Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 82, Spring 2006
Practical Steps for Accelerating BWC Universality
After 30 years, the membership of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) stands at 155. While this is a clear majority of the countries of the world, the BWC is lagging behind its closest counterpart, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) with its 178 member states. The fact that membership of the BWC has not even doubled since the original call for universality at its First Review Conference in 1980 suggests that the time is ripe for the Sixth Review Conference in November/December this year to consider new approaches to achieving universality.
The issue of universality for all WMD treaties has increased in salience in recent years. Some treaties have adopted new approaches and reaped the benefits. The BWC, lacking any mechanism to conduct a sustained universality campaign, has been unable to do so. The Sixth BWC Review Conference presents an opportunity for States Parties to supplement the traditional approach with new mechanisms which could provide increased pressure on a sustained basis. Other treaties such as the CWC and the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) can provide useful experience.
The current situation
The BWC entered into force on 26 March 1975 and by the end of that year had 64 member states. Achieving universality has been a long-stated aim of states parties and a concern of BWC review conferences since 1980, when the Final Declaration of the First Review Conference, issued March 21, 1980, included the following: "The Conference notes with satisfaction that 81 States have ratified the Convention, 6 States have acceded to the Convention and a further 37 States have signed but have yet to ratify the Convention. The Conference calls upon all signatory States which have not ratified the Convention to do so without delay and upon those States which have not signed the Convention to join the States Parties thereto in the efforts to eliminate the risk of biological warfare."
Similar exhortations to signatory and non-signatory states were included in all subsequent final declarations. It has taken thirty years for membership to reach 155 (see annexed status list).
The table above shows how, since entering into force in 1997, the CWC has caught up with and overtaken the BWC in terms of ratifications, while the BWC has stagnated around the 150-mark. Of course, both the CWC and CTBT benefit from something that the BWC lacks, namely mechanisms (in both cases permanent secretariats) which can run intensive universality campaigns. In addition, the CWC incorporates positive and negative incentives for states to join the treaty in the form of access to technology and assistance and restrictions on transfers of chemicals to non-states parties.
The opportunity to establish a permanent organisation for the BWC has passed and is unlikely to return in the foreseeable future. The CWC and CTBT also benefit from having the UN Secretary-General as their depositary, which has made the formal requirements of ratifications and accessions by new members more straightforward than for the BWC, where the depositary duties are shared among the US, UK and Russian governments.
It appears that universality could be an issue on which the Sixth Review Conference might be able to agree action. Calling for universality is something which ought to be difficult to oppose, while the history of the BWC plus recent experience from other treaties demonstrates that a new approach is needed.
In 2003, the European Union (EU) adopted a Common Position, stating that it will "make specific efforts to convince States which have not yet adhered to or ratified the [BWC] to do so without delay". A Canadian non-paper in 2005 cited the "lack of universality" as one challenge facing the BWC and states that "States Parties should continue to push for the complete universalization of the [BWC] prior to the Sixth Review Conference." The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office envisages "agreement on practical strategies for universalisation of the Convention" in 2006. In February 2006, the EU adopted a Joint Action on the BWC, which stated that the Sixth Review Conference "will be a good opportunity to agree on specific, practical and realistic measures to strengthen both the [BWC] and compliance with it." It would appear then, that at least some BWC states parties are receptive to new thinking on universality.
Lessons from the CWC and CTBT
The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Rogelio Pfirter, told the First Committee in October 2005 that the CWC is "the fastest growing disarmament treaty in history Although the rate of ratifications and accessions to the CWC slowed in 2001-02, largely due to resource limitations, its growth has been remarkable and is a testament to the combined efforts of states parties and the Technical Secretariat. The OPCW has long operated an innovative approach to universality. As Sergey Batsanov has described, this utilises "long-term planning, in-depth analysis, careful and non-traditional diplomacy (including unique coalition-building), rapid reaction to changing circumstances and continuity of efforts".
Building on this experience, OPCW universality efforts stepped up a gear in October 2003 with the adoption by the Executive Council (on recommendation from the First Review Conference) of an "Action Plan for the Universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention". The table above suggests that the action plan had the desired effect: the number of states which had neither signed nor ratified the CWC fell from 40 in October 2003 to 16 by the end of February 2006. The table above suggests that the action plan had the desired effect: the number of states which had neither signed nor ratified the CWC fell from 40 in October 2003 to 16 by the end of February 2006.
In terms of concrete steps, the action plan called for the designation of "points of contact" on universality, the selection of a Technical Secretariat (TS) official as the focal point for implementation and coordination within the TS (the Director of the External Relations Division Mr Liu Zhixian) and the preparation of an annual comprehensive document on planned activities. There is also a facilitator within the Executive Council who convenes regular informal consultations on the action plan.
In addition, the action plan highlighted the importance of outreach to regional and sub-regional groupings. This approach seems to have been particularly successful with the TS's report on universality to the tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP), stressing the "excellent cooperation" with such organisations, including the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the League of Arab States and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Cooperation with the EU led to the adoption in November 2004 of an EU Joint Action under which the OPCW received €200,000 to organise universality-related events in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The Joint Action was renewed in December 2005 with the EU contributing a further €126,000 to universality-related activities. In February 2006, the African Union and the TS signed a memorandum of understanding to serve as a basis for cooperation between the two organizations, including the organization of universality-related events. In the note forwarding the MoU to states parties, the Director-General points out that cooperation with regional organizations "has generally improved the effectiveness of universality-related efforts."
The OPCW has also received voluntary financial contributions towards its universality-related activities from states parties. The TS submitted reports to the eighth (2003) and ninth (2004) sessions of the CSP, and the tenth session (2005) reviewed implementation of the action plan and took further decisions aimed at accelerating universality. In addition to continuing with the action plan and related activities, the CSP adopted universality targets aimed at increasing CWC membership to 180 by the end of 2006 and achieving full universality by 2007, the tenth anniversary of the CWC's entry into force. A related measure was the decision to establish April 29th as a day of remembrance for all victims of chemical warfare and to dedicate a memorial in The Hague to them. This is intended to increase awareness of the importance of the CWC in banning chemical weapons.
Like the CWC, the CTBT benefits from having a permanent secretariat which can undertake a sustained universality campaign. It must be made clear however, that since not all "Annex 2" states (those 44 states which formally participated in the 1996 session of the Conference on Disarmament, and possess either nuclear power or research reactors) have ratified the CTBT, the treaty has not yet entered into force. However, activities undertaken by CTBT states signatories and the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) to encourage entry into force are similar to those carried out by the OPCW.
Of particular interest is the mechanism under Article XIV of the CTBT to accelerate its entry into force. Under this provision, the ratifying states have so far requested the UN Secretary-General to convene four conferences (in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005) to "decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty".
The BWC has no need for such a provision as it has already been in force for 30 years. However, some of the "measures to promote the entry into force" of the CTBT adopted by the conferences might be of relevance to the BWC.
Each of the CTBT Article XIV conferences has decided to select one particular country as coordinator to "promote cooperation to facilitate the early entry into force of the Treaty, through informal consultations with all interested countries". To date these coordinators have been Japan (1999), Mexico (2001), Finland (2003) and Australia (2005). Alongside these, from 2003 the conferences have also appointed "regional coordinators" who have enabled the question of CTBT ratification to be kept on the agenda of various regional summits.
From its 2003 session onwards, the conference also decided to appoint a Special Representative to "assist the coordinating State". Ambassador Jaap Ramaker of the Netherlands was chosen as Special Representative for the CTBT in 2003, and reselected in 2005. Ramaker's role is to "provide states signatories and non-signatories with information on the significance of the treaty in the wider context of nuclear arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation, with a view to promoting the early entry into force of the CTBT." He reported to the 2005 conference that he had visited China, Pakistan and Vietnam to encourage them to ratify the CTBT.
In addition, the conferences have requested the PTS to act as "a 'focal point' where information about activities undertaken by ratifiers and signatories is collected." In fulfilment of this provision, the PTS submitted to the 2005 Article XIV Conference a report containing a detailed listing of all activities by signatory and ratifying states including demarches, meetings between officials, sponsorship of resolutions, workshops, ministerial statements and so on. Following some disagreement at its 2003 session, the 2005 Conference also agreed to consider the establishment of a trust fund, financed through voluntary contributions, to support an outreach programme.
Options for the BWC Review Conference
If BWC states parties are to give real meaning to their consistent calls for universal adherence to the Convention then new approaches are required to accelerate BWC universality. Given that the measures described above seem to have had some success for the CWC and CTBT, perhaps similar measures, suitably adapted, could be adopted by the Sixth Review Conference.
Universality action plan
It has already been suggested elsewhere that the Review Conference should agree an action plan similar to that adopted by the OPCW. This approach would have the benefit of being relatively uncontroversial if it was primarily an exhortation to states parties and those not party; as such it might not be difficult for the Review Conference to reach consensus. However, such a plan would not represent much progress on the current situation. More effective would be a universality action plan linked to arrangements which could provide sustained effort, continued analysis and proper follow-up and which could employ a combination of diplomatic tools.
Whether as part of an action plan or not, the following elements offer useful ways forward:
At its tenth session (2005), the OPCW CSP took the action plan concept a stage further by fixing set deadlines for universality targets to be achieved. Deadlines are something with which CWC states parties are familiar, and it is clear that setting targets can concentrate minds and increase pressure. At their simplest, they provide a timeframe within which a certain action is to be completed. Apart from an apparent lack of awareness and urgency, there is no real reason why most states that have joined the CWC could not also ratify the BWC.
Deadlines at least inject a sense of urgency into the process. For example, the Sixth Review Conference might consider adopting a target of BWC universality by the Seventh Review Conference. Or perhaps incremental goals such as five new states parties every year would be more practical. The setting of such goals would have to be negotiated, but it is hoped that the Review Conference would be able to find consensus.
Coordinator, regional coordinators and/or special representative
The appointment of a designated state with specific responsibility for increasing BWC universality, particularly if combined with regional coordinators and/or a special representative as with the CTBT, could be an effective mechanism for sustaining pressure on non-states parties at a high level and increasing awareness of the BWC at a regional and sub-regional level. It would also not be particularly costly. On the other hand, these proposals might be thought too specific to the CTBT Article XIV process to be replicated in the BWC, or the three BWC depositary governments might not appreciate the implicit assumption that they have not been sufficiently active.
Nevertheless, such an approach would increase the visibility of the BWC on the international scene and the Special Representative could act as the 'face' of the Convention for non-states parties. Personal diplomacy on an informal basis can often be more effective than formal exhortations for states to join a treaty. However, due attention should be paid to this warning from Ambassador Ramaker: "the appointment of a Special Representative to promote the ratification process is no magic formula. After all I cannot act as a substitute for a genuine political commitment at the political, if not the highest political, level to further the ratification process."
While activities undertaken solely within the BWC would be an improvement on the current situation, it might be more effective to convene joint missions with other international organisations. Experience from the OPCW could be instructive here. In its background paper to the First CWC Review Conference, the TS stated that efforts towards universality could benefit from "cooperation with other international organisations and agencies, in particular the UN, and the synchronisation of activities of common interest in order to create a synergy of purpose." While it has previously been argued that international organisations guard their turf jealously, perhaps recent cross-WMD initiatives such as UNSC Resolution 1540 and the EU Strategy Against the Proliferation of WMD are breaking down such attitudes.
In August 2004, for example, the OPCW conducted a bilateral visit to Myanmar/Burma in conjunction with DDA, IAEA and the CTBTO. Perhaps BWC coordinators or the special representative could take part in future joint missions involving states not party to the BWC. The annexed status list illustrates just how many signatory and non-signatory states are shared between the Geneva Protocol, the BWC, the CWC and the CTBT. Frequently, states ratify a number of related treaties at the same time. For example, when ratifying the CWC, states might also ratify the CTBT. However, a number of reasons (different depositaries, age of the treaty, ignorance of the treaty, lack of pressure to ratify and so on) mean that the BWC often gets forgotten in these decisions. For example, just recently three states joined the CWC (Djibouti, Haiti and Liberia), all of which are only signatories to the BWC. If these states could have been made aware of the BWC at the same time as they were urged to ratify the CWC, the BWC might well have picked up three new states parties for the expenditure of relatively little effort, as well as saving time and resources within those countries approached.
The concept might also be worth broadening beyond coordinating bilateral visits; for example many of the participants in an OPCW workshop might also be responsible for the BWC within their own countries. Why not take advantage of their being in one place to also discuss the BWC? While this would not be able to be formally done under the OPCW's name or paid for by the OPCW, it might be possible to think of organising an extra day, which could either be organized and paid for by the host country or a different body, such as the EU or the UN. With its Joint Actions on the CWC and BWC, the EU is now funding universality workshops for both treaties. Perhaps the most effective use of limited funds might be to organize back-to-back meetings.
Such an approach might be extended further to include the Geneva Protocol, which lags behind even the BWC in terms of membership. Many states have implicitly accepted the Geneva Protocol by joining the BWC and CWC, but they should be encouraged to make their commitment explicit. Meanwhile, existing states parties need to be encouraged to withdraw their reservations. In many countries, the same officials are responsible for all 'WMD' treaties, so a joined-up approach would be both logical and cost-effective.
Voluntary Trust Fund
Any initiatives beyond the merely rhetorical are likely to cost money. The travel costs associated with coordinators, regional coordinators and special representatives - and perhaps even workshops - might be picked up by those states parties involved. However, the model of a trust fund financed by voluntary contributions, as adopted by the 2005 CTBT Article XIV Conference, has a lot to recommend it.
Such voluntary funding does not depend on the finite resources of the United Nations and avoids the problems and administrative burden that could arise if all states parties were required to contribute. It is clear from the OPCW that states are willing to contribute financially to universality activities, particularly in their own regions. The EU has just adopted a Joint Action on the BWC which provides €500,000 for universality activities. While welcome, it might be better for EU funding to be paid into a common pot open to others and overseen by staff who could then allocate it on the basis of BWC-determined priorities. Or alternatively, other states parties could be encouraged to contribute money to the body charged with implementing the BWC Joint Action.
Collaboration with civil society
The involvement of civil society is not a subject for a review conference decision, but should be considered, particularly with respect to individual states parties or regional organisations. While 'top-down' interventions can frequently produce results they can also be sporadic and rapidly forgotten. In contrast, if local civil society can be recruited and enabled to campaign for BWC membership through their media, parliament etc they can conduct a more sustained campaign and such nationally-run 'bottom-up' approaches might be better received by government officials than démarches from abroad. In addition, local groups often have better contacts within governments and are likely to understand the national political and legal processes better.
Ideally, a combined approach should be adopted, in which 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' interventions are coordinated. However, it can be problematic for states to be seen to be 'stirring up' NGOs in other states, so this will need to be finessed. Such approaches might be made by the coordinators or special representative, if appointed; or alternatively the EU might be able to provide some coordination and support along the lines of its 2004 action plan on the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC action plan states that the EU has been involved in funding awareness-raising campaigns led by NGOs, calls for the development of country or region-specific strategies and establishes an EU focal point on the ICC.
Even without coordination with states, civil society itself needs to adopt more innovative approaches to encouraging BWC universality. For example, the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (CICC) runs a universal ratification campaign in which it focuses on one state not party to the Rome Statute every month. The CICC's website gives information on the particular country, provides addresses for its leader, foreign minister and justice minister and gives a form letter for individuals to send. Perhaps the BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP) could run a similar campaign, ideally funded by the EU or a group of states parties. Of BWPP's current network members, one is in a BWC signatory state (Malawi) and another is in a BWC non-signatory state (Zambia). Further effort could be made to recruit network members in other non-states parties and encourage them to exert pressure on their governments.
A combination of some or all of the options listed above would go a long way towards accelerating BWC universality. Also worth considering is the idea of combining efforts to achieve universality with those to improve national implementation, as Sergey Batsanov has recommended. Membership of the BWC is an obvious prerequisite of national implementation, and the Convention is strengthened not just by bringing in new member states but by bringing in member states able to implement the BWC effectively. Especially in view of the requirements of UNSCR 1540, national implementation is currently a high-salience issue; within the BWC it was one of the five topics selected for discussion during the inter-sessional process. It might therefore be useful for the Sixth Review Conference to link the two issues when it considers them later this year.
For the past 30 years, the BWC has lacked a constant champion able to devote sustained and high-level energy to encouraging universality. The depositaries have done their bit, but the way in which the treaty has been overtaken, particularly by the CWC, illustrates that much more needs to be done. An action plan and deadlines would create the legitimacy and urgency for a campaign on BWC universality. Global and regional coordinators and a special representative would increase the visibility of the Convention and could act as 'foot soldiers' spreading the message. Their effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) would be increased if such outreach could be undertaken in synergy with other organisations such as the UN, the OPCW, the IAEA and the CTBTO. Finally, it should be stressed that the Convention does not just belong to its states parties and that civil society must actively support and be engaged in efforts to accelerate and achieve BWC universality.
 European Union, 'Council Common Position 2003/805/CFSP of 17 November 2003 on the universalisation and reinforcement of multilateral agreements in the field of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery', Official Journal of the European Union, L302/34, November 20, 2003.
 Canada: Canadian Non-Paper: Looking Forward to the 2006 BTWC Review Conference. Undated, 2006.
 Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, Annual Report 2004-2005, October 13, 2005, p. 68, on the internet at http://www.asno.dfat.gov.au/annual_report_0405/ASNO_2005_AR.pdf
 European Union, 'Council Joint Action 2006/184/CFSP of 27 February 2006 in support of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in the framework of the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction', Official Journal of the European Union, L 65/51, March 7, 2006.
 OPCW: 'Statement by HE Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons', October 10, 2005, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/ political/1com/1com05/statements/opcw10oct.pdf
 Sergey Batsanov, 'OPCW - What Next?', paper prepared for the 23rd workshop of the Pugwash Study Group on the Implementation of the CBW Conventions, Achieving a Successful Outcome of the Sixth Review Conference, December 3-4, 2005, Geneva.
 The action plan is reproduced as Annex II in: Scott Spence, 'Achieving Effective Action on Universality and National Implementation: The CWC Experience', Graham Pearson and Malcolm Dando (eds.), Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, Review Conference Paper No. 13 (April 2005).
 OPCW: 'Note by the Director-General: Further Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for the Universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention', EC-42/DG.7 C-10/DG.3, September 2, 2005.
 European Union, 'Council Joint Action 2004/797/CFSP of 22 November 2004 on support for OPCW activities in the framework of the implementation of the EU Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction', Official Journal of the European Union, L349/63, November 25, 2004.
 European Union, 'Council Joint Action 2005/913/CFSP of 12 December 2005 on support for OPCW activities in the framework of the implementation of the EU Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction', Official Journal of the European Union, L331/34, December 17, 2005.
 OPCW, "Note by the Director-General: Memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Technical Secretariat and the Commission of the African Union", S/547/2006, February 7, 2006.
 OPCW, 'Decision: Universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the implementation of the universality action plan', C-10/DEC.11, November 10, 2005.
 OPCW, 'Report of the tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties', C-10/5, November 11, 2005, p. 10.
 For the most recent Article XIV conference Final Declaration see: Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, 'Report of the Conference', CTBT-Art.XIV/2005/6, September 26, 2005, on the internet at ttp://www.ctbto.org/reference/article_xiv/2005/CTBT-Art-XIV-2005-6-E.pdf See also Daryl Kimball, 'Keeping Test Ban Hopes Alive: the 2005 CTBT Conference', Disarmament Diplomacy 81 (Winter 2005).
 In 2003, the following regional coordinators were appointed: For Africa - South Africa; For Eastern Europe - Ukraine; For Latin America - Chile and Venezuela; For North America and Western Europe - Austria, Canada and Spain; For South East Asia and Pacific - Japan, Korea and Philippines.
 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, 'Activities Undertaken by Signatory and Ratifying States Under Measure (k) of the Final Declaration of the 2003 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in the Period September 2003 - September 2005', CTBT - Art.XIV/2005/4, September 16, 2005, p. 18, on the internet at http://www.ctbto.org/reference/article_xiv/2005/CTBT-Art-XIV-2005-4.pdf
 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, 'Activities Undertaken by Signatory and Ratifying States Under Measure (k) of the Final Declaration of the 2003 Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in the Period September 2003 - September 2005', CTBT - Art.XIV/2005/4, September 16, 2005, on the internet at http://www.ctbto.org/reference/article_xiv/2005/CTBT-Art-XIV-2005-4.pdf
 Scott Spence, 'Achieving Effective Action on Universality and National Implementation: The CWC Experience', Graham Pearson and Malcolm Dando (eds.), Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, Review Conference Paper No. 13 (April 2005), Canada, 'Canadian Non-Paper: Looking Forward to the 2006 BTWC Review Conference', op. cit.
 OPCW: 'Decision: Universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Implementation of the Universality Action Plan', C-10/DEC.11, November 10, 2005.
 Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, 'Presentation by Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, Special Representative to promote the Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty', VERTIC seminar 'Facilitating the Early Entry into Force of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Overcoming Political and Technological Challenges', September 22, 2005, http://www.vertic.org/assets/VERTIC%20Seminar%20CTBT%2022%2009%2005.pdf
 For example, at an OPCW workshop in Addis Ababa in October 2005, six of the countries attending were signatories or non-signatories of the BWC. It is likely that the officials attending would be those responsible for BWC as well as CWC ratification.
 BWPP is a relatively new civil society coalition that describes itself as "a global civil society activity that tracks governmental and other behaviour under the treaties that codify the norm. It nurtures and is empowered by an international network, and acts both through that network and its publications." Its website is at http://www.bwpp.org.
 Batsanov, 'OPCW - What Next?', op. cit.
Daniel Feakes is a research fellow with the Harvard Sussex Program (HSP) on Chemical and Biological Weapons. He conducts research on chemical and biological disarmament and nonproliferation issues, and from 1997-2000 was the HSP researcher at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague.
This is a revised and updated version of a paper that Feakes first presented at the 23rd Workshop of the Pugwash Study Group on the 'Implementation of the CBW Conventions, Achieving a Successful Outcome of the Sixth Review Conference', held in Geneva from December 3-4, 2005.
Status of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, 1972 BWC, 1993 CWC and 1996 CTBT (as of March 9, 2006)
X = state party to treaty
* The UN recognizes 194 states as being capable of taking treaty actions in relation to treaties for which the UN is the depositary. These are the 191 member states of the UN, plus the observer state the Holy See and two non-members, the Cook Islands and Niue. Cook Islands is a state party to the CWC and CTBT, the Holy See is a state party to the GP, BWC, CWC and CTBT and Niue is a state party to the CWC.
© 2006 The Acronym Institute.