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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

Strengthening the BWC: Issues for the Ad Hoc Group
By Henrietta Wilson

Introduction

The Ad Hoc Group of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) met for its Seventeenth Session in Geneva between November 22 and December 10, 1999. The BWC was concluded in 1972, strengthening the prohibition against the use, development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons, but it contained no measures for implementing, verifying, or enforcing its provisions. The ending of the Cold War and, in particular, the conclusion of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) stimulated renewed attention to these matters. For the past five years the Ad Hoc Group has been meeting in Geneva to negotiate an additional Protocol to the BWC, to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the implementation of the original Treaty, and is now working in earnest on a Rolling Text, expected to be the basis for the Protocol to the Convention. The Rolling Text is far advanced, but this stage of the negotiation is marked by serious differences within the Western Group regarding compliance measures (Article III), and between the Western Group and the Non-Aligned Movement and Others Group (NAM) regarding technological co-operation (Article VII).

Article III on Compliance Measures deals with measures for verifying adherence to the protocol, and Article VII, on Scientific and Technological Exchange for Peaceful Purposes and Technical Cooperation, covers the promotion of co-operative exchanges between States Parties. Though there may be no intrinsic link between Articles III and VII, they are frequently treated by States Parties as though they are linked, each one to be traded off against the other. Many in the NAM would like to maximise the cooperative aspects of the Protocol. The majority of the Western Group desire strong compliance measures. Some NAM countries feel that if they move towards accepting particular compliance measures, the Western Group should make compromises on the co-operative aspects of the Protocol. Simultaneously, some in the Western Group believe that the support of NAM countries for certain compliance measures can be obtained by accepting some of their requests for co-operative measures.

It was felt by many in the Ad Hoc Group that, prompted by a NAM Working Paper,1 significant progress had been made on the Article III sections dealing with visits during the Sixteenth Session (September 13 - October 8, 1999).2 Partly as a result of this progress and the perceived link between the two articles, and partly because of the importance of the issues themselves, there has been increasing pressure on the Ad Hoc Group to engage in a more thorough debate on aspects of Article VII.

Article VII: Technological Cooperation

Article VII addresses one of the most sensitive issues for BWC States Parties: the relationship between technology sharing, commercial trade and export restrictions. The current debate has two focal points: first, disagreement over the role of existing export controls in the Protocol regime, and second, the proposal to establish a Cooperation Committee in the international implementing organisation of the Protocol, to promote the effective implementation of Article VII of the Protocol.

Role of Existing Export Controls

Central to the current Article VII debate on existing export controls is the role of the Australia Group, an informal arrangement set up in the mid-1980s with the object of obstructing international transfers of dual-use goods or technologies into chemical or biological armament programmes. Such transfers, from private western and Asian companies, had enabled Iraq to use blister and nerve gases against Iran and, later, its own population. The Australia Group comprises the following countries, all of which are also States Parties to the BWC: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.3 The Australia Group is an informal arrangement to coordinate the national export controls of participating countries and to harmonize their implementation, which it does in part by facilitating the sharing of intelligence information, and by sharing information on export requests that have been denied.4 The national export controls are typically in the form of state regulations prohibiting the export of particular goods to particular countries unless an export licence has first been granted, the application for which must have disclosed such details as the identity of the importing agency or company. An effect of the Australia Group is to improve the quality of the input into this licensing process by national intelligence authorities. Another effect is to diminish the probability of a participating country that is not very good at implementing export controls thereby creating a loophole in the overall control system. The states that comprise the Australia Group determine the listed dual-use goods according to internally agreed criteria, as well as the countries that might in the future join the Group. For this reason, some non-members regard the Australia Group as arbitrary and discriminatory - a club of the rich dictating to developing states.

