BioWeapons Prevention Project

BioWeapons Prevention Project
Civil society preparations for the 7th BWC Review Conference 2011 The Authors

How can Article X be implemented successfully?

Chandré Gould - "Making Article X work: practical considerations for implementation of Article X beyond 2011" - 3 February 2011 ↓expand↓

The Sixth Review Conference reaffirmed the importance of the implementation of Article X of the BTWC, urging “all State Parties possessing advanced biotechnology to adopt positive measures to promote technology transfer and international cooperation on an equal and non-discriminatory basis, particularly with countries less advanced in this field…” The Review Conference also recalled the legal obligation of states to participate in the exchange of “equipment, materials and scientific and technological information” for peaceful purposes. There are a number of reasons why effective implementation of Article X can play an important role in strengthening the Convention and reaffirming its relevance in future.

Article X offers an incentive for countries whose levels of scientific and technological development are low, and whose disease burden is high to participate in the Convention. At least theoretically, the legal obligation for states to participate in the exchange of technology, materials and knowledge offers such states a means by which to access resources improve the management and surveillance of disease.

Universalisation of the Convention is undermined by the absence of real incentive for developing and underdeveloped states to accede, or play an active role in the Convention. For those states, effective implementation of Article X would offer such an incentive for participation. Yet, as noble a cause universalisation of the Convention may be it is not enough to make donor states reach for their cheque books.

Effective implementation of Article X of the BTWC requires that both the giver and receiver benefit from the exchange. That is the challenge. It is, however, in the interests of all states, that those suffering the greatest burden of disease are able to effectively monitor and manage human, animal and plant disease. To date developed states have shied away from discussion and decision-making about implementation of this Article because of the financial and other resource implications it may have for them, with little apparent reciprocal benefit. A pragmatic approach would seek to identify a way in which to make Article X implementation attractive to both those states that require assistance and those that are able to provide it.

There are several ways in which to give greater effect to Article X:
  1. Through defining the scope of assistance,
  2. Through giving effect to the role of the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) in the identification and co-ordination of assistance needs and offers,
  3. 3. Through regular reporting of offers, interventions and requests for assistance between states.
While the development and implementation of disease surveillance and response measures is an obvious area in which co-operation and assistance is both necessary and relevant to the Convention, there are other areas in which assistance and exchange can be bolstered to the advantage of all. That is, through the improvement of laboratory level biosafety and biosecurity measures; the improvement of the application of ethical oversight of scientific research and development; and in strengthening measures to ensure scientific excellence (including through developing the skills of laboratory managers).

The ISU should be mandated to encourage and co-ordinate, with other international organisations, the identification of resources, knowledge and skills in these areas. The ISU should also match requests for assistance in these areas to available resources. A simple mechanism through which such requests for assistance and offers of assistance can be reported and responded to should be established.

Declarations of assistance requested and provided could be included, either as part of the Confidence Building Measure reports, or as a separate, annual reporting requirement for States Parties. Form A of the CBMs lends itself to the inclusion of such reports. Alternatively, such reports could also form part of Form D (Active promotion of contacts).

Declarations of such assistance (both requested and provided) would allow the implementation of Article X to be monitored over time. Evidence of the request for and provision of assistance in these areas would create an incentive for an increase of such activities; allow for the building of relationships that could result in other forms of exchange of mutual benefit and would constitute the basis of a stringent argument for encouraging increased participation in the Convention by developing states. Ultimately, this could be used as a model and basis for increased co-operation and exchange in other areas relevant to the Convention.


Gigi Kwik Gronvall - "Let's discuss the details" - 1 March 2011 ↓expand↓

In her paper, Dr. Gould put forward a template whereby Article X could be implemented to the benefit of rich and poor countries, and – best yet—her template could be an incentive to additional countries’ participation in the Convention. She describes how “giver and receiver” countries might mutually benefit from Article X exchange, in such needed areas as public health surveillance and response, biosafety and biosecurity assistance, and training for laboratory management skills. To handle the coordination required for achieve this, she assigns the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) the task of identifying resources/knowledge/skills that would be matched to requests for assistance. The assistance could also be formalized, and put into the Confidence Building Measure (CBM) reports. This could allow Article X exchanges to be evaluated and monitored over time, and an historical record of assistance would add more weight to the arguments for joining or acceding to the BWC.

It’s hard to disagree with a framework that could increase public health surveillance and biosafety globally, and which could also potentially lead to universalization of the Convention! So, I won’t offer a counterpoint proposal for Article X implementation, but will put forward some points that need to be considered in order to make this template successful.

Assistance is already being offered—what is the advantage in making it part of the BWC?
From the perspective of the United States, Article X implemented this way appears as an advantage. There is already a great deal of assistance given to countries to perform public health surveillance, to manage infectious diseases of a variety of types, and to increase laboratory biosafety training. Repackaging that assistance as a fulfillment of Article X obligations would be a tremendous cataloguing project (in addition to the large programs where public health surveillance is a major piece, one can imagine many smaller but important efforts, including government-funded university-based activities). Repackaging assistance as Article X obligations would not, necessarily, lead to additional funding in this area—a concern for those nations that would like assistance. It may not even be desirable to the US to implement Article X in this way, as it would clearly demonstrate that the US does not equally fund public health surveillance in the world, and that funding is not tied solely to need. Other “giver” nations would be in the same boat.

Is it really to the poorer countries’ advantage?
Article X assistance implemented in this framework could increase public health surveillance… but of what, exactly? Are the diseases that concern the US, the EU countries, etc. the same diseases those “receiver” countries are concerned about, and would they appreciate funding for surveillance of diseases that are not on the top of their list? Even if one considers all funding for public health surveillance to be a good thing on the whole, one cannot avoid the fact that people will need to implement and staff these surveillance programs, potentially draining limited, in-country resources from the biggest health threats these countries face.

Can the ISU handle this task, and should they?
Handling requests for assistance and addressing them in a confidential manner would be a big project. It is hard to say how big it would be, without knowing the promise for assistance to be actually realized, and thus, serving as an incentive for more requests. Nonetheless, the ISU staff is small, and even if slightly enlarged, there are other proposals being considered for them to become more involved in implementing other aspects of the BWC. Would there be opportunity costs for their involvement in this area… would they be able to be fully involved in assisting nations in submitting their CBMs, spreading the word about the BWC to new technical and non-profit groups that need to be aware of the treaty, promoting universalization, and other activities in which they are now engaged?
I look forward to discussing this further!


Jez Littlewood - "Steering the debate in a practical direction" - 6 April 2011 ↓expand↓

My colleagues in South Africa and the United States have identified some key issues in the Article X debate that might be characterized as follows. On the one hand the obligation under Article X cannot be ignored; nor can it be wished away. Thus, fulfilling that obligation is something that requires attention. How to meet the requirements of Article X is a difficult question and neither states parties nor civil society groups have developed a framework for activities and clearly identified – and more importantly agreed upon – what actually constitutes peaceful cooperation as Article X activity. Chandré Gould takes a necessary step in that direction by suggesting the scope of the Article be defined and usefully suggests that the ISU and specific reporting requirements could support greater synergy between donors and recipients and transparency in cooperation. Gigi Kwik offers a practical counterpoise to these proposals by noting, correctly, that a significant level of cooperation in the biological sciences and in disease surveillance and mitigation already occurs but is not identified as ‘Article X’ by the funders or the United States (in Kwik’s examples). Furthermore, the point that it may not be desirable to bring such activities under the ambit of Article X is well made and needs to be considered in depth. And, to complicate the practicalities of Article X even more, Kwik notes that some activity preferred by donors, i.e. the developed states, might not actually be in the best interests of certain developing states. Finally, the practical resource requirements of using the ISU to facilitate peaceful cooperation have been noted and the difficulty of cataloguing peaceful cooperation under Article X should not be underestimated.

Where then does that leave us in the run-up to the review conference? There is credence in the view that Article X has been re-interpreted beyond what the drafters of the Convention envisaged.1 Nevertheless, rolling back that re-interpretation is a wasted and unnecessary effort because multilateral realities mean that promoting a strengthened convention entails accepting elements of the agendas of other states.2 Gould is therefore correct that the principal objective in 2011 and beyond is to have a realistic dialogue about what should and can be defined as Article X. That will require a maturity in debate about cooperation that BWC states parties have demonstrated only on rare occasions. It will also require a recognition and acceptance of the fact that the BWC is about disarmament and only tangentially linked to economic and technological development or public health; disarmament is its purpose and objective. Kwik is also correct and the implication is that what is said and done at the review conference under Article X will likely have a miniscule impact on actual, real, and on-going peaceful cooperation in the life sciences and disease mitigation efforts of states bilaterally and internationally. Those efforts will continue and will be debated and decided without any consideration of what is decided at the Seventh Review Conference because the decisions are taken in different fora.

Moving forward implementation of Article X may be easier if agreement can first be outlined about how not to take things forward in a constructive manner. Debates can too easily stray into rhetoric which I characterize as either, ‘give me a laboratory or the Convention gets it’ or ‘this is only about security stupid’. Another undercurrent of the debates that is unhelpful is the clash about export controls; particularly, when it is pushed predominantly by states which have their real eyes on the nuclear suppliers group and simply use the BWC as a proxy to further their nuclear ambitions.

As always, therefore, pragmatic states need to join forces and develop a feasible middle ground that ignores the rhetoric of hard line views. The vast majority of states parties recognize that biological weapons are at one end of the biorisk spectrum and to achieve effective biological disarmament requires integration of efforts in a layered response across that spectrum. Pushing forward those efforts in 2011 might be assisted by the following guidelines:
  1. Enhancing national, regional, and international disease surveillance networks serves a useful adjunct role in ensuring biological disarmament and contributes to Article VII (assistance in event of use), Article VI (investigations) and Article X (cooperation);
  2. Building the necessary capacity within states to implement the Convention effectively is an essential task: practically everyone recognizes that some states parties need implementation assistance so states parties should get on with it. However, it is not immediately obvious that such assistance should be publically advertised or go through the ISU or be reported to other states parties. It might be reported, and the ISU might have a useful role to play, but it should not have to be reported or go through the ISU.
  3. Definitions and institutions are not the immediate answer in 2011. States parties could usefully use an intersessional process to have a full debate about Article X and what it means and how it might be implemented. That discussion cannot be completed in 2011 in three weeks. Pragmatists should agree to accept the necessary rhetorical sparring at the review conference, but use their voice and power in regional groupings to rein in and reject unhelpful proposals and insist on a practical focus in the three available weeks.
  4. Transparency and reporting on cooperation are required. Accepting that cataloging everything would be difficult – and have opportunity costs – some reporting, and greater transparency are now necessary. Without evidence to back up various claims of compliance with Article X, and allegations of non-compliance with Article X, this discussion will remain sterile, debilitating, and without positive forward movement.
  5. States parties need to bring in the stakeholders to assist this debate. Cooperation and assistance activities are not under the sole purview of states: international organizations, foundations and charitable agencies, and industry and private sector all have a role here: if they are to be involved, they need to be invited to the table for discussions.

  1. Nicholas A. Sims, ‘The Evolution of Biological Disarmament’ SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Studies No. 19 (Oxford, OUP, 2001) p.121; Jez Littlewood, ‘The Biological Weapons Convention: A failed Revolution’ (Aldershot, UK; Ashgate, 2005) ppp.163-169.
  2. Amanda Moodie, and Michael Moodie, 'Alternative narratives for arms control', The Nonproliferation Review, 17:2, 2010, p.317


Chandré Gould, Jeremy Littlewood and Gigi Kwik Gronvall - "How can Article X be implemented successfully?" - 9 August 2011 ↓expand↓

There seems to be agreement that it is important to give effect to Article X of the BTWC; that attending to how Article X can be implemented should be on the agenda of the Review Conference this year, and that this should be given substance in the meetings that will take place in the years following this Review Conference and in preparation for the next. There is less agreement about exactly what giving effect, or implementing Article X really means. This fourth paper addresses this issue, and outlines what we believe are important issues to be considered during and after the 2011 Review Conference.

The Sixth Review Conference urged “all State Parties possessing advanced biotechnology to adopt positive measures to promote technology transfer and international co-operation on an equal and non-discriminatory basis, particularly with countries less advanced in this field”. But despite reaffirming the need for technology transfer, urging (undefined) positive measures to this end, the Sixth Review Conference failed to provide any guidance as to what kinds of technology transfers and international co-operation would fall under the ambit of Article X.

In addition, the wording of the final report reflected the dichotomous notion of “giver” and “receiver” states that defines interactions between states and perceptions of each others’ agendas. This way of seeing the world is not helpful either to donor or recipient, and also not necessarily an accurate reflection of the real nature of the exchange. In addition, “donor” and “recipient” are states of being that are more fluid than has been allowed for in the language of international political exchange. It is easy to fall into the habit of believing that co-operation and transfer of technology means developed northern countries transferring technology to poor southern countries. Yet the balance of world economic power is shifting, and the adaptation of technologies to particular sectors may require a collaborative effort between so-called donor and recipient states.

There is increased co-operation and trade within the BRICSA (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group, with at least India and China having strong, sophisticated biotechnology industries. It is also apparent in scientific interactions between Western developed states and developing countries, such as during disease outbreak responses, that the exchange advantages scientists from the developed world at least as much (For example through publication or access to sample material for later research.), as it advantages the state receiving assistance. In addition, states like South Africa, which may easily be seen to fall into the “recipient” category, play a significant role in responding to and providing expertise in diagnosis and response to disease outbreaks on the African continent. Such realities undermine the stark dichotomy that perhaps makes implementation of Article X unattractive to developed nations, who may feel as though they are already doing enough.

Centrally recording offers and receipts of assistance or co-operation, through the ISU, would help to develop a body of evidence that will challenge perceptions of which states are donors and which recipients. But in order for that to be effective we need to move towards a agreement about what kind of activities and exchanges are relevant to Article X.

In her first posting Chandré Gould suggested one way in which to begin refining what kind of activities could fall under the auspices of Article X and proposed a role for the ISU in co-ordinating and recording offers and requests for assistance. While this approach would have the advantage of providing a starting point for identifying what activities might fall within the scope of Article X, as Gigi Kwik Gronvall pointed out, it is not necessarily to the advantage of donor states, or recipient states to begin to [re]-catalogue all public health related activities under Article X. Nor is it necessarily desirable to see states such as the USA determining how biosecurity should be implemented in other states.

However, working on the basis of centrally recorded and co-ordinated requests and offers of assistance somewhat alleviates the problems she identified. No state is under any obligation to accept offers of assistance. So, for example, if State A offers to assist State B to develop their disease surveillance systems, but sets unattractive conditions for that assistance – such as focusing on diseases that are not of immediate concern to State B – there is no obligation on State B to accept that assistance. In this way the agenda for assistance can in a best case scenario be set co-operatively. Likewise, a request for assistance might also fall on deaf ears if providing that assistance does not meet the needs of any donor state.

Thus, we might feel our way through what falls under the scope of Article X and what is not, through gathering information on offers of assistance declined and those that are accepted, and requests for assistance that are similarly rejected or responded to. Perhaps through such a process, by the time we reach the next Review Conference, the basis will be set for a clearer and more informed discussion about what constitutes exchanges and co-operation under Article X.

Building on the points raised by Jez Littlewood, pushing towards the effective implementation of Article X could be based on the following guidelines:

  1. The Review Conference should agree to a limited role for the ISU in facilitating and recording offers and requests for assistance under Article X. As it is unlikely that the ISU will be inundated with such offers and requests, it should be possible for the ISU to manage this. Defining what constitutes activities under Article X should be the subject of discussion during the intersessional period.
  2. It is not clear whether support for the implementation of national measures to give effect to the BTWC should fall under Article X activities that are recorded. This should be a matter for discussion during the intersessional period, but does underline the interconnections between different articles of the Convention, e.g. Articles IV, VII, and X in this example. That discussion might also consider whether there is advantage to be gained in recording and reporting such assistance.
  3. Enhancing national, regional, and international disease surveillance networks serves a useful adjunct role in ensuring biological disarmament and contributes to Article VII (assistance in event of use), Article VI (investigations) and Article X (co-operation).
  4. Transparency and reporting on co-operation are required. Without evidence to back-up claims of compliance, or non-compliance, Article X will remain sterile and stuck.
  5. States Parties need to bring in stakeholders to take this debate further. Co-operation and assistance activities are not the sole purview of states: international organisations, professional associations, foundations, charitable agencies, industry and the private sector all have a role both in the debate and in activities to further Article X. It has been clear over the past five years at least, that intergovernmental organisations, professional associations and NGOs have played an important role in raising awareness about biosafey and biosecurity, giving substance to the meaning of those terms, developing codes of conduct for scientists, and identifying relevant advances in the life sciences.


Comments on this discussion are welcome at Chandre Gould[at]

    Chandré Gould

    Chandré Gould is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. Between 1996 and 1999 she was an investigator and evidence analyst for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where she was involved in the investigation of Project Coast - the chemical and biological weapons programme of the Apartheid government. She continued research into Project Coast after the TRC. She has written widely on the South African chemical and biological weapons programme and the trial of Dr Wouter Basson, the head of that programme. In 2006 she obtained her PhD from Rhodes University. Recent publications include a 2009 book co-edited with Brian Rappert, titled ‘Biosecurity: Origins, transformations and practices’ (Palgrave). She has been engaged in various initiatives in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa to discuss dual-use issues with life scientists and to develop educational programmes on dual-use issues. She is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa’s Working Group on Biosafety and Biosecurity.

    Gigi Kwik Gronvall

    Gigi Kwik Gronvall is a Senior Associate at the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gronvall’s work addresses the role of scientists in biodefense—how they can diminish the threat of biological weapons and how they can contribute to an effective technical response against a biological weapon or a natural epidemic. She served as the Science Advisor of the US Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism from April 2009 until the Commission ended in February 2010. Dr. Gronvall is an Associate Editor of the quarterly journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. Dr. Gronvall received a BS in biology from Indiana University, Bloomington, her PhD in Biology from Johns Hopkins University, and was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

    Jez Littlewood

    Jez Littlewood is an Assistant Professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) and the Director at the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies (CCISS) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He holds a First Class B.A. Honours degree (1995) from the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford where he also completed his PhD in September 2001. Between July 1998 and December 2001 he served as an Advisor to the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva during negotiations to strengthen the BWC. In January 2002 Dr Littlewood joined the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies at the University of Southampton. In January 2005 he was seconded to the Counter-Proliferation Department of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office as an Advisor on biological weapons controls, completing that service in April 2007.