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Chairperson herald successful start to the new intersessional work programme
20 July 2012

The 2012 Meeting of Experts from States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was held in Geneva from 16 to 20 July 2012.  The Meeting of Experts was the first meeting in a new intersessional process created by Seventh Review Conference last December.

The Meeting of Experts was held to discuss and promote common understanding on:

· International cooperation and assistance – how States Parties can work together to build relevant capacity;
· Review of developments in the field of science and technology relevant to the BWC – how States Parties keep up with the rapid pace of advances in the life sciences and their implications for the Convention;
· Ways and means to strengthen national implementation of the convention – how States Parties work domestically to prevent disease being used as a weapon;
· Enhancement of participation in the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) – How states Parties can better exchange information to increase transparency and build confidence in compliance. 

The Meeting was chaired by Ambassador Boujemâa Delmi of Algeria, and brought together nearly 450 participants from 80 countries, including almost 200 experts from government agencies and international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), INTERPOL, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  A range of non-governmental organizations and academic experts also attended the meeting.

On international cooperation and assistance, delegations acknowledged the vital importance of developing closer links to implement to the Convention globally.  The Chairman noted that “by working together and with our international partners we can achieve more than we could alone and can focus our efforts to fill gaps and target needs which are not currently being met”.

With regards to recent developments in science and technology relevant to the Convention, experts from around the world and from both within and outside of governments provided wide-ranging presentations on specific advances with the potential to benefit the BWC, and possible uses contrary to the BWC.  Expert contributions prompted lively debates and interactions among delegations.  Of particular note was the consideration of the recent publication of two scientific papers detailing mammalian transmission studies for H5N1 avian influenza.  Participants repeatedly stressed the need for more work to determine where the optimal compromise between scientific freedom and legitimate security concerns might lie.

The session on national implementation saw delegations share best practices and national experiences.  Switzerland, for example, stressed the importance of robust domestic action: “implementation of the provisions of the BWC on national level is the key to the successful permanent prohibition of biological and toxin weapons.  It is only through the translation of its provisions into the national context that the aims of the Convention can be achieved”.

States Parties also explored the purpose of exchanging information annually through the Confidence-building Measures and discussed a range of possible activities which could promote greater participation.

Closing the meeting today, the Chairman said, “We have had interactive exchanges that I believe have been very positive and have allowed a spirit of constructiveness.  A very positive atmosphere has reigned.  The objectives that we followed from the outset have brought us into this new way of accomplishing our work and this has given us a chance to listen to each other and understand each other so that we can work together to ensure that we can effectively manage any of the biological threats that could appear.”

The results of the Meeting of Experts will be considered by the Meeting of States Parties, to be held in Geneva from 10 to 14 December 2012.  The Meeting of States parties will review the ideas and proposals presented at the Meeting of Experts, and produce a report aimed at promoting effective action to strengthen the operation of the Convention.

The Meeting of Experts is part of a four-year programme mandated by the 2011 Seventh Review Conference of the BWC aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Convention and improving its effectiveness as a practical barrier against the development or use of biological weapons.  The BWC prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.  More formally referred to as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, the treaty opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975.  It currently has 165 States Parties, with a further 12 States having signed but not yet ratified.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Richard Lennane
Head, BWC Implementation Support Unit
Tel: +41 (0)22 917 22 30
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 04 83

For use of the information media; not an official record