The debate over export controls can be summed up as disagreement over whether or not the Australia Group should continue to operate after the entry into force of the Protocol. This issue is dividing certain elements of the NAM, such as India, Iran and Pakistan plus China - who are opposed to the continuation of the Australia Group - and the Western Group, who are committed to its continuation.5

The above mentioned countries are driving the debate, couching their position in terms of a wider argument focussing on measures proposed for inclusion in Section C of Article VII of the Rolling Text on "Measures to Avoid Hampering the Economic and Technological Development of States Parties", which currently includes suggested language on the relationship of the Protocol to existing regimes involving technology transfers. This aims to refer to existing export control regimes, with text suggesting that states should commit themselves to not maintaining any regimes which restrict trade in activities that the Protocol rules as legitimate.

While all of the NAM recognise the need for national export controls as an impediment to proliferation, India, Iran and Pakistan plus China argue that when the Protocol enters into force, States Parties should be able to trust each other sufficiently that multilateral arrangements like the Australia Group will be redundant within the Protocol framework. These elements also suggest that the continuation of the Australia Group is antithetical to the aims of the Protocol, in that the workings of the Australia Group restrict their access to materials for legitimate purposes, and so threaten to hamper their economic development.6 Although they accept that all export controls involve some degree of discrimination, allowing for the export of certain goods to some countries and not to others, opponents of the Australia Group view it as particularly discriminatory, maintaining that its strictures usually comprise prevention of exports from developed countries to developing countries. A further objection to the Australia Group is that its decision-making processes are not transparent and cannot be appealed against.

Furthermore, experience from the negotiation and implementation of the CWC is influencing the attitude of some NAM countries to the Australia Group. A similar debate about the continued relevance of the Australia Group was evident during the negotiation of the CWC. Although the Australia Group is not expressly mentioned in the CWC, during the endgame all Australia Group participants undertook to review the operation of Group activities in conjunction with implementation of the CWC. Many NAM countries are angered by the fact that in more than two and a half years since entry into force of the Convention, the Australia Group has not been seen to change its mechanisms. However, it is important to bear in mind that, since the Australia Group does not publicise its mechanisms, any changes may not be evident to countries external to the Australia Group.

In addition, opposition to the Australia Group is expressed in terms of more general perceived problems with the negotiation and implementation of multilateral arms control agreements. In this line of reasoning, the achievement of the Protocol is frequently depicted as only serving the interests of the West. According to this view, the risks of biological warfare are most keenly felt by the West. While achievement of the non-proliferation goals of the Protocol would bring with it security benefits to all nations, the risk of biological weapons is not perceived with equal urgency around the world. Many developing countries have more immediate security risks than the threat of potential biological warfare proliferation and use, in terms of natural disasters, for example natural epidemics, and man-made problems, for example the problems arising from regional conflicts, or small arms proliferation. Accompanying this view, that the achievement of the non-proliferation aspects of the Protocol will not serve all countries equally, is the idea that the terms of the Protocol could be inherently discriminatory. In this context, it is clear that legacies from past international arms control and disarmament regimes are playing an adverse role. Notably, in addition to the perceived failure of the nuclear-weapon States (NWS) to make sufficient progress toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons in keeping with their obligations under the NPT, some refer to problems with the CWC.7

In contrast, many in the Western Group are convinced of the continued need for the Australia Group, and are simply not prepared to enter into any discussion that threatens its future. They argue that, even when the Protocol enters into force, ratification will be no guarantee of compliance. In addition, they reason that after entry into force it will take some time for the Protocol to be fully implemented, using their experience of the CWC as an example. Although many aspects of the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are in place, several countries have still not fully implemented their basic obligations to the Convention. Indeed many of the NAM that have traditionally been opposed to the Australia Group have apparently not even enacted the domestic implementing legislation which the CWC requires of them. The Western Group argues that, following this pattern, even when the BWC Protocol enters into force it may take many years to be fully implemented, and until it is, additional safeguards are needed to minimise the risk of biological warfare proliferation. In this context, Western governments argue that they have to maintain the Australia Group to maintain their security provisions. Some consider that there is no need to discuss the Australia Group in the Ad Hoc Group, since the Australia Group and the emerging Protocol are independent.

