FCO: 'Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention'

01 September 2002

This is the Royal Societys response to the Green Paper Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: Countering the Threat from Biological Weapons, published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British Government in April 2002.

Summary of key points

Successful Scientific Advisory Panels have in common a number of key features that should be taken into account in the creation of a body to improve the efficacy of the BTWC. These include highly respected memberships directed by bodies set up as the result of international political agreement. Their objectives must be clearly defined and widely accepted as beneficial to human welfare.

Addressing issues of scientific responsibility and ethics in research is an important but complex undertaking, which can only be tackled in a number of complementary ways. One is the agreement of a universal set of standards for research that can be incorporated into internationally-supported treaties; another is a concerted effort to increase awareness of international treaties and implicit codes of ethical conduct amongst researchers.

The FCO published the Green Paper to solicit the views of Members of Parliament, NGOs, other organisations and individuals with an interest in the subject of strengthening the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). Following the failure in December last year of the States Parties to agree on the text of a Protocol to the Convention, renewed efforts have been made to find ways of making the BTWC more effective. The Green Paper discusses UK priorities and the next steps ahead of the reconvened BTWC Fifth Review Conference in November 2002, and invites comments on the outlined proposals and any other ideas for strengthening the Convention. The full text of the Green Paper can be downloaded by clicking on the following link: