Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on the fortieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention, today:
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. Over the past four decades, the Biological Weapons Convention has made an important contribution towards collective efforts to eliminate such threats. Today, the norm against the use and possession of biological weapons remains strong, and no country identifies itself as possessing biological weapons.
However, we must remain vigilant. The eighth Review Conference in 2016 is an opportunity to consolidate progress and consider how to adapt this landmark Convention to the challenges posed by advances in science and technology, as well as potential risks posed by terrorists and other non-State actors. I encourage States parties to think creatively about how to build confidence in compliance with the Convention.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrates the damage which diseases can inflict, damage which could increase massively were such diseases deliberately misused as weapons. On the other hand, the outbreak also demonstrates the commitment of the international community to respond to such threats, whether natural or deliberate. It also shows the vital role of science in creating better defences. As we witness ever more remarkable breakthroughs in the life sciences, it is incumbent on us to ensure that such advances are used responsibly.
Forty years after its entry into force, the Biological Weapons Convention now has the support of 173 States parties. I call on the 23 Governments that have not yet joined the Convention to do so without delay. In this anniversary year, all countries should reaffirm their unequivocal rejection of the use of disease as a weapon.