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First meeting of a new intersessional work programme
13 July 2012

The 2012 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of Experts will be held at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 16 to 20 July.  The BWC prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin Weapons.  The 2012 Meeting of Experts is the first part of a four-year programme mandated by the Seventh Review Conference of the BWC in December 2011, 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 programme builds on successful previous work programmes that ran from 2003 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2010.  States Parties and experts used these opportunities to exchange experience, expertise and best practices on how the treaty’s international obligations are translated into effective national action.

This year's meeting will discuss, and promote common understandings and effective action 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 - how States Parties can better exchange information to increase transparency and build confidence in compliance.

The Meeting of Experts will be chaired by Ambassador Boujemâa Delmi of Algeria.  Referring to the comprehensive nature of the meeting, the Chairman said "I am confident that we will be able to convert the decisions of the Seventh Review Conference into a renewed and revitalized intersessional programme that makes a genuine contribution to reducing the risks posed to global security by biological weapons".

Broad participation in expected at the meeting.  As well as the States Parties to the BWC, key intergovernmental organizations will participate, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (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). Expert international bodies will also be present, such as IAP: The Global Network of Science Academies, and the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  The private sector will participate, including the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and the International Gene Synthesis Consortium.  Individual technical experts will be participating as guests of the meeting, including from Aston University, the University of Bradford and the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre.

Among other issues, the meeting is expected consider the publication of two controversial scientific papers on the mammalian transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) virus.  The formal work of the meeting will include time set aside to examine developments in science that have potential for uses contrary to the provisions of the Convention.  A side event on 17 July is planned by the governments of the countries from which the papers originated, to address their experiences and the implications for science governance.

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 in the areas covered by the topics.

The Biological Weapons Convention, 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, opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975.  It prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element – along with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention – in the international community's efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The Biological Weapons Convention is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons.  It currently has 165 States parties, with a further 12 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

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