Pax Christi International statement to Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties 14 December 2015

Make Biosecurity Sustainable
Statement of Pax Christi International to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties
14-18 December 2015, Geneva

Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you during your Meeting of States Parties. We wish to make some concrete proposals of direct relevance to this Meeting and to your efforts in preparing for the upcoming Eighth Review Conference in 2016.

First of all, we would like to thank the Chairman for his clear and comprehensive synthesis report of the main issues discussed during the Meeting of Experts of last August. This report includes a wealth of valuable and ambitious contributions to strengthening the international norm against misuse of life sciences for hostile purposes.

In relation to the Standing Agenda Item on cooperation and assistance regarding article X, synergies with other relevant programmes and initiatives are essential for ensuring efficient use of resources. We recommend inclusion under sub item F of the UN Sustainable Development Goals[1] adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015 which aim to mobilise international public and private resources with a time horizon of 2030. [2] In particular Sustainable Development goal 3, with sub goal 3.d  is directly relevant to article X. This reads: “Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.”

Concerning science and technology, the synthesis report includes several suggestions for establishing an open ended working group monitoring developments directly related to the Convention, to be coordinated with other scientific advisory bodies, in particular the one related to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Pax Christi International suggests organising such a working group in a way that encourages young researchers and students to contribute their ideas and suggestions on novel biosecurity measures and on public awareness raising. A good practical example is the global iGEM competition[3] of university and secondary school students teams that integrates biosecurity, biosafety, human practices and outreach in their projects designing applications of synthetic biology. This serves both as an excellent training programme on handling risks of life sciences and as a fruitful source of innovative solutions for minimizing risks and fostering benefits of dual use research. It may also be considered a prime example of science diplomacy, because it fosters dialogue and collaboration between teams from all continents. 

A number of suggestions have been made during the intersessional programme in the years 2012-2015 for strengthening the convention. We hope these initiatives will turn out to be stepping stones to a common endeavour that will culminate in concrete steps forward at the Eighth Review Conference next year. These steps will have to strike a balance between protecting citizens against hostile uses of life sciences and offering scientists, industry and society at large the opportunities to create new knowledge and beneficial applications.

Knowing that you have a busy schedule this week, we limit ourselves to these suggestions. Thank you for your attention. Pax Christi International wishes you all fruitful discussions and a successful Meeting of States Parties.

 

Geneva, 14 December 2015.

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