In August, states parties to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) attended the 2010 Meeting of Experts (MX) in Geneva. The Meeting of Experts was established by the Sixth Review Conference in 2006, as part of a four year inter-sessional process building to the Seventh Review Conference in 2011. Each annual MX is followed by a Meeting of States Parties, which reviews the proposals arising out of the MX and drafts a report.
The focus of the 2010 Meeting of Experts was the ‘Provision of assistance and coordination with relevant organizations upon request by any State Party in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons, including improving national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection and diagnosis and public health systems.’ Around 450 delegates participated in the five day meeting, which lasted from 23-27 August.
The MX included plenary statements, workshops, working sessions, a poster session, an informal panel discussion, and nine side events, as well as presentations by experts. Ambassador Pedro Oyarce of Chile chaired the Conference. In his opening statement, Ambassador Oyarce remarked that the absence of a verification protocol in the BWC raises the question of how to respond to alleged uses of biological weapons. The importance of coordinating responses was a major theme and parties noted, in particular, that response actions should be coordinated across a number of different levels: global, regional, national, and local.
Another key issue addressed by the meeting related to the UN Secretary General (UNSG) mechanism for investigations of alleged use. The UNSG mechanism uses two tools: a set of guidelines for investigations, and a roster of experts and laboratories. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) gave a presentation about developments and ‘reinvigoration’ of the mechanism. Most notably, UNODA discussed the 2007 update of the guidelines, the on-going update of the roster, and the training programs given to the roster experts by member states.
At the closing session, both a procedural report and an annex were adopted. An advance draft of these is available at http://www.unog.ch/bwc/meeting.
Kara Allen, Geneva.