BWC 8th RevCon, 7 November
Ambassador John Quinn, Head of the Australian Delegation
I congratulate you on your confirmation as President of this Conference earlier today, and thank you for your ongoing steady hand as you chart a way forward for this year’s BWC Review Conference.
I also would like to acknowledge the presence of those delegations that are participating here as a result of the ISU’s sponsorship program, and underline our pleasure that Australia has once again been able to facilitate participation by several delegations.
We join many others that have warmly welcomed the accession by Liberia and Nepal on 4 November in Washington to the BWC , hence bringing the total to 177 states parties. This is a significant step forward in advancing our shared goal of universalisation.
Australia strongly believes in the value of a transparent, collaborative, inclusive Review Conference process. We also underline the importance of all States Parties looking beyond their own regional grouping, and finding ways to collaborate across the whole BWC membership.
With this in mind, we want to foster a RevCon process that helps take the BWC agenda forward.
The BWC’s intersessional meetings have provided a forum to bring together our respective domestic security, health, law enforcement and scientific communities (communities which are not traditionally engaged in disarmament treaties) and facilitated increasing levels of cooperation and collaboration on national, regional and global efforts against biological-related security threats.
The Intersessional Process, however, is not perfect, and I think many of us here would agree that we have not done enough substantive work on issues critical to the ISP mandate over the past 5 years. For example, biological science and technology review, a key focus of the 7th RevCon Final Declaration is underdone, particularly noting the rapid rate of technological change we are currently experiencing. Similarly, national implementation and even Article X
exchanges, need to be more useful and collaborative. The idea of open ended working groups to address these issues is potentially one way to make much-needed progress.
Secondly, the Intersessional Process is considerably weakened by its lack of decision making authority. As we concluded at the Seventh RevCon, “States Parties will consider the work and outcomes of these meetings at the Eighth RevCon and decide on any further action”. In other words, there is no mandate for the annual Meeting of States Parties to “agree actions as appropriate”. We are restricted to waiting for the RevCon.
Thirdly, the Implementation Support Unit remains a modest structure and we have placed an almost unsustainable burden on its capacity to deliver on the tasks we have set it. At the 7th RevCon, we agreed on a budget embodying zero real growth subject only to variations for inflation, yet we have mandated additional tasks to the Unit. We believe that even a modest supplementation of the ISU budget could have a dramatic impact on its scope to undertake new tasks, and to enable us to proceed with an ambitious agenda for the next ISP.
Finally, the ISP does not have any flexibility to cater for new issues in a substantive way. As we know, the RevCon accords a mandate for the selection of one or two topics, for formal discussion at each year’s Meetings of Experts (MX), even if a range of topics could be discussed in general terms. This lack of flexibility on the selection of the main topics meant that potentially more topics relevant to biosecurity issues were not adequately addressed during the course of the current ISP.
Australia, as one of the co-facilitators on the ISP and ISU, along with Pakistan looks forward to working closely with colleagues to come up with a transformative agenda for the next ISP.
I thank you, Mr President