Created November 23, 1993

THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION:
REPORT OF THE AD HOC GROUP OF GOVERNMENTAL EXPERTS

The Ad Hoc Group of Governmental Experts, established at the 1991 Review Conference of States Parties to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC), recently completed a consensus report examining potential verification measures from a scientific and technical standpoint. The Ad Hoc Group held four sessions in Geneva between March 1992 and September 1993. Ambassador Edward J. Lacey, ACDA Deputy Assistant Director for Verification, led the U.S. Delegation.

The Report of the Ad Hoc Group has four principal sections. Three of the four sections consist of annexes to the Report detailing the specific findings respectively of the first three sessions of the Ad Hoc Group. Annex No. 1 summarizes the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Group, held March 30-April 10, 1992. At this initial session, 21 potential verification measures encompassing both on and off-site activities were identified under the three broad areas of development, acquisition or production, and stockpiling. The off-site measures included the categories of information monitoring, data exchange, remote sensing, and inspections. Exchange visits, inspections, and continuous monitoring comprised the three categories of on-site activities.

Annex No. 2 contains the summary of the examination of each of the 21 potential measures conducted at the second session, held November 23-December 4, 1992. As part of the examination, the measures were defined and their characteristics enumerated. In addition, the state-of-the-art of applicable technologies was detailed, and the capabilities and limitations of those technologies were described. Annex No. 3 contains the summary of the evaluation of the measures conducted during the third meeting of the Ad Hoc Group, held May 24-June 4, 1992. The 21 measures were evaluated in accordance with the six main criteria mandated by the 1991 Review Conference. For each of the measures, the capabilities and limitations were identified and compiled. In addition, the Ad Hoc Group assessed illustrative, but not exhaustive, examples of measures in combination.

The fourth component of the Report is a Summary containing an overview of the proceedings and findings of the Ad Hoc Group which was prepared at the final session, held September 13-September 24, 1993. The principal conclusions of the Summary are as follow:

  • The Ad Hoc Group of Governmental Experts concluded that potential verification measures as identified and evaluated could be useful to varying degrees in enhancing confidence, through increased transparency, that State Parties were fulfilling their obligations under the BWC.

  • While it was agreed that reliance could not be placed on any single measure to differentiate conclusively between prohibited and permitted activity and to resolve ambiguities about compliance, it was also agreed that the measures could provide information of varying utility in strengthening, the BWC.

  • Some measures in combination could provide enhanced capabilities by increasing, for example, the focus and improving the quality of information thereby improving the possibility of differentiating between prohibited and permitted activities and of resolving ambiguities about compliance.

  • Concern was expressed that the implementation of any measure should ensure that sensitive commercial proprietary information and national security needs are protected.

  • Based on the examination and evaluation of the measures against the criteria given in the mandate, the Group considered, from the scientific and technical standpoint, that some of the potential verification measures would contribute to strengthening the effectiveness and improving the implementation of the Convention, also recognizing that appropriate and effective verification could reinforce the Convention.

    The Report of the Ad Hoc Group of Governmental Experts has been circulated to all States Parties to the BWC for their consideration. If a majority of the 134 States Parties so request, a Special Conference of States Parties would be convened to consider the Report of the Ad Hoc Group and further actions to be taken with respect to the BWC. In this regard, to help deter violations of the BWC, President Clinton has announced that the United States will promote new measures to increase transparency of activities and facilities that could have biological weapons applications.