Submission from Daniel Feakes, University
1. I am a Research Fellow in SPRUScience
and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex. I
am affiliated to the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological
Weapons (HSP) which is an inter-university collaboration for research,
communication and training in support of informed public policy
towards chemical and biological weapons. I have been following
chemical and biological warfare (CBW) issues since 1997 when
I was seconded from HSP to work in the Organization for the Prohibition
of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Since returning from the OPCW in 2000,
I have particularly focused on the implementation of the 1972 Biological
Weapons Convention (BWC) and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention
2. The Committee's decision to undertake
an inquiry into non-proliferation, and particularly its broad
remit that includes chemical and biological weapons in addition
to nuclear weapons, is very welcome. Given that much attention
will inevitably focus on nuclear disarmament, my submission concentrates
on CBW, a field which is often overlooked. A number of developments
in this area require attention, not least follow-up to the April
2008 Second CWC Review Conference, preparation for the 2011 Seventh
BWC Review Conference and the ongoing need to keep pace with developments
in the rapidly advancing field of science and technology. Given
the renewed focus on nuclear disarmament, it is important that
such issues are not neglected.
3. This submission first examines the CBW-related
aspects of the National Security Strategy, then assesses
the effectiveness of the current disarmament and non-proliferation
system for CB weapons before highlighting some future challenges
and potential initiatives and concluding with some suggested recommendations.
4. The National Security Strategy
published by the Government in March 2008 is welcome in its
comprehensive assessment of the threats and challenges facing
UK security. The Strategy recognises the interconnectedness of
the modern world and acknowledges that the UK cannot tackle many
of the threats that it faces alone. The way in which it presents
a holistic view of threats to UK national security and an integrated
set of policy responses is a significant advance on the traditional
way of conceptualising national security as primarily a military
5. The Strategy identifies "nuclear
weapons and other weapons of mass destruction" as one of
the security challenges facing the UK.
It is likely correct in its view that no country currently poses
a direct threat to the UK with CB weapons, and it sensibly says
that the Government will continue to monitor countries suspected
of possessing CB weapons. The Strategy describes the Government's
"integrated, multilateral approach" to tackling CB weapons.
Having observed UK participation in many BWC and CWC meetings,
I can state that this approach appears to work well, with the
UK frequently being among the more effective delegations. It would
also appear that the related institutional machinerythe
Counter-Proliferation Committee and the Counter-Proliferation
Implementation Committeefunctions effectively. Furthermore,
the UK is unique in that its CWC National Authority, which is
based in BERR, has at its disposal an advisory committee made
up of industrialists, scientists and academics. The UK deserves
praise for this innovation and the Government should encourage
other CWC states parties to establish similar committees.
6. It is unfortunate that the National
Security Strategy uses the term "weapons of mass destruction"
(WMD). The term is convenient shorthand and is useful in that
it acknowledges the many linkages between nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons. It is also a term defined by the United
Nations and used in several multilateral treaties. However, the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and many others, has
argued that "a failure to differentiate [nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons] can lead to seriously flawed policy"
as it "conflates very different threats from weapons that
differ greatly in lethality, consequence of use, and the availability
of measures that can protect against them."
The WMD conflation also ignores the significant political and
legal distinctions between international responses to nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons. The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) is not a disarmament treaty; it divides its states
parties into nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states.
The BWC and CWC in contrast are fully-fledged disarmament treaties;
all states parties are treated equally, and all are required to
renounce and destroy any CB weapons they possess. One hopes that
the Strategy uses WMD as convenient shorthand and that actual
assessment, analysis and policymaking within Government are based
on a clear understanding of the distinct characteristics of nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons.
7. Another consequence of CB weapons being
conflated with nuclear weapons under the WMD rubric is that most
attention actually focuses on nuclear proliferation with consideration
of CB weapons very much a second-order priority. This is illustrated
in the National Security Strategy which, although a document
from which fine detail should not be expected, devotes relatively
little space to CBW. It can also be seen in the responses received
to this Committee's inquiry which overwhelmingly address nuclear
issues. Even the FCO's own submission only devotes three of its
54 pages to CBW and none of the eight "serious challenges"
to the international counter-proliferation system listed in the
submission relate to CBW. This neglect of CBW is not only limited
to the Government. In Parliament, significant events such as BWC
and CWC review conferences go almost unnoticed in comparison with
their nuclear equivalents. The new focus on nuclear disarmament,
while very welcome, may result in a further reduction in attention
paid to CBW.
8. The apparent neglect of CBW in the National
Security Strategy is of concern as the UK has long been one
of the strongest supporters of CBW arms control and disarmament.
This role dates back until at least 1968 when the UK tabled
a draft biological weapons treaty in the Geneva disarmament conference.
When the BWC emerged from the subsequent negotiations, the UK
was designated as one of its three depositaries, alongside the
USA and USSR. More recently, when negotiations to strengthen the
BWC collapsed in 2001, the UK contributed to finding a way forwards
with the publication of a Green Paper.
