Biological Weapons Convention

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  • The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (usually referred to as the Biological Weapons Convention, abbreviation: BWC, or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, abbreviation: BTWC) was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons.
  • The Convention was the result of prolonged efforts by the international community to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol. The Geneva Protocol prohibits use but not possession or development of chemical and biological weapons.

As stated in Article 1 of the BWC:

“Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

  • (1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
  • (2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”
  • The United States Congress passed the Bioweapons Anti-Terrorism Act in 1989 to implement the Convention. The law applies the Convention’s convent to countries and private citizens, and criminalizes violations of the Convention.
  • The BWC has 180 States Parties as of January 2018, with the State of Palestine the most recent to become a party. The Republic of China (Taiwan) had deposited an instrument of ratification before the changeover of the United Nations seat to the People’s Republic of China.
  • Several countries made reservations when ratifying the agreement declaring that it did not imply their complete satisfaction that the Treaty allows the stockpiling of biological agents and toxins for “prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes”, nor should it imply recognition of other countries they do not recognise.
  • Of the UN member states and UN observer which are not a party to the treaty, six have signed but not ratified the BWC while a further 12 have neither signed nor ratified the agreement.
  • India is a member state.