The ways to develop effective policies to implement threat assessments and risk-remediation strategies are not always well understood.


John Hart (USA) is Head of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme of the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.


Frida Kuhlau (Sweden) was a member of the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Project from 2001 to 2007.

Dr John Hart