the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Fact Sheet on the Successful Conclusion of the Seventh Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

“We will continue to face new and emerging biological threats that will require the coordinated and connected efforts of a broad range of domestic and international partners.  As we take action to counter these threats, we will work together to advance our own health security and provide for the improved condition of all humanity.”

-  President Obama’s National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats
November 23, 2009

On December 22 in Geneva, the States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) ended the meeting of the treaty’s Seventh Review Conference (RevCon) on a high note by endorsing a multinational work program for the next five years that promises to revitalize global efforts to reduce biological threats and advance objectives set forth in the President’s National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats.  States Parties announced their agreement to focus on three broad areas proposed by the United States: the strengthening of national implementation of the BWC; science and technology developments relevant to the treaty; and cooperation and assistance to build global capacities for preventing and controlling disease outbreaks, whatever their origin.  The RevCon Final Document provides a critical framework to bring together international security, health, law enforcement, and science communities to raise awareness of evolving biological risks and how to best manage them.  As Secretary of State Clinton noted in the U.S. opening statement, shoring up our domestic and international defenses against intentional attacks will make it easier to detect and respond to naturally occurring outbreaks, providing benefits for every country in every region.

Advancing the National Strategy

The ambitious work program adopted by the Review Conference is an important step toward reinvigorating the BWC as a premier venue for multinational collaboration on concrete activities to help counter biological proliferation and bioterrorism.  States Parties agreed that efforts on the three priority standing issues would continue from one year to the next – an approach the United States had advocated as key to enabling real progress at the international level. 

  • To strengthen national implementation of the BWC, States Parties agreed to begin annual discussions of topics such as enforcement of national legislation, coordination among law enforcement institutions, and best practices for enhancing implementation.  
  • States Parties concluded that there is a need for regular and systematic review of scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention, and they emphasized the importance of education and efforts to raise awareness of dual-use concerns among those working in the biological sciences.  States Parties took the additional step of identifying topics for the working group on Science and Technology to consider each year, starting in 2012, with advances in enabling technologies, such as those for sequencing, synthesizing, and analyzing DNA.
  • States Parties also agreed on the need to build capacity to deal with disease outbreaks, including those potentially due to use of biological weapons.  During the next five years experts will address, inter alia, capacity-building in biosafety and biosecurity, preparedness, response, and crisis management; States Parties also decided that a database system to facilitate requests and offers for assistance among States Parties will be created.

Building Confidence in Compliance

The States Parties acknowledged the need to enhance participation in voluntary confidence-building measures (CBMs) submissions.  As a first step, States Parties undertook a review to improve the treaty’s annual CBM reporting system – the first time since 1991 that such a review had been done – and they committed to continuing the effort during the next five years.  The United States asked States Parties to further focus on developing constructive approaches to strengthening BWC implementation and to building confidence that all Parties were living up to their obligations.  Because the dual-use nature of biological work makes it impossible to verify compliance through traditional arms control means, the United States urged that countries create their own openness and transparency measures to demonstrate confidence in compliance. 

  • Leading by example, Secretary Clinton announced a new Bio-Transparency and Openness Initiative, featuring a U.S.-hosted International Forum on Health and Security in mid-2012 to share views on biological threats and discuss the evolution of U.S. bioresearch programs, as well as continued tours of U.S. biodefense facilities and exchanges among American scientists and their counterparts from other countries.