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10. Reducing security threats from chemical and biological materials

Contents

Summary

At the international, regional and national levels in 2009 states continued to develop strategies to prevent and remediate the effects of the possible misuse of chemical and biological materials. With some success, the parties to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) maintained their focus on capacity building, achieving universality of membership and effective implementation of national obligations, including those related to the security of dual-purpose materials.

President Barack Obama’s US Administration presented its much anticipated policy on the BTWC in December 2009, while the European Union (EU) worked to develop a communication based on the recommendations of an EU chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) working group.

In 2009 India became the third party to the CWC to complete the destruction of its declared chemical weapon stockpile. Iraq joined the convention and declared that it possesses chemical weapons (holdovers from the previous regime and under UN seal). The parties to the BTWC met in 2009 to consider the enhancement of international cooperation, assistance and exchange in the life sciences and related technology for peaceful purposes.

Security analysts and government officials studied the implications of disease outbreaks in the context of preparedness for and response to biological warfare. In 2009 states continued to develop mechanisms to license and oversee scientific research, the chemical industry and biotechnology—including for companies that offer gene synthesis services—because of the security implications of these activities.

An emphasis on control and oversight of chemical and biological materials implies reduced focus on traditional state military programmes. In addition, numerous uncertainties are associated with international trade generally. The negative effects of the signals that have been given to non-state actors by various threat assessment statements about the desirability of using chemical and biological weapons (CBW), and the anxiety that such use would provoke, could be mitigated by better understanding of the variability of the effects of CBRN weapons. Operational challenges associated with the volume and type of trade in dual-purpose material technology and intangible technology transfers can also inform threat assessments. This, in turn, would help to promote a balanced understanding of the role of CBW threats in international peace and security.

 

 

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

English