The very inclusion of provisions addressing existing export control regimes is itself not universally recognised as being appropriate for Article VII. Western Group delegates especially dispute this, since Article VII is primarily concerned with promoting technical co-operation. Export controls are dealt with elsewhere in the Protocol and in the Convention inasmuch as States Parties are obliged to maintain national export control arrangements in order to promote the anti-proliferation purposes of the Convention. Thus, in Article III of the Convention, each State Party to the BWC, "… undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international organizations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in Article I of this Convention", and Section F of Article III of the Protocol (which is currently in square brackets) offers guidelines for transferring dual-use items. In other words, the Convention and the Protocol both put States Parties under an obligation to maintain national export controls.

The debate on the future role of export controls was moved forward by the submission of a NAM Working Paper on "Measures to Strengthen the Implementation of Article III of the Convention"8 on the last day of the Sixteenth Session (September 13 - October 8, 1999). The working paper acknowledged the importance of the Convention's Article III obligations for States Parties not to transfer materials intended for purposes prohibited by the Convention and Protocol, while calling on the Ad Hoc Group to avoid "measures that hamper the peaceful economic and technological development of States Parties". It is clear that this is a relatively moderate expression by the NAM group, and does not reflect the national positions of all NAM countries. Many in the Western Group saw the NAM paper as a breakthrough, in that it is a non-confrontational statement with a great degree of flexibility in how its countries are prepared to deal with the subject of export controls, and thus a genuine opportunity for the whole of the Ad Hoc Group to engage on this difficult topic. It is understood that some of these countries hoped that the Western Group would respond at the Seventeenth Session with a statement of equal flexibility. However, it is clear that others in the Western Group are not prepared to address this issue, and as a result no progress was made on technology transfers at the Seventeenth Session. Progress on this issue is not expected to be easily achieved.

The Cooperation Committee

The second emphasis of the debate on Article VII is the proposal to establish a Cooperation Committee within the organisation appointed to oversee implementation of the Protocol, which would coordinate and promote effective and full implementation of Article X of the Convention and Article VII of the Protocol. This has gradually come to be accepted by all the Ad Hoc Group, with the exception of the US, which is waiting to see the details of what the proposal would entail before stating its position. But disagreement remains as to the structure and role of the Cooperation Committee, and the powers allocated to it.

A small group of Western Group countries made a move on this issue during the Seventeenth Session. Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK circulated a 'non-paper' containing suggested language for the operation of the Cooperation Committee, dated 29 November 1999. This paper outlines the possible functioning of the Cooperation Committee, including details of its relative positioning within the hierarchy of the implementing organisation, and the relative weight of its capacity for making recommendations. Although the paper gives the Cooperation Committee weaker powers than would be preferred by the NAM, the majority of the NAM viewed the paper as a useful first step towards real engagement on this issue, in that its very presence recognises the importance of the question of a Cooperation Committee, and gives a certain degree of credibility to the idea.

Article III: Compliance Measures

Further to this work on Article VII, the Seventeenth Session spent the majority of its time discussing aspects of Article III Compliance Measures, the part of the Rolling Text that provides mechanisms by which States Parties to the Protocol will be able to gain confidence in the compliance of other States Parties. There are three main areas where fundamental controversy remains in Article III, namely in the parts of the Rolling Text that deal with Declarations, Investigations and Visits. These are all issues which are fundamental to the success of the Ad Hoc Group in achieving a successful Protocol, and the disagreements reflect the different visions and aims that States Parties have for the Protocol, based in part on their different perceptions of the risk of biological warfare.

Declarations

Declarations are the means by which States Parties submit information on facilities identified as relevant to the Protocol, including inter alia their involvement in activities and with materials deemed to be of relevance to the Protocol. One particular purpose of declarations is to understand the distribution of the legitimate existence of specified dual-use goods, activities and equipment, so that the undeclared presence of any such items might represent non-compliance with the basic prohibitions of the Protocol.9 There is a general recognition in the Ad Hoc Group that declarations are an essential component of Article III Compliance Measures, providing transparency in legitimate activities and building confidence in the regime. The Ad Hoc Group's work on composing appropriate declaration procedures has been divided into two parts: looking at the triggers that will define which facilities will be covered by declarations, and devising the declaration forms to be completed and submitted. Although inevitably the two aspects are intertwined, to the extent that it is difficult to consider what to declare without fully understanding who will be asked to declare it and vice versa, the discussions on the declaration forms have made far steadier progress than the discussions on the declaration triggers. At the Seventeenth Session, the debate on the declaration triggers revealed core differences in States Parties' attitudes to their desired scope for the Protocol's means of monitoring compliance.

The challenge to the Ad Hoc Group in developing appropriate declaration triggers is to define facilities that have legitimate purposes for dual-use goods, equipment and activities deemed of particular relevance to potential biological weapons purposes. The difficulty in doing so stems from the fact that the dual-use materials, equipment and techniques necessary to make biological weapons overlap to a great extent with a large array of civilian activities. While it is not considered feasible to aspire to include all the facilities that employ dual-use equipment or techniques in a declaration regime, the pervasiveness of tools and techniques that might be needed to make biological weapons demands declaration triggers that are flexible enough to include a range of activities, as well as clear enough to be implemented unambiguously.

In general, there have been two ways of thinking about means of devising particular declaration triggers. The first is to attempt to define triggers in accordance with existing definitions of containment practices at different facilities - that is, the practices of containing input and output from particular facilities, for example through filtered air supplies, air locks on entry, etc. This approach piggybacks on existing classification systems for health and safety controls, such as that of the World Health Organisation which defines categories of Biosafety Levels (BL) for the containment levels thought necessary for working with different biological materials. BL4 is classed as the highest containment level, and BL3 as the second highest level. The second general approach is to base declaration triggers on particular processes of relevance to the Protocol.

During the Ad Hoc Group's Seventeenth Session there was a general level of acceptance of several broadly defined categories of triggers to demarcate the facilities that would need to be declared in the Protocol regime, although there was disagreement on the definitions for these categories. These included facilities involved in biodefence work, facilities working with BL4 containment levels, facilities involved in vaccine production, and facilities that work with particular agents and toxins listed in a separate annex of the Rolling Text. But debate focussed on defining the category of Other Production Facilities, where differences in opinion were both more divergent and more entrenched. China and the Western Group represented the two extremes in this debate on declaration triggers. China, feeling that the scope of the trigger on other production facilities is too wide, reportedly wanted to restrict the trigger to those other production facilities that operate at BL3 levels of containment. In addition, China would like to see a separate trigger for BL3 facilities included in the Protocol in its own right. It is understood that the reason for China's attachment to BL3 as a trigger for making a declaration is that this carries a clear-cut definition that will identify relevant facilities. This position seems to be based on a rationale that the Protocol will only be able to monitor the activities of states - rather than activities at the sub-state level - and any state that would be planning an illicit offensive programme would be more likely to locate such a programme in a facility with at least BL3 levels of containment.

Underlying some of the disagreements between the Western Group and China on interpreting the Other Production Facilities trigger, are insights into the history of past biological warfare programmes, and differences in the nature of the affected industry around the world. First of all, the Western Group argues that to concentrate declarations triggers too closely on containment levels is misleading, since past offensive biological warfare programmes were conducted without any formal containment levels. Thus a potential proliferator would not have to locate an illicit programme at a site with any containment, and not doing so would not necessarily endanger the health and safety of workers or the environment. Furthermore, the Western Group finds the concept of any triggers based on a BL3 definition unacceptable and impractical. The balance of the number of BL3 facilities is heavily weighted towards countries in the West, so a BL3 trigger would have the implication of producing a set of declarations similarly weighted towards the West. It is understood that China acknowledges this implication, but feels it is appropriate; since the majority of resources are in the West, China postulates the most likely risk of illicit biological warfare proliferation comes from the West.

