The Biological Weapons Convention: Challenges and Opportunities

The Biological Weapons Convention: Challenges and Opportunities

The Biological Weapons Convention: Challenges and Opportunities

By Dr Jaroslav Krasny, researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR)


Amid geopolitical challenges that have led to the weakening of international arms control and disarmament efforts, the Ninth Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference (RevCon) provided a “glimmer of hope” for control and disarmament regimes. Delegates at the Non-Proliferation Treaty RevCon in 2022 and the Chemical Weapons Convention RevCon in 2023 were unable to reach a consensus on these conferences’ respective final documents. By contrast, the Ninth BWC RevCon held from 28 November to 16 December 2022 successfully adopted the final document. While conflicting positions on how to reflect recent allegations that some states are undertaking biological-weaponsrelated research prevented agreement on the article-by-article review, the final document included a forward-looking section that established a Working Group on the Strengthening of the BWC.

This Working Group is designed to “strengthen the effectiveness and to improve the implementation of the Convention” and generate recommendations for enhancing and institutionalising it across a number of important areas, including confidence-building measures (CBMs), transparency, compliance and verification, and the national implementation of the BWC. The Working Group's sessions, therefore, provide a long-awaited opportunity to address several critical issues related to the Convention, including international cooperation and a verification mechanism. The Working Group also presents a valuable opportunity to advance work on national implementation under Article IV and interlink obligations.

The recent convening of the Working Group from 4 to 8 December 2023 and the subsequent meeting of states parties from 11 to 13 December offer pertinent insights into progress made in strengthening the BWC. Ahead of the next session of the Working Group scheduled for August 2024, this Policy Brief seeks to outline some of the security challenges presented by biological weapons and lay out some of the policy implications and recommendations that flow from these challenges.

Dr Jaroslav Krasny is a researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), focusing on the national implementation measures of the Biological Weapons Convention. He previously held a research associate position at the Center for Peace Hiroshima University in Japan. Dr Krasny received his Ph.D. in Development Studies from Hiroshima University, specializing in weapons law and the law of targeting. He also holds a second master's degree in International law in Armed Conflict from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. He specializes in international law, specifically focusing on weapons law, the law of targeting, arms control, and disarmament. Dr Krasny is part of our GCSP Alumni & Community after having completed the course on Weapons Law and Legal Review of Weapons in December 2019.

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in this publication are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the GCSP or the members of its Foundation Council. The GCSP is not responsible for the accuracy of the information.