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The Biological Weapons Convention



The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975.

It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons, as States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention undertook "never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

1. microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

2. weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."

The Convention effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


The following wheel allows for quick navigation to the current activities undertaken under the BWC:


Text of the Biological Weapons Convention




Key Provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention


Article Provision

Article I Never under any circumstances to acquire or retain biological weapons.

Article II To destroy or divert to peaceful purposes biological weapons and associated resources prior to joining.

Article III Not to transfer, or in any way assist, encourage or induce anyone else to acquire or retain biological weapons.

Article IV To take any national measures necessary to implement the provisions of the BWC domestically.

Article V To consult bilaterally and multilaterally to solve any problems with the implemenation of the BWC.

Article VI To request the UN Security Council to investigate alleged breaches of the BWC and to comply with its subsequent decisions.

Article VII To assist States which have been exposed to a danger as a result of a violation of the BWC.

Article X To do all of the above in a way that encourages the peaceful uses of biological science and technology



About the Convention

As a result of prolonged efforts by the international community to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, better known as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), opened for signature on 10 April 1972. The BWC, the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production and use of an entire category of weapons, entered into force on 26 March 1975. Since then, many States have joined the Convention, which currently has 170 States Parties and 10 Signatory States. The BWC effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction... (Read More)

Additional Understandings and agreements

The BWC itself is comparatively short, comprising only 15 articles. Over the years, this diminutive international instrument has been supplemented by a series of additional understandings reached at subsequent Review Conferences, held every five years. (Read More)