New York

26 March 2020

Secretary-General's message on the forty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention

Today marks the forty-fifth 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.  During the intervening years, the Biological Weapons Convention has made an important contribution towards collective efforts to eliminate such threats.  Today, the norm against biological weapons remains strong, and the very idea of using disease as a weapon is viewed with repugnance. However, the international community must remain vigilant. Scientific advances are reducing technical barriers which earlier limited the potential of biological weapons.
I therefore call on States parties to urgently update the mechanisms within the Convention for reviewing advances in science and technology and to work together to improve biosecurity and biopreparedness so that all countries are equipped to prevent and respond to the possible use of biological weapons.
The Convention’s Ninth Review Conference in 2021 is an opportunity to address these and other issues and to consider how to adapt this landmark Convention to future challenges.  I urge States Parties to think creatively about the future evolution of the Convention and how to uphold its central role in preventing the misuse of biology for hostile purposes.
Forty-five years after its entry into force, the Biological Weapons Convention has the support of 183 States parties. The Convention continues to grow, with more than 20 States having joined in the past ten years, demonstrating its continued relevance. I call upon the 14 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, as well as their commitment to a robust international health security architecture that guarantees the maintenance of peaceful and healthy societies around the world.