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 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC) - the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) - the first such treaty to be negotiated entirely within a multilateral disarmament forum, the Conference on Disarmament (the Conference). Ever since the two Conventions were opened for signature in 1972 and 1993 respectively, the United Nations has sought to promote their universality, 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 of 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 contain a specific verification mechanism. Between 1986 and 1991, in an effort to strengthen its regime, the States parties 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 and 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 suspended its work due to divergent views and positions among States parties on several key issues, particularly the work of the Ad Hoc Group. The Conference resumed its session in 2002, at which time it 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 as the successor to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM)3 as well as that of the Australia Group.

1The texts and status of the BWC, CWC and the Geneva Protocol are available on the web site of the Department of Disarmament Affairs
2For further information, see the OPCW web site
3See Security Council resolution 1284 (1999).