Twenty-first century perspectives on the Biological Weapon Convention: Continued relevance or toothless paper tiger

By Glenn Cross, Lynn Klotz, July 20, 2020

Representatives to the Biological Weapons Convention meet. Representatives to the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty banning bioweapons activity, meet in 2015. Credit: Eric Bridiers/US Mission Geneva. CC BY-ND 2.0.

While the secretary-general of the United Nations has questioned whether the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a gap in global defenses against bioterrorism that a nefarious group may seek to exploit, the reality is that the pandemic has only underscored the folly of biological warfare, a strategy which relies on weapons – viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens – that would indiscriminately wreak havoc on the attacked and the attacker alike. Indeed, most countries in the world are part of the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty that – while lacking an enforcement mechanism – has successfully bolstered the near universal norms against the use of biological weapons.

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