NEW UNIT CREATED TO HELP WORLD’S EFFORT AGAINST BIOLOGICAL WEAPON THREAT

20 August 2007
DC/3079

NEW UNIT CREATED TO HELP WORLD’S EFFORT AGAINST BIOLOGICAL WEAPON THREAT

20 August 2007
Press Release
DC/3079
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

NEW UNIT CREATED TO Help world’s effort against BIOLOGICAL WEAPON threat

GENEVA, 20 August (Office for Disarmament Affairs) -- The international community’s efforts against the threat of weapons of mass destruction receive a boost with the inauguration today of the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit, based in the Geneva Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.

The Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention in December 2006 decided to establish an Implementation Support Unit to assist States parties in their efforts to strengthen the implementation of the Convention and reduce the threat posed by biological weapons.  The decision was a landmark in the history of the international community’s efforts against biological weapons, as the Convention itself has no provision for institutional support.

The Implementation Support Unit was officially inaugurated at a ceremony held today in the Palais des Nations.  This launch coincided with the opening of the 2007 Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of Experts, the first part of a work programme commissioned by the Sixth Review Conference to further strengthen the implementation of the treaty.

The Implementation Support Unit, which is funded by the States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention and has a staff of three professional officers, is based in the Geneva Branch of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.  The recently appointed United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, invited States parties to supportthis initiative:  “Much of the mandate of the Unit is concerned with facilitating communication among States parties and, upon request, facilitating contacts with scientific and academic institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations.  The Unit will also serve as a central clearinghouse for information relating to confidence-building measures.  Clearly, the more States parties make use of such services, the better they will work.”

The Unit is also mandated to provide administrative support to the State Parties and to promote universal adherence to the ban on biological weapons and to persuade the remaining States not party to join the Convention.

Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan, who is chairing this year’s meetings of the Biological Weapons Convention, emphasized the key role to be played by the Unit:  “The Unit will harness resources, forge connections, develop networks and identify opportunities.  It will make an important and innovative contribution to our collective effort to reduce the terrible threat posed by biological weapons.”

Also at the ceremony, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze, welcomed the establishment of the Unit in Geneva which “has long been an important centre for disarmament diplomacy” and the Biological Weapons Convention’s “spiritual home.”

Richard Lennane was appointed earlier this year as Head of the Unit, which became fully operational on 2 August 2007.

Background

The international regimes dealing with nuclear and chemical weapons have well-established international organizations to oversee their operation:  the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  No such institution exists for biological weapons.  Although the need for institutional support for the Convention has often been highlighted, until recently a common understanding on a path forward could not be reached.

In the 1990s, Biological Weapons Convention States parties worked on creating a regime parallel to those found in the chemical and nuclear spheres.  But given the sharp differences in perspective, the changing security environment of the third millennium, and the unique challenges posed by biological weapons, the States parties decided in 2001 to take a new approach.  They established a new process, focused on achieving more effective implementation of the existing obligations of the Convention.  As this process developed, it became clear that it would be useful to have a small unit to assist States parties in taking such action, and this evolved into the consensus decision of the Sixth Review Conference to establish the Implementation Support Unit.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, commonly known as the Biological Weapons Convention, prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons, and is a key element in the international community’s efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The Convention opened for signature in 1972, entered into force in 1975, and was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons.

For further information, please contact:  Richard Lennane, Head, Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit, tel.:  +41 0 22 917 22 30; e-mail:  rlennane@unog.ch.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.