On 26 October 2021, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) held an online workshop focused on Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) for CARICOM Member States. The workshop was part of a project funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office aimed at strengthening national implementation of the BWC in the region.
Confidence Building Measures under the Biological Weapons Convention were introduced in 1987 following a decision by the Second Review Conference in 1986. The objective of CBMs is to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions and to improve international cooperation in the field of peaceful biological activities. 89 States Parties have submitted CBMs thus far in 2021, which represents a new record in the number of annual reports ever provided. Further information about BWC Confidence-Building Measures can be found on the BWC website and the eCBM platform.
Mr. Alex Lampalzer, Deputy Chief of the BWC ISU, opened the event by highlighting that CBMs are the only formal tool under the BWC for promoting transparency and building confidence amongst States Parties. In addition, he noted that they also facilitate international cooperation and assistance. He then outlined key steps in preparing CBMs, such as establishing a network of relevant national stakeholders, gathering and processing relevant data, and finally submitting the CBM report itself.
Next, Ms. Fanny Tonos Paniagua, project consultant with the BWC ISU, gave a presentation about the six CBM forms and informed the participants about the relevant sources of information they might use for collecting data, additionally providing examples of information that States Parties report on. Ms. Sacha Wallace-Sankarsingh, Biorisk and Cariphln Manager of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) followed by explaining what type of information made available by her agency could aid States in their reporting. She also provided an update on current activities that CARPHA is leading that can contribute to strengthening national implementation of the BWC.
Experts from two BWC States Parties – Kenya and Switzerland – then shared their insights on national data collection and submission processes, as well as challenges and lessons learned. Ms. Mary Onsarigo, senior analyst at National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation in Kenya, stressed the importance of outreach and sensitization activities, which should include a focus on “good faith” practices in order to generate support among scientists and researchers, and obtain CBM information from relevant national agencies.
Mr. Cédric Invernizzi, Head NBC Arms Control Staff Unit at the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland, shared the best practices that the Swiss authorities had adopted in their annual CBM report preparations. He underlined the importance of putting in place a designated coordinator who compiles and streamlines the required data. In this regard, he stressed the importance of a functioning inter-agency process. He also informed about Switzerland’s positive experience in generating and submitting reports through the eCBM platform.
The workshop concluded with a Q&A session and two interactive quizzes related to both challenges and next steps to facilitate CARICOM Member States’ preparation of CBMs. The ISU will organize another online workshop later this year on preparing national BWC implementing legislation, which represents the other focus area of this project.