The independent resource on global security

10. Reducing security threats from chemical and biological materials


I. Overview

II. Biological weapon control and disarmament

III. Chemical weapon control and disarmament

IV. Allegations of CBW activities and related developments

V. CBW prevention, response and remediation

VI. Conclusions


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In 2008 policymakers continued to broaden prevention and response measures against perceived chemical and biological warfare (CBW) threats. These threats have been addressed by overlapping initiatives and measures, including attempts to define those posed by bioterrorism and chemical terrorism.


The parties to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) held the second political and expert meetings under a 2007–10 inter-sessional programme agreed in 2006. The Second Review Conference of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was also held in 2008. For the first time the Conference of the States Parties was unable to agree a final document by consensus.


The US Government announced that a US defence establishment scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, was solely responsible for the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. He committed suicide shortly before he was to be arrested and some analysts and former colleagues expressed doubt that Ivins was responsible or had acted alone. The case highlighted the importance of microbial forensics in support of criminal investigations.


The trend towards more comprehensive international reporting and tracking of information on the activities of non-state actors, including within the framework of the 2006 UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, continues. Recommendations have been made that the Financial Action Task Force shut down terrorist financing, that further port and airport security be developed and that the International Maritime Organization should develop a new mandatory long-range tracking and identification system to follow and register ships globally.


CBW prevention strategies include the establishment of effective national implementation, codes of conduct and chemical and pathogen security regulations, and awareness-raising activities. This has been reflected by an increasing number of regional activities, workshops and training activities.


The BTWC and CWC are moving closer to achieving greater universality, but some states continue to refuse to join. The increase in membership reflects the increased recent focus on establishing and implementing national legislation to prohibit CBW as a means of raising barriers against CBW terrorism. These efforts have been carried out partly under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, various action plans, European Union joint actions, government-to-government contacts, and regional workshops and seminars on effective national implementation of laws prohibiting CBW.



John Hart (United States) is a Senior Researcher and Head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project of the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.


Dr Peter Clevestig (Sweden) is a Senior Researcher with the Chemical and Biological Security Project of the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.

Dr John Hart and Dr Peter Clevestig