Workshop Report: Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention: Where Next for the UK?

Published on 20 June 2023

In April 2023, a group of 19 experts gathered at the University of Cambridge to
discuss the outcomes of the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons
Convention, and the implications for biosecurity and non-proliferation in the UK.
The meeting included representatives from:

  • academia
  • civil society and NGOs
  • government and the civil service

Attendees were largely UK based, though the meeting also had representation
from the United States. Together, they brought expertise in:

  • biological security policy and implementation
  • governance of life sciences research
  • non-proliferation and disarmament
  • innovation and technology policy

The gathered participants discussed a broad range of issues, but centred on the
core issues of:

  • recent progress and stagnation at the Ninth Review Conference of the
    Biological Weapons Convention;
  • recent (2018 onwards) efforts within the UK to develop an effective
    national biosecurity strategy;
  • the myriad interactions between national and international fora and
    mechanisms for biosecurity governance and non-proliferation;
  • and those between governments, NGOs, civil society, and practising

Discussions at the meeting ranged from highly pragmatic issues related to the
challenges of effective implementation (national and international) and those
posed by emerging technologies, through to more foundational conversations
about the functional or symbolic nature of different types of formal
documentation, policy instruments, diplomatic engagements, and national
In terms of progress and the (im)possibility of improving or advancing
international biosecurity governance, discussions ranged from ambitious and
speculative proposals to enhance the meaningful participation of relevant civil
society actors and practitioners, through to the realpolitik difficulties of
international agreements and diplomacy in specific arenas of negotiation -
including the Review Conference itself.
This document provides a summary of the key themes and discussions that took
place, aiming to locate them within the context of relevant policy or debate. The
report also summarises some key ongoing challenges for those of us in the field.

Read the full report below

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