The fact that countries from the Western Group have such a relatively large number of BL3 facilities may in itself reflect a difference in the way the related industry is regulated in different parts of the world. Some industry in the West is obliged to operate at BL3 levels of containment to conform to domestic health and safety regulations; a BL3 containment practice does not necessarily reflect that a facility is employing technologies or techniques of particular interest to the Protocol. Moreover, in many Western countries industries operating at BL3 levels of containment are already closely monitored nationally. Although such indigenous regulation does not have an international component, and so might not necessarily inspire confidence in the legitimacy of the BL3 facilities among other states, it does enhance the West's analysis that a BL3 trigger would not be a particularly relevant category to monitor through declarations, and also that inclusion of such a trigger would not be an effective use of the resources of the international implementing organisation.

Investigations

Investigations, in the Rolling Text, are the mechanisms by which States Parties can conduct on-site examinations at short notice in cases of suspected non-compliance. Two different types of investigation have been identified as necessary for the Protocol regime: facility investigations, whereby states could investigate a facility suspected of hosting an illicit biological weapons programme, and field investigations, whereby states could investigate an area where it was suspected that biological weapons had been used. There is a lot of agreement on most of the sections of the Rolling Text on investigations, which are remarkably free from the square brackets that reflect the alternative formulations for desired text by different states. But the Seventeenth Session addressed two areas of fundamental disagreement: the means by which investigations might be invoked, and the newly identified issue of the process by which a field investigation might transition to become a facility investigation.

It was widely recognised at the Seventeenth Session that the prospect for further progress on these two issues was extremely limited in the current stage of the negotiating format, that is, discussion based on the Rolling Text; and it was felt that these issues would not be resolved until the production of a Chair's Text, i.e. a text produced by the Chair which eliminates most of the brackets and anticipates likely acceptable compromises. In this context it is interesting to note that the last scheduled Friend of the Chair

meeting on Investigations at the Seventeenth Session was cancelled, which would indicate that the discussion was not progressing. (In fact, there was concern among some States Parties that had this meeting happened the discussions may well have become counter-productive, with the reintroduction of square brackets).

The division over the appropriate means for invoking an investigation separates those states favouring a 'red light' mechanism from those who would prefer a 'green light' mechanism. Both of these terms refer to the means whereby the Executive Council of the international implementing organisation will decide whether or not to proceed once a state party has requested an investigation, and both rely on the Executive Council deciding by a majority vote, with the necessary majority tightly defined. If a 'red light' mechanism were chosen, an investigation would proceed unless the Executive Council voted by a specific majority against doing so. On the other hand, with a 'green light' mechanism, an investigation would proceed only if the Executive Council voted by a specific majority to undertake the investigation. The problem in deciding between these alternatives is that the Ad Hoc Group needs to construct a system of invoking investigations that will deter frivolous challenges, but that will be able to proceed with investigations in genuine cases of suspected non-compliance.

The subject of potential cases of field investigation which may require access to particular facilities, and how to construct appropriate mechanisms for a field investigation to transition to become a facility investigation, was a difficult and contentious issue at the Seventeenth Session. There are a couple of provisions that need to be resolved in this area of the Rolling Text. The most problematic of these concerns possible cases in which a field investigation might clearly indicate that a particular facility was the source of the suspected contamination. This position is informed to a great extent by the Sverdlovsk incident, in which an unusual outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union in 1979 in the vicinity of a previously known military biological facility gave rise to suspicions that the facility was engaged in illicit biological weapons activities. However there is nervousness about giving the investigation team too many powers to promote the transition from a field investigation to a facility investigation, in that field investigations might thus provide quicker and easier access to sensitive facilities than a facility investigation. Several NAM countries - including India, Iran, Pakistan and China - are particularly anxious about this.

