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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2003

U.S. Statement on Implementing Legislation

Ambassador Donald Mahley, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral and Conventional Arms Control
Statement to the Annual Meeting of States Parties for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), November 10-14, 2003
Geneva, Switzerland
November 11, 2003

The United States believes that the discussions dealing with national implementation measures during the first week of the August Experts Meeting were informative, instructive, and useful. Presentations by States Parties illustrated a variety of approaches to national implementation of the BWC, from which Parties can draw in pursuit of their own national efforts and in their review of how others are implementing the Convention. The results of the Experts Meeting alone indicate that this format provided a new and innovative approach to addressing the biological weapons threat. It will assist in achieving not only the overall objectives of the Biological Weapons Convention, but also our pursuit of measures to stem the BW threat. The Experts’ work provides an excellent foundation for this Annual Meeting, providing the occasion for Parties to recall the wealth of examples provided during the Experts Meetings and both commit, and call upon others to, undertake necessary measures to enact, implement, and enforce their BWC obligations.

In the area of national implementation measures, presentations revealed that there were a number of similarities in the practices of States Parties, which is not surprising given the requirements embedded in the Convention. Pursuant to Article IV of the BWC, “Each States Party to this Convention shall, in accordance with constitutional processes, take any necessary measures to prohibit and prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or under its control anywhere.” This article requires not only the establishment of national penal legislation but measures to enforce implementation as well. Therefore, criminal and civil penalties should be established for persons or entities that violate the Convention, and States Parties should commit to rigorous enforcement of these provisions.

Articles I and III also received frequent attention in experts’ presentations. Among the principles for national implementing legislation as defined by Article I of the Convention, is a commitment “not to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain: microbial or other biological agents or toxins…of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or means of their delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.” Article III further commits each State Party not to “transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not…to assist, encourage, or induce [others] to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in Article I.” By the conclusion of the national implementing measures topic, it was clear that the experts believed that Articles I and III combine with Article IV to form the treaty basis for adopting effective national implementing measures.

The presentations made clear that there is no single necessary approach to national implementation. The number of countries that have addressed national implementation and the different approaches undertaken, indicate that implementation of the BWC is not beyond the capability of any of the Parties. However, it is also equally clear that much of the actual work of implementing the BWC remains to be done some twenty-eight years after the Convention entered into force. It is regrettable that so many States Parties have yet to fully implement their national obligations under the BWC. Still others may need to update initial implementation measures whose effectiveness is no longer sufficient to address the threat by BW as it exists today. All Parties must ensure that measures implemented are supported by appropriate means of enforcement, and assure themselves that the other Parties too are meeting their obligations. While these gaps, or shortcomings, may occur for a variety of reasons, including competing national priorities and difficulty ascertaining where to begin the process, excuses will not stem the danger posed by so many States Parties failing to live up to the responsibilities and obligations inherent in this Convention. The emerging threat of bioterrorism poses an increased threat to all countries. Our collective security from dangerous pathogens and toxins greatly depends on effective implementation of the BWC and the States Parties as a whole must ensure they see the Convention effectively implemented before the Sixth Review Conference.

Finally, one of the most important aspects of the Experts Meeting was the supportive atmosphere among States Parties that lasted throughout the meeting. As a tangible measure of this support, a number of States Parties, including the United States, offered to assist other States Parties in developing national implementing measures. While this was a welcome development, it cannot substitute for the obligation of Parties to this Convention to undertake the necessary measures to preserve and strengthen its integrity. The United States today reiterates its offer to provide guidance and assistance to other States Parties in completing fully their national implementation measures and expects nothing less than universal compliance by all States Parties with the provisions of Articles I and IV. The cooperative atmosphere established between States Parties during the Experts Group Meeting should continue to strengthen the BWC and will contribute to our collective effort to reduce the threat of biological weapons. However, as I noted in our national statement, the U.S. harbors no illusions that much work remains and that such work is first and foremost the national responsibility of States Parties to the BWC.



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