The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) are treaties that effectively ban biological, toxin, and chemical weapons by prohibiting their acquisition, production, transfer, development, stockpiling as well as use.

Biological Weapon Convention

Biological Weapons spread toxins and organisms that cause diseases. They are contagious and harmful to plants, animals, and humans. Furthermore, these weapons cause deadly diseases that are not confined to national borders.

They cause diseases that spread around the globe rapidly. Besides, the deliberate release of these weapons could cause far-reaching consequences. They cause food shortages, economic loss, illness, environmental calamity, mistrust, fear, and loss of lives.

In this context, Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits the use of such weapons. In the same vein, the convention has banned the production, development, transfer, stockpiling, and acquisition of these lethal weapons.

It is pertinent to note that BWC is the first multilateral treaty to prohibit the usage of any kind of biological weapon. In addition to that, BWC is a vital agreement to address the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

State Parties and Signatory States

The convention has 183 party states along with four signatory states. Earlier, the convention was called “The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction.”

Previously, the Committee on Disarmament Conference negotiated the convention in Geneva, Switzerland. On 10 April 1972, the convention opened for signatures. Eventually, on 26 March 1975, the convention entered into force.

However, BWC supplements the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Geneva Protocol banned the utilization of biological weapons only. It is pertinent to note that BWC underscores a few steps which banned the developing, stockpiling, or producing microbial or other biological agents or toxins.

The convention also prohibits equipment, weapons, and apparatus of delivery for the usage of such agents or toxins. Since its enforcement, the state parties have strived for the relevancy and effectiveness of the convention.

The parties also review the operations of the convention every five years. In this matter, the first review conference took place in 1980. Till today, eight Review Conferences have taken place to gauge the effectiveness of BWC.

Key Articles of BWC
  • Along these lines, Article I undertakes to never develop, stockpile, produce, retain, or acquire biological weapons.
  • Moreover, Articles II & III undertake to demolish biological weapons or convert them for peaceful objectives. It also undertakes to prohibit the transfer and manufacture of weapons.
  • Article IV emphasizes national measures to prohibit and prevent the development, production, and stockpiling of biological weapons within their territorial limits.
  • Article V stresses consulting to solve the problems bilaterally and multilaterally. These problems may relate to the objectives and applications of BWC.
  • As far as Articles VI and VII are concerned, they emphasize requesting UNSC to investigate alleged breaches of the BWC. They also focus to cooperate with any member state facing the consequences of the violations of BWC.
  • Lastly, Article X determines the facilitation and participation right in return for materials and information for peaceful objectives
Chemical Weapon Convention

On 3 September 1992, Conference on Disarmament in Geneva adopted Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Later in 1997, the convention entered into force.

In this regard, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is supervising the operations, functionality, and implementation status of the Convention.

CWC is composed of a preamble, twenty-four articles, and three annexes. The list of Annexes includes Confidentiality Annex, Verification Annex, and Annex on Chemicals. Till today, 193 countries have verified the convention.

Furthermore, CWC proposes to destroy “an entire category of WMD” along with banning the production, development, and stockpiling of weapons.

All state parties of the convention have agreed to establish the verification system for toxic materials which are listed in Schedules 1, 2, and 3 in the Annex on Chemicals.

Another feature of the convention is its incorporation of the “Challenge Inspection”. This feature allows a state party to request a surprise inspection against another state party under doubt.

However, the state parties have also agreed to the principle of “anytime, anywhere” in case of inspection. Besides, no state party has the right to refuse surprise inspection.

State Parties and Signatory States

The Chemical Weapons Convention currently has 193 states-parties. Israel has signed but not ratified. While Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan have neither signed nor ratified.

The convention enables systematic evaluation of chemical production facilities. Likewise, it has the authority to investigate allegations of production and use of chemical weapons.

Some chemicals like phosgene; which has been used in warfare but has large-scale industrial uses are highly regulated. Similarly, chlorine gas is highly toxic but is not officially listed as a chemical weapon.

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