1 May 2011

Status quo or evolution: What next for the intersessional process of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?

Caitríona McLeish

Caitríona McLeish is a senior fellow at SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex, UK and has been part of the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological...

Treaties are more than just pieces of paper. In order to fulfill the obligations set forth on paper, a vitalized process is created that can be affected both positively and negatively by the actions of those who are members and by the geopolitical context in which the treaty resides. It is the actions of those who are party to a treaty that largely determine the success or failure, as each member periodically examines whether the benefits of being part of the treaty outweigh any negative obligations and other costs. In 2001, the members of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) decided upon a series of intersessional meetings which, although instigated as a rescue operation from a series of major internal and external shocks, were judged as useful, and a second series was approved. In December, States Parties to the BWC will gather for a seventh time to review the operation of the treaty and make decisions about the next five years, including whether to approve a third series of annual meetings. But would a third series in its current format be for the good of the BWC? Would a third intersessional process support States Parties in their evaluation that they are better off as members of the BWC? By reviewing the origins of the intersessional process and providing an analysis of activities thus far, the author offers suggestions to be considered for organizing a third intersessional review process.