Visits

The Rolling Text envisages visits as on-site activities following the submission of declarations, providing mechanisms for building confidence that declarations are complete and accurate. Different types of visits have been proposed to fulfil several specific functions, perhaps the most important of which is the role of deterring illicit activities. All the proposed types of visit have typically been the source of contention in the Ad Hoc Group within and between the different negotiating caucuses. Such disagreements continued to be a problem at the Seventeenth Session, where the differences in states' ideas for visits particularly focussed on the proposed provisions for clarification visits - i.e. visits to clarify declarations, and randomly-selected visits - i.e. infrequent mandatory visits to facilities selected on a random basis as a follow up to declarations. During the Sixteenth Session it became clear that the issue of visits was causing political problems within the Western Group, and these problems continued during the Seventeenth Session, where it was evident that there are still differences within the Western Group on the necessary provisions for randomly-selected visits, and between the Western Group and the NAM on the necessary provisions for clarification visits.

The Western Group favours developing an intrusive system of measures to monitor compliance. The majority interpret this as requiring strong provisions for randomly-selected visits, although it is understood that this majority has not necessarily included the US, Japan and to a lesser extent Germany, although with the development of common European positions favouring intrusive compliance measures Germany has come to accept such provisions more and more. The resistance of these three countries to the inclusion of strong randomly-selected visits is understandable given that their analysis suggests that the burden of most of these visits will fall on them, since they have the largest relevant industry, and, in the case of the US, the biggest biodefence programme.

Britain attempted to bridge this gap, suggesting a compromise at the Sixteenth Session within the Western Group. The majority felt that Britain's suggested 'transparency visits' (a proposed alternative to randomly-selected visits) were too weak, although the US felt they were too strong. (The US initially stated that it could not accept Britain's compromise paper, then made it known that if everyone else in the Western Group accepted the paper it would too). Subsequently, considerable pressure was exerted on states to accept the proposed compromise. It is understood that, while Britain would favour a more rigorous approach to randomly-selected visits, it is also concerned to find constructive suggestions to get the right overall balance in the package of different sorts of visits.

Also at the Sixteenth Session, the NAM submitted a working paper on a package of visits, which included stronger measures for randomly-selected visits than Britain's proposed compromise paper.10 Although it is understood that this paper is not agreed to in all its provisions by China, the production of the paper signalled a great success for the NAM - indicating that South Africa, as coordinator, had achieved some sort of agreement within the group on a very contentious issue. Meanwhile, in the context of the Western Group differences over the scope of randomly-selected visits, the NAM working paper presented a means for those states in the Western Group unhappy with the less rigorous suggestion for compromise to register their discontent more publicly. But the NAM working paper also contained elements that are unacceptable to the whole of the Western Group, in that it contained provisions for that would allow voluntary visits (i.e. visits initiated voluntarily by the state party to be visited, in order to clarify a problem or to provide assistance) to eat up the quota of other visits in any given year, and also because it contained weaker provisions for clarification visits than had previously been deemed acceptable to many in the Western Group - including the US. The Western Group want clarification visits to be a mandatory conclusion to clarification procedures which have failed to clear up discrepancies about particular declarations, and argue that the Protocol must include the possibility that clarification visits can be applied to facilities that have not submitted declarations, as well as those that have. Many in the NAM are anxious that clarification visits provide more access to facilities on their territories, and would prefer that they should only be conducted on a voluntary basis, and that they should only be applied to facilities that have submitted declarations. They also argue that if States Parties were concerned that a relevant facility was not included in a declaration, or a perceived problem was not resolved through consultation procedures, or there was a failure to volunteer to host a clarification visit, they could instigate an investigation against the facility.

Following the introduction of the NAM paper on visits, some Western Group states, including Australia, New Zealand, Norway and the Netherlands, publicly welcomed the NAM paper on the floor of the Ad Hoc Group, as providing a helpful contribution to stimulating negotiations on this difficult issue. Others in the Western Group were not pleased by this, particularly the US which is anxious that the Western Group presents a united front on this and other issues. US officials reportedly depicted those elements of the Western Group that supported the NAM paper as having endorsed the paper's weaker measures for clarification visits. (It is understood that the US is particularly keen to maintain an image of a united Western Group because it fears its own position may isolate it, revealing how close many of its actual positions are to those of China and India). The US and some other Western states now claim that the debate on visits has shifted from randomly-selected visits to clarification visits, wishful thinking that some interpret as manoeuvring by the US to deflect attention away from the impression that the US is rather isolated within the Western Group on matters of visits.

The NAM paper reportedly changed the dynamics within the Western Group in several ways. The fact that the NAM could get enough consensus to produce such a carefully argued paper was a dramatic success, and has enhanced the recognition of deep divisions among the Western Group. Many feel that, because of the spectrum of views in the Western Group and the NAM, issue based alliances might be a more effective mechanism for consensus-building. The NAM working paper has now been incorporated into the language of the Rolling Text. At the Eighteenth Session, in addition to finding solutions to the differences between and within the Western Group and the NAM, the Ad Hoc Group must address the selection mechanisms for visits.

Conclusions

Although there were no major breakthroughs at the Seventeenth Session, progress was made in finding solutions to less contentious measures. This should be recognised as a success, not least because it has set the stage for a good start to the Eighteenth Session, scheduled for January 17 - February 4, 2000.

It is expected that, at least for the first two sessions of 2000, progress will continue to be incremental on many measures. Many feel that for several of the most difficult issues only limited progress is possible from discussions based on the Rolling Text, and fundamental breakthroughs will only transpire once the negotiations have moved on to discussion of a Chair's Text. At the same time, there are concerns that a premature Chair's text could exacerbate present difficulties, and that the time will not be right for this before April 2000.

BWC Ad Hoc Session Dates for 2000

Eighteenth Session, January 17 to February 4; Nineteenth Session, March 3 to 13;

Twentieth Session, July 10 to August 4;

Twenty-First Session, November 13 to 24.

There is also the possibility of scheduling a further two-week meeting if necessary in the second half of 2000.

Notes and References:

1. BTWC/AD HOC GROUP/WP.402, September 22, 1999.

2. See "The BTWC Protocol: The Debate About Visits", Henrietta Wilson, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue 40, September/October 1999.

3. The CBW Conventions Bulletin, No 46, December 1999, p 33.

4. "Biological Weapons: Easy to produce and difficult to control", Alexander Kelle, Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No 35, June 1998, pp18-21.

5. There are three regional groups in the Ad Hoc Group. The Western Group, the Eastern European Group and the NAM and Other Countries Group. The Western Group consists of all western European countries, Turkey, Argentina, US, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. The Eastern European Group consists of former Warsaw Pact countries (including Hungary and Poland). The NAM and other countries Group consists of all the traditional Non-Aligned countries (mostly developing nations) as well as China, Brazil and Mexico.

6. "Complementary Measures Inside and Outside the Framework of the BWC", Hassan Mashhadi, in Susan Wright (ed), "Current Problems of Biological Warfare and Disarmament", preprint of Symposium published in Politics and the Life Sciences, March 1999.

7. There are two relevant problems cited in connection with the CWC, the first being the unequal way it has been implemented; most frequently mentioned in this respect is the fact that the US included several restrictions in its domestic implementing legislation which unilaterally reduce the scope of the verification provisions of the treaty. The second cited problem is the perceived inadequacy of the final compromise achieved in the CWC's Article XI - Economic and Technological Development.

8. Ad Hoc Group of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, "Working paper submitted by the NAM and Other States; Statement on Behalf of the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States; Measures to Strengthen the Implementation of Article III of the Convention", BWC/AD HOC GROUP/WP.407.

9. "Routine and Challenge: Two Pillars of Verification", Douglas J MacEachin, The CBW Conventions Bulletin, No 39, March 1998.

10. Op Cit, BTWC/AD HOC GROUP/WP.402, 1999.

Henrietta Wilson attended the Seventeenth Session of the Ad Hoc Group of the BWC in Geneva (November 22 - December 10, 1999) on behalf of the Acronym Institute and VERTIC.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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