The UK also played an active role throughout the 20 years
of the CWC's negotiation. When the CWC was finalised in 1993 a
UK diplomat, Ian Kenyon, was chosen as Executive Secretary of
its Preparatory Commission. Another British diplomat, John Freeman,
is currently Deputy Director-General of the OPCW, and preparations
for the Second CWC Review Conference were chaired by the UK Ambassador
in The Hague, Lyn Parker. Any diminution of this record would
be detrimental to the UK's external profile and to international
efforts to sustain and strengthen the anti-CBW regime, with consequent
repercussions for UK national security.
9. The effectiveness of the existing rules-based
regime (which consists not just of the BWC and CWC but also the
1925 Geneva Protocol, the empowerment of the UN Secretary-General
to investigate allegations of the use of CB weapons and UN Security
Council resolution 1540) in curbing proliferation is difficult
to assess. Any assessment depends largely on the political context
within which it is undertaken and the expectations that are placed
upon the regime. It is also important to understand that non-proliferation
is only one element of the anti-CBW regime, the other key element
is disarmament. In some ways, a focus on non-proliferation reflects
the predominance of thinking about nuclear weapons where disarmament
is a much less active part of the NPT regime. Within the CBW field,
disarmament and non-proliferation are two sides of the same cointhey
can be seen as respectively addressing the demand and supply side
of the CBW threat. Disarmament contributes to non-proliferation
by ensuring there are fewer weapons to proliferate and by giving
states less reason to acquire their own CBW capabilities. Non-proliferation
contributes to disarmament by hindering the re-emergence of CBW
stockpiles. As was seen at the Second CWC Review Conference, non-proliferation
is a contentious term, partly because of its roots in the NPT
context. Within the CWC, where there is no distinction between
haves and have-nots, non-proliferation is not a strictly accurate
term, perhaps non-diversion might be more so.
10. One way to measure the effectiveness
of the current system is to take a quantitative approach. The
CWC has 184 states parties and is therefore not far from
achieving universal adherence, although the remaining 11 states
include some, such as Egypt, Israel, North Korea and Syria, which
are suspected of possessing CW. The six declared possessor states
(Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea and the USA) have
destroyed over 40% of the world's declared stockpile of 71,315 metric
tonnes of chemical weapons.
Albania and South Korea have completed their destruction operations,
but Russia and the USA are expected to miss their 2012 deadline.
The OPCW has undertaken 3,491 inspections at 195 chemical
weapon-related and 1,103 industrial sites on the territory
of 81 states parties. The CWC has been one of the most significant
multilateral achievements of the past 15 years, although
it is among the least known or appreciated by the public. As a
much less elaborate treaty, there are fewer quantitative yardsticks
against which to measure the effectiveness of the BWC.
11. Taking a qualitative approach offers
another perspective on the effectiveness of the current system.
Neither the BWC nor the CWC are self-executing; they rely upon
effective implementation at the national level and upon awareness
among the relevant professional communities, such as the armed
forces, scientists and industry. Analyses of the national implementation
of both treaties shows that neither have particularly high rates
of national implementation. In addition, to be truly effective
national legislation has to incorporate the comprehensive nature
of each treaty, which is enshrined in the "general purpose
criterion" contained in both. Neither treaty is based on
a list of prohibited biological or chemical agents using instead
this criterion of purpose whereby all agents are prohibited unless
intended for a permitted purpose, as long as in types and quantities
consistent with such purposes. These "general purpose criteria"
allow the treaties to keep pace with scientific and technological
developments, ensure that they cover all relevant agents, even
those not yet invented and permits the use of dual-use chemical
and biological agents by legitimate industries.
12. Another measure of the effectiveness
of the existing regime is the strength of its underlying norm.
There is an ancient, cross-cultural taboo against the use of poison
and disease in warfare which is today codified in the BWC and
CWC. It is hard to imagine any country being able to use CB weapons
without provoking widespread condemnation and sanction from the
international community. Even the possession of CB weapons has
been delegitimized to the extent that no country openly admits
to it. Even those countries suspected of possessing CB weapons
do not proudly parade them as countries do with nuclear weapons
and ballistic missiles. The delegitimisation of CBW means that
the anti-CBW norm is strong. However, such normative considerations
may not dissuade terrorists from acquiring and using CB weapons,
and the norm against using poison and disease in warfare might
start to unravel if "non-lethal" CB weapons came to
be widely assimilated and deployed by military forces.
13. Studying how the existing system deals
with challenges is another way to measure its effectiveness. In
2001, the BWC received its biggest blow when six years of negotiations
to strengthen the treaty ended in failure. While many feared for
the future of the treaty, a stop-gap "rescue package"
exceeded all expectations and has now taken the BWC off in a totally
new direction, which does however, seem better suited to the challenges
now faced. At the forefront of these challenges are the dramatic
advances in science and technology which are producing whole new
subject areas, such as synthetic biology, which pose new challenges
to policymakers. To complicate matters further, the disciplines
of chemistry and biology are converging, and the life sciences
are converging with information technology and nanotechnology.
