AUSTRALIAN STATEMENT TO THE 4TH REVIEW CONFERENCE OF THE BWC

DELIVERED 26 NOVEMBER 1996

BY MR JOHN CAMPBELL

AUSTRALIA'S AMBASSADOR FOR DISARMAMENT


MR PRESIDENT,

AUSTRALIA ATTACHES GREAT VALUE TO THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION. WE REGARD IT AS ONE OF THE KEY INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS WHICH UNDERPIN GLOBAL SECURITY. THE BWC STANDS ALONGSIDE THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY AND THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION IN PROVIDING THE BASIS FOR THE GLOBAL LEGAL AND POLITICAL NORM AGAINST THE SPREAD OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. THE HIGHLY DESTABILISING POTENTIAL OF THESE INHUMANE WEAPONS IS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNISED. THESE FACTS UNDERLINE THE IMPORTANT WORK OF THIS CONFERENCE IN REVIEWING THE HEALTH OF THIS VITAL DISARMAMENT TREATY. WE HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED BY THE VIGOUR AND COMMITMENT EVIDENT IN THE STATEMENTS OF OTHERS. IT IS ALSO ENCOURAGING TO HAVE THE WEIGHT OF IMPORTANT NGO'S BEHIND US AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO 1997 BEING A YEAR IN WHICH WE CAN MAKE REAL HEADWAY.

ANY REVIEW OF THE CURRENT STATE OF THE BWC REGIME SHOULD START WITH ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE DISTANCE WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN TRAVERSED IN EFFORTS TO BAN BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS, BEFORE TURNING ATTENTION TO THE CHALLENGES CURRENTLY FACING THE REGIME.

WHEN IT ENTERED INTO FORCE IN 1975, THE BWC WAS THE ONLY TREATY TO BAN AN ENTIRE CLASS OF WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION. THE BWC WAS A MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT - IT WAS A SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD FROM THE NARROW AND INEFFECTIVE APPROACH TAKEN IN THE 1925 GENEVA PROTOCOL. THE EXTENSION OF THE PROHIBITIONS ON BW TO INCLUDE DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTION, STOCKPILING - AS WELL AS OTHER MEANS OF ACQUIRING OR RETAINING BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS - PROVIDED A MUCH BETTER BASIS ON WHICH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY COULD WORK FOR A TOTAL BAN THAN THE LIMITED BAN IN 1925 RESTRICTED TO PROHIBITING THE USE OF SUCH WEAPONS.

DEVELOPMENTS SINCE THE BWC WAS CONCLUDED IN 1972 HAVE, HOWEVER, INCREASINGLY RAISED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ADEQUACY OF THE CONVENTION IN PROVIDING A BARRIER TO THE DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCTION OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS. LOOKING ONLY AT THE PERIOD SINCE THE LAST REVIEW CONFERENCE IN 1991 THREE DEVELOPMENTS STAND OUT IN THIS CONTEXT:

FIRST, ADVANCES IN BIOSCIENCES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY CONTINUE TO MAKE THE PURSUIT OF A BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM EVER MORE FEASIBLE FOR A GROWING NUMBER OF COUNTRIES, IF THEY WERE TO DECIDE ON SUCH A COURSE. THE DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCTION OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS IS NO LONGER THE SOLE DOMAIN OF THOSE POSSESSING CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY. AN INCREASING NUMBER OF THE UNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT THE NATURE OF A BW PROGRAM WHICH WERE HELD AT THE TIME THE BWC WAS NEGOTIATED ARE NO LONGER VALID.

SECOND, SINCE 1991 THERE HAS BEEN OPEN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT AT LEAST TWO COUNTRIES MAINTAINED ACTIVE BW PROGRAMS DESPITE THE BWC.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S STATEMENT IN 1992 THAT THE FORMER SOVIET UNION HAD MAINTAINED AN OFFENSIVE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM, AND MORE RECENTLY

THE CONFIRMATION IN 1995 BY IRAQ, FOLLOWING SUSTAINED INVESTIGATIONS, THAT A MAJOR OFFENSIVE BW PROGRAM HAD BEEN MAINTAINED BY THEM. JUST LAST YEAR THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMISSION EXPOSED THE FULL EXTENT OF THE IRAQI OFFENSIVE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM.

THREE, IN ADDITION TO THESE TWO ADMISSIONS, THERE HAVE BEEN PERSISTENT REPORTS WHICH HAVE SUGGESTED THAT POSSIBLY AS MANY AS ANOTHER DOZEN OR MORE COUNTRIES MIGHT HAVE SOME LEVEL OF INTEREST IN ACQUIRING A BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CAPABILITY. A NUMBER OF NON-STATES PARTIES TO THE BWC ARE OFTEN MENTIONED IN THIS CONTEXT.

THESE DEVELOPMENTS REPRESENT GREAT CHALLENGES TO THE BWC. THEY SUGGEST THAT THE VALUE OF THE TREATY IN PROVIDING A BARRIER TO SUCH WEAPONS IS BEING UNDERMINED. THEY ALSO HIGHLIGHT THE NECESSITY OF ESTABLISHING VERIFICATION ARRANGEMENTS AND OF FURTHER ACTION TO PROMOTE UNIVERSAL PARTICIPATION IN THE DISARMAMENT REGIME.

THE NEED FOR VERIFICATION

AUSTRALIA'S BELIEVES STRONGLY THAT IN RESPONDING TO THE CONTINUED CHALLENGES TO THE HEALTH OF THE BWC THE MOST IMPORTANT NEED IS THE DEVELOPMENT OF EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT VERