Washington, D.C. – July 9, 2009 – On Wednesday afternoon, July 8, 2009, Global Green USA partnered with the New America Foundation to host Dr. Piers Millet in a discussion entitled, "Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention." Piers Millet is one of three experts from the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit in Geneva, Switzerland, and spent time in Washington, D.C. in order to discuss the opportunity and necessity of better implementation strategies for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). His discussion regarding the BWC was flanked by dialogue with Dr. Paul Walker, Director of Global Green USA's Security & Sustainability Program, as well as the words of the New America Foundation's own Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative.
The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was signed in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. As of 2009, the BWC has over 160 States Parties, and in 2011, the Seventh Five-Year Review Conference will take place. Prior to and during the 2011 Review Conference, many issues such as confidence building measures (CBMs) will need to be assessed by both experts and States Parties. Although a broadly supported nonproliferation regime, the Biological Weapons Convention lacks an instrument to ensure compliance and verification within its member states. This is held in contrast to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which both have organizational bodies to implement inspections and verification of the treaty.
In consideration of the recent innovative developments made in the life sciences, Piers Millet led a discussion on the challenges of finding a balance in regulation of the life sciences, as well as the need to combat the threat of bioterrorism. On the topic of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Dr. Millet offered that alternatives to the traditional verification protocols must be explored when dealing with the life sciences sector and sensitive intellectual property.
(From L to R: Millet, Lewis, Walker)
He also discussed the possibility of a decentralized network of implementing organizations, rather than one large acting body, challenging states to take a more active role. To combat the threat of bioterrorism, Dr. Millet suggested, states must be willing to cooperate with each other in cross-border projects to achieve national implementation.
Dr. Paul Walker supplemented Dr. Millet's opinions about the need to increase the working capacity of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), citing the OPCW, the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), as a stable foundational example for the creation of an implementing body for the BWC. Dr. Walker also offered a few thoughts on specific measures to expand the BWC, such as promoting universality, increasing the role of NGOs, and making countries accountable for reporting ongoing biological projects as well as for response measures in case of exposure to biological agents.
Following the remarks given by both Dr. Millet and Dr. Walker, the audience was invited to engage in a discussion that ranged from how to incorporate ethics training into education for young scientists to how to increase the scope and notification of response identification measures. The audience posed excellent questions that resulted in an interesting dialogue covering a number of different topics, including the recent National Academy of Sciences report that has been deemed "CTR 2.0" and the question of how to protect intellectual property when approached with international inspections.