Biological and chemical weapons
The threat to international peace and security
posed by chemical and biological weapons has been a preoccupation of the international community for a long time. Persistent endeavours resulted in the conclusion of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) - the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) - the first such treaty to be negotiated entirely within a multilateral disarmament forum, the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Ever since the two conventions were opened for signature in 1972 and 1993 respectively, the United Nations has sought to promote the universality of the two instruments, as well as compliance with their provisions. In addition, States have continued to reaffirm the necessity of upholding the principles and objectives of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.1
The CWC contains provisions to prohibit chemical weapons and to provide for their destruction as well as a comprehensive verification mechanism with unprecedented scope. Since the Convention's entry into force on 29 April 1997, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with its headquarters in The Hague, has been actively implementing the Convention's provisions.2
The BWC does not include a specific verification mechanism. In an effort to strengthen its regime, States parties between 1986 and 1991 agreed upon confidence-building measures involving information and data exchanges in order to prevent and reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions and to improve international cooperation in peaceful biotechnological activities.
At the Special Conference of States parties, in September 1994, the parties agreed to establish an ad hoc group, open to all States parties, "to consider appropriate measures, including possible verification measures, and draft proposals to strengthen the Convention, to be included, as appropriate, in a legally-binding instrument." The negotiations on a protocol on compliance started in 1995 in the Ad Hoc Group, came to a halt in 2001 due to rejection by the United States of the composite text proposed by the Chairman. In the same year, the Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the BWC was held from 19 November to 7 December. Due to divergent views and positions among States parties on several key issues, particularly the work of the Ad Hoc Group, the Conference suspended its work and agreed to resume its session in November 2002. When the Conference reconvened in Geneva from 11 to 15 November, States parties adopted a Final Report that included a decision to hold annual meetings of States parties and expert meetings in the subsequent three years leading up to the Review Conference in 2006.
This chapter covers developments with respect to the implementation of the BWC and CWC, including efforts by the international community to strengthen and universalize the two instruments. It also gives a brief account of the work of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in Iraq, (UNMOVIC), which was established in December 1999 pursuant to Security Council resolution 1284 as the successor to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM).3
The texts and status of the BWC, CWC and the Geneva Protocol are available on the web site of the Department of Disarmament Affairs http://disarmament.un.org.
For further information, see the OPCW web site www.opcw.org [accessed 18 August 2004].
See also, United Nations Disarmament Yearbooks
, vol. 24:1999, chapter II, 68-71 (United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.IX.1) and vol. 25:2000, chapter II, 86-91 (United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.01.IX.1.)