Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention: Where Next?

Published on 10 October 2017

CSER – Workshop Report Series

There are three versions of this report:

While there was potential to make progress in several areas, the Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) failed to move things forward, and has left the process for the next few years largely undirected. The purpose of this workshop was to inform activities of civil society in support of the aims of the Convention over the next few years. Many of the issues raised and actions suggested by participants also have relevance to activities that might usefully be undertaken by states parties and other groups, such as science and technology communities.

Three scenarios – and the way in which they might shape the role of civil society – informed much of the workshop discussion, and are based on the outcome that might be achieved at the 2017 Meeting of States Parties (MSP):

  1. Positive outcome. A more effective intersessional process (ISP) is agreed and funded. Civil society will have a role in supporting this new process, for example through advocacy activities, support for small delegations, convening expertise, and developing policy recommendations.
  2. ‘More of the same’ outcome. An intersessional process is agreed that is very much the same as the previous ones. Civil society will probably still provide some support to this process, but it is unlikely to be a priority in terms of achieving objectives, and focus is likely to shift to other approaches and routes to impact.
  3. Nothing through to 2021 outcome. This includes situations in which there is agreement only to hold annual MSPs on a simple technical basis, or no decision is achieved. Civil society will probably be far more active through different forums and with a strong practical focus e.g. on tools and training, and campaigning on national policy.

The initial framing of the workshop gave priority to identifying actions that could be taken by participants to promote progress in the lead up to the 2017 MSP. It was clear from early in workshop that there is a high likelihood that the 2017 MSP (if it takes place) will result in a ‘more of the same’ or ‘nothing until 2021’ outcome. We therefore paid greater attention to potential activities over the longer period, which will be needed anyway, and may help create a positive atmosphere for progress at the 2021 Review Conference.

The urgency of the current situation was not overlooked and it is still considered important to support more immediate efforts that might achieve a positive outcome this year. This report summarises some of the key areas of discussion, providing context and potentially guiding prioritisation for range of potential actions for the next few years. Background information on the Biological Weapons Convention can be found in version 1.b of the full workshop report.

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