This convergence means that the BWC and CWC will have to demonstrate
adaptability and devote time to investigating the areas of overlap
14. Since its entry into force in 1997,
the CWC has focused mainly upon its disarmament function given
that possessor states were under a strict obligation to destroy
their CW stocks within 10 years (with a maximum five-year
extension to 2012). The CWC also contains much more detail within
its text on destruction than it does on non-diversion. However,
two out of the six possessor states have already completed destruction
and two more (India and Libya) will have done so before the 2012 deadline.
While it is likely that Russia and the USA will require some more
time, the fact will remain that most CW will have been destroyed
and the primary function of the CWC will shift from verifying
destruction to ensuring that re-armament does not occur. This
will entail a radical change in the nature of OPCW verification
activities and will require states parties to elaborate upon currently
underdeveloped CWC provisions regarding transfers, assistance,
encouragement and inducement and military preparations. It will
also require a broadening of the presently rather narrow approach
to CWC implementation followed by many states parties who stick
rigidly to the detailed text of the CWC. It was therefore disappointing
that the transition was not discussed in more depth at the Second
CWC Review Conference and it is worrying that many non-aligned
states parties appear to be reluctant to focus more heavily on
science and technology and non-diversion.
15. These current and impending challenges
to the existing system have led to a situation in which the BWC
and CWC are no longer the sole points of reference in the CBW
field. One analysis describes the transition of the BWC from "lone
monolith" in the early 1970s to "crucial keystone"
among numerous instruments and initiatives today.
Another argues that "action is required at all levels; individual,
sub-national, national, regional, like-minded, and international,
public, private, government, and intergovernmental levels. Managing
the biological weapons problems requires a rubric of measures
from the individual to the international."
Therefore, international organizations and initiatives now relevant
to CBW include: the 1540 Committee; the Australia Group;
the European Union; the Financial Action Task Force; the G8; the
Global Health Security Initiative; the International Committee
of the Red Cross; the International Maritime Organization; Interpol;
NATO; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development;
the Proliferation Security Initiative; the World Customs Organization;
and the World Health Organization.
16. In terms of forthcoming diplomatic initiatives,
both the BWC and CWC are currently between review conferences.
The Seventh BWC Review Conference will convene in 2011, while
the Third CWC Review Conference will convene in 2013. Both events
will require significant planning and preparation, but both are
sufficiently distant as to not require urgent action now. For
the present, attention is focused on the regular cycle of BWC
and CWC meetings, namely the BWC Meeting of States Parties in
Geneva in early December and the CWC Conference of the States
Parties at the same time in The Hague.
17. More important will be deciding on an
appropriate response to the likely failure by both Russia and
the USA to meet the 2012 deadline for the total destruction
of their CW stockpiles. This eventuality could have extremely
serious repercussions for the OPCW, and it was already casting
a shadow at this year's Second Review Conference. The Government
will need to decide its response to the fact that two key states
parties are unlikely to meet one of the most fundamental obligations
under the CWC. The outline of possible solutions is already apparent,
but reaching consensus among the OPCW's current 184 member
states is likely to prove very difficult and could impact negatively
on other areas of CWC implementation.
18. The National Security Strategy
states that "the international security architecture has
yet to adapt satisfactorily to the new landscape."
This is equally true of the CBW field where the "new landscape"
includes not only terrorism, but also the dramatic advances in
science and technology and the global spread of infectious diseases.
Space only permits mention of two initiatives, both of which have
their origins in academia. One such proposal would criminalise
CBW at the individual level, thereby filling a gap in the BWC
and CWC which primarily apply at the state level.
The Government has already stated its support for this proposal
during the Committee's inquiry into the 2002 BWC Green Paper.
Another initiative, at an earlier stage of development, proposes
the negotiation of a "framework convention on biological
and chemical controls" which would facilitate synergies between
the BWC and CWC and which could more effectively keep pace with
developments in science and technology and in related areas of
convergent technology such as nanotechnology.
Finally, three books have been published recently calling for
a "global governance" approach to biosecurity and the
misuse of the life sciences.
19. The brief overview presented here leads
to a number of recommendations. First, the Government, but also
Parliament, should pay proper and distinct attention to CB weapons
and not simply conflate them with nuclear weapons under the WMD
rubric. Second, reflecting the convergence of chemistry and biology,
much more effort should be put into improving the relationship
between the BWC and CWC and into creating synergies among the
organizations listed above in paragraph 15. Third, with respect
to the BWC, the Government should push for more regular, formal
reviews of relevant developments in science and technology. Fourth,
still on the BWC, the Government should support the strengthening
of the Implementation Support Unit and other measures to address
the BWC's institutional deficit. Fifth, on the CWC, the Government
should support a broadening of its currently rather narrow agenda,
perhaps through annual meetings similar to those under the BWC.
Sixth, the Government should encourage other states parties to
focus on the implications for the OPCW of the transition from
disarmament to non-proliferation, and should make efforts to reach
out to those states parties which appear reluctant to acknowledge
the shift. Seventh, the Government should use the opportunity
presented by the change of administration in the USA to explore
new, possibly legally-binding, initiatives while still sustaining
current activities. Eighth, Parliament itself should examine ways
to improve its scrutiny of CBW issues, particularly around the
time of BWC and CWC review conferences, and of the activities
of the CWC National Authority which reports annually to Parliament.
16 November 2008
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