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United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jasper Lim 2012-13
Note: This document serves only as an introduction to the topic.
Notice how biological and toxin weapons, and chemical weapons are different: What are Biological and Toxins Weapons? Almost any disease-causing organism (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions or rickettsiae) or toxin (poisons derived from animals, plants or microorganisms, or similar substances produced synthetically) can be used in biological weapons. The delivery system of biological and toxin weapons can also take in many forms. And due to the varieties of disease-causing organisms and delivery system that can be used as biological weapons, it is difficult to completely eliminate the development, possession and use of biological weapons.
What are Chemical Weapons? Chemical weapons, also known as CW, are categorized as weapons of mass-destruction. Just like Biological and Toxin Weapons, they only harm human beings and animals. They will not destroy buildings or infrastructures. The history of chemical weapons can be traced back to the First World War, in which the Germans mass-produced chemical weapons and actually used them in battles (such as chlorine gas and phosphorus gas). The Americans also extensively used chemical weapons, such as the notorious Agent Orange, in the Vietnam War. However, President Richard Nixon became a major actor in propelling the banning of the use of chemical weapons.
Examination of the Current Status Quo: Biological and Toxins Weapons: “A long process of negotiation to add a verification mechanism(checking if that nation has in fact ratified the treaty or not ) began in the 1990s. Previously, at the second Review Conference of State Parties in 1986, member states agreed to strengthen the treaty by reporting annually on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to the United Nations. (Currently, only about half of the treaty signatories actually submit these voluntary annual reports.) The following Review Conference in 1991 established a group of government experts (known as VEREX). Negotiations towards an internationally binding verification protocol to the BWC took place between 1995 and 2001 in a forum known as the Ad Hoc Group. On 25 July 2001, the Bush administration, after conducting a review of policy on biological weapons, decided that the proposed protocol did not suit the national interests of the United States. States Parties have formally reviewed the operation of the BWC at review conferences held in 1980, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001/2002 and 2006. During these review conferences, States Parties have reaffirmed that the scope of the Convention extends to new scientific and technological developments, and have also instituted confidence-building data-exchanges in order to enhance transparency and strengthen the BWC.”
See http://www.unog.ch/bwc/cbms for latest details from the review conferences of the BWC ( Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention )
There is more significant progress in the elimination of chemical weapons than that of biological and toxins weapons. “The destruction of chemical weapons that have been declared to the OPCW by States Parties under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has surpassed 60 percent of global stockpiles. The Technical Secretariat has now verified the destruction of approximately 41,692 metric tonnes, or 60.05 percent, of all Category 1 chemical weapons that have been declared by seven possessor States since the Convention’s entry into force on 29 April 1997. “ For full article see: http://www.opcw.org/nc/news/article/global-campaign-to-destroy-chemical-weapons-passes-60-percent-mar k/
Detailed Introduction to the Problem of Biological Weapons: “First, it is extremely difficult to prevent the spread of biological warfare capabilities to actors that want them and these actors tend to be motivated by a desire to challenge the status quo. Contrary to conventional wisdom, biological weapons have utility across the spectrum of conflict and are well suited to asymmetric strategies against stronger opponents. Second, biological weapons do not confer the deterrent benefits associated with nuclear weapons and will undermine reliance on deterrence as a security strategy. Biological weapons are not suitable as strategic deterrents due to the uncertainty regarding their effects, the availability of defences and the reliance of these weapons on secrecy and surprise for their effectiveness. The accessibility of these weapons to a diverse range of actors, including terrorists, and the ease of clandestine attacks undermines the effectiveness of deterrence as a security strategy.
Third, civilian oversight of biological programs is hindered by the intense secrecy that shrouds these programs. This lack of supervision leads to abuse and corruption by program managers, impedes adherence to international agreements, and increases the risk of such programs becoming the source of materials for terrorists. Fourth, states tend to have flawed assessments’ of their opponent’s biological warfare capabilities and intentions. The result of such complacency and continued vulnerability to attack.
Biological weapons will continue to exert a destabilizing influence on international security until defences against these weapons are improved, governments can reliably detect biological weapons activities, the proliferation of biological weapons materials and expertise is staunched, and the norms against their possession and use are strengthened.” ( Koblentz, Gregory D. “Pathogens as Weapons: The International Security of Biological Warfare”. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004 ) ( Asymmetric warfare: “war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymmetric_warfare )
(Clandestine: something that is done secretly)
Key Words: Adherence to international agreement Weapons capability or warfare capability International security Deterrence Proliferation Terrorists Secrecy Civilian oversight Norms Security Dilemma Expertise ( in developing biological weapons ) Diverse range of actors
The current Syrian crisis also sheds light on issues concerning chemical weapons in the Middle East region. Current crises in Syria and Chemical Weapons: Fears Grows for Fate of Syria’s Chemical Weapons http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18483788 Syria: NATO Approves Patriots for Turkey http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20590129 Caution Urged Over Syria’s Chemical Weapons http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/3bc8e04a-42eb-11e2-aa8f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2HkW2ICnt “The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets. Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent. The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas. A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities. Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)” To be more specific this ongoing issue sheds light on how the international system to respond to the use of chemical weapons. This also sheds light on the advantages of total elimination of even the possession of chemical weapons. One must also take note of the consequences of chemical weapons falling into militant’s hands after the fall of a government.
Important Terms: UNODA:
The major mission of UNODA “is to foster disarmament measures through dialogue, transparency and confidence-building on military matters, and encourages regional disarmament efforts.”
Take notes of the words: Dialogue, Transparency, Confidence-Building. ( important words for matters concerning Chemical and Biological Weapons )
Arms Control: “A variety of approaches to the limitation of weapons. Arms control ranges from restricting the future growth in the number, types, or deployment of weapons; through the reduction of weapons; to the elimination of some types of (or even all) weapons on a global or regional basis.”
Chemical Weapons Convention (“Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction) “A treaty that was signed and became effective in 1995 under which signatories pledge to eliminate all chemical weapons by the year 2005; to submit to rigorous inspection; to never develop, produce, stockpile, or use chemical weapons; and to never transfer chemical weapons to another country or assist another country to acquire such weapons.” “After 12 years of negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992. The CWC allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties. The CWC opened for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993 and entered into force on 29 April 1997. The CWC is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control.”
Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Generally deemed to be nuclear weapons with a tremendous capability to destroy a population and the planet, but also include some exceptionally devastating conventional arms, such as fuel-air explosives, as well as biological and chemical weapons.
Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (CWC) (The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction): It was signed in 10th, April, 1972. The aim of the Convention is to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use but not the possession or development of chemical and biological weapons. To date, 165 states have ratified or acceded to the CWC. However, the absence of any formal verification regime to monitor compliance has limited the effectiveness of the Convention.
General and complete disarmament: “Total elimination of weapons of force.”
This concept was particularly applied to disarmament of nuclear weapons (weapons of mass destructions) during the Cold War between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.
See document: http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/ATTPrepCom/Background%20documents/A-RES-43-75I(1988)onInter nationalArmsTransfers.pdf
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW):
An intergovernmental organization, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The organization promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits of the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. The verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by members states and on-site inspections. It helped lead the effort of drafting the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Position of State Powers: Biological and Toxins Weapons:
(a) 165 states and the Republic of China (Taiwan – a state that is not a member of the United Nations) have ratified or acceded to the BWC. (b) States that have signed but not ratified the BWC include Burma, Egypt, Haiti, Liberal, Somalia, Syria, Tanzania etc. (c) Non-signatory states include Israel, Niue, Samoa, South Sudan, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Angola etc.
(a) There is evidence that North Korea, Syria and Iran have active chemical weapons programs. (b) Israel and Myanmar (Burma) have not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. (c) Angola, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Somalia and Syrian Arab Republic have neither signed nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. (d) 188 states have signed the CWC ( Chemical Weapons Conventions )
What to Consider When Debating/Writing Resolutions?
On formal state actors level: To refine practical mechanisms in eliminating the possession, development and use of chemical, biological and toxin weapons.
On international security level that concerns other actors, such as terrorists: To refine practical mechanisms in dealing with trafficking of chemical, biological and toxin weapons to block the ownership/stockpiling/use of these weapons of mass destruction.
Delegates are highly encouraged to consider more than only formal state actors and terrorists. Delegates should also consider making recommendations that involve other international organizations, which could provide the expertise needed to resolve these specialized issues. For instance, a resolution that involves the WHO (World Health Organization) on providing the right education to people in case of an epidemic ( be it man-made biological weapon or a naturally occurring one ).
(a) How to encourage greater international cooperation in dealing with possible biological terrorism? (b) How should United Nations interfere when there is evidence that a state is going to utilize chemical weapons? ( any mechanism? ) Should the United Nations sanction that state?
On particularly Biological and Toxin Weapons: Three major directions:
(a) Confidence-Building Measures ( concerning formal state actors, particularly the transparency of ratification of the CWC ) (b) Response to Crisis in Biological and Toxin Weapons
More on Confidence-Building Measures: “The key to this modernization is to redesign the treaty's Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs), the only formal mechanism for increasing transparency and demonstrating compliance with the treaty, to address changes in the global scientific, health, and security environments since the end of the Cold War. The scope of the CBMs should be expanded beyond state-run biological warfare programs to encompass a broader array of threats to global security, such as biological terrorism, laboratory accidents, dual-use research, and disease pandemics. Modernizing the CBM mechanism to take into account these new risks would extend the transparency-enhancing benefits of CBMs to a range of new and important topics, such as biosafety, laboratory biosecurity, and dual-use research oversight; make the CBMs and the treaty itself more relevant to the concerns and priorities of more states; and build on progress made during the recent series of intersessional meetings. To accomplish this, the CBMs need to be revised to shift their focus from hardware, the dual-use capabilities relevant to the treaty, to software, the political and legal institutions that govern the development and use of these capabilities. A more modern CBM mechanism should encourage greater participation in the confidence-building process, improve international cooperation against the full spectrum of biological risks, and promote the goal of universal membership in the
treaty.” (Modernizing Confidence Building Measures for Biological Weapons Convention http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21819226 )
History of Biological Weapons:
Some useful Statistics on Destruction of Chemical Weapons:
Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention by Confidence-Building Measures (Sipri Chemical and Biological Warfare Studies) by Erhard Geissler