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Relevant Activities overseen by the BWC Implementation Support Unit

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The Implementation Support Unit (ISU) operates in accordance with the decisions and recommendations of the Eighth Review Conference (BWC/CONF.VIII/4, part III), which renewed for the period from 2017 to 2020 the mandate of the Unit originally decided by the Sixth Review Conference, and as extended by the Seventh Review Conference.

As regards the current 2018-2020 intersessional programme, the ISU prepared in 2018 a comprehensive background information document on assistance, response and preparedness (see document BWC/MSP/2018/MX.4/2) and supports interaction with relevant international organizations, academia and NGOs. In the context of the preparations in 2014 and 2015 for the States Parties’ discussions on how to strengthen implementation of Article VII, at the request of the Chair, the ISU updated past background information papers on capacities in international organizations which might be involved in the provision of assistance relevant to Article VII. These papers covered the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) (see document BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) (see documents BWC/MSP/2014/INF.2 and BWC/MSP/2015/MX/INF.4), the OIE (see documents BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1 and BWC/MSP/2015/MX/INF.4), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) (see document BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) (see document BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1/Add.1), the UNODA (see document BWC/MSP/2014/INF.2), the WHO (see document BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1/Add.1), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the tripartite cooperation among this Organization, the OIE and the WHO (see document BWC/MSP/2014/MX/INF.1). Some of the information contained in these papers was submitted by the concerned international organizations. Other information was based on research carried out by the ISU itself.

The ISU has furthermore been participating and contributing to relevant activities promoted under the auspices of the Working Group on Preventing and Responding to Terrorist Attacks with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD Working Group) of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). Since 2017, the latter has been subsumed within the new UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) (for information on the WMD WG see UNOCT website). The Task Force is co-chaired by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In 2011, the ISU contributed to the WMD Working Group’s Report on “InterAgency Coordination in the Event of a Chemical or Biological Attack”, 2011 (see report). Since January 2015, the ISU has also been participating in a follow-up UNOCT activity. It has been participating in a project implemented by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) under the guidance of the CTITF WMD WG on “Ensuring Effective Inter-Agency Interoperability and Coordinated Communication in Case of Chemical and/or Biological Attacks”, which has sought to enhance cooperation among relevant, mandated agencies and organizations through a clear understanding of policy tools and operations and practical recommendations. Bringing together 18 United Nations offices and agencies, as well as other relevant international organizations operating in the area, the Project aims to address the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy’s call for improved coordination in response. The UNOCT published at the end of 2017 the main results of the first two phases of the Project (see report). The Project’s third phase, aimed at implementing those recommendations, is in the process of being launched.

Voluntary contribution by Canada through its Global Partnership Program (2018-2019)

From August 2017, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has undertaken a project aimed at ‘Strengthening global mechanisms and capabilities for responding to deliberate use of disease’, which the ISU coordinates with funds of just over USD 330,000 from Canada, through its Global Partnership Program. The project aims to strengthen international mechanisms and capabilities to respond to the deliberate use of disease (human, animal or plant) by both state and non-state actors. It addresses these issues particularly through the lens of Article VII of the Convention.

Activities within the first phase of the project, which concluded at the end of April 2018, included consideration of the challenges of inter-agency coordination in response to a deliberate release of biological agents, with particular consideration to the situation under the Convention; consideration of the roles of international organizations in this context; and the development of the first skeleton of an International Bio-Emergency Management Framework for Deliberate Events, a non-legally binding document aimed at contributing to a coordinated and harmonized international response among relevant international organizations in support of States’ efforts. The first phase of the project, also envisaged a series of different meetings bringing together stakeholders from relevant international organizations.

The project builds upon existing multilateral initiatives and mechanisms, looks at the international community’s experience and practices in the context of some recent natural disease outbreaks, and it has created effective synergies with other relevant initiatives in other forums, both within intergovernmental bodies, think-tanks, and the academia. In particular, synergies have been established with the above-mentioned ongoing work on inter-agency interoperability within the UNOCT, as the project brings forward the work on the biological area, and with the WHO’s work on the interface between health and security.

The second phase of the project continues the work on the draft management framework, including by establishing thematic working groups, and aims to operationalize select recommendations which emerged during the first phase. It also seeks to generate synergies by providing concrete input and suggestions, based on the outcomes of the first phase, for most of the six agenda items to be discussed by the Meeting of Experts on Assistance, Response and Preparedness (MX4) of the current 2018-2020 intersessional programme.

The project also contributes to the UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda, “Securing Our Common Future”, particularly the recommendation that “[t]he Office for Disarmament Affairs will work with all relevant United Nations entities to contribute to developing a framework that ensures a coordinated international response to the use of biological weapons.” Information on the respective implementation plan can be found here.

Voluntary contribution by Japan (2018-2020)

The Government of Japan has provided a voluntary contribution USD 820,000 to the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) for strengthening national, regional and international capacities to prepare for and respond to deliberate use of biological weapons. This project, which is coordinated by the ISU, is part of a UNODA-wide project that has been initiated in November 2018 and which will continue until March 2020.

As part of this project, the ISU facilitates the organization of a series of activities aimed at addressing concrete preparedness and response issues pertaining to deliberate biological events. Besides the conduct of four one-day seminars, four workshops with a more operational focus will be held in Asia. Further information on the various events can be found below:



Voluntary contribution by France (2019)

France provided a voluntary contribution of EUR 150,000 to UNODA to support a tabletop exercise (TTTX) on Article VII of the Convention for States Parties in West Africa. The tabletop exercise will take place in 2019. This exercise is based on one of the recommendations from the 2016 Article VII TTX and will yield valuable inputs to better understand the specific common challenges that could hinder the public health crisis response in the context of a potential intentional biological event and clarify how Article VII could be relevant.

Article VII/BWC Tabletop Exercise Lomé/Togo, 29-30 May 2019

Article VII/BWC Tabletop Exercise Geneva, Switzerland, 8-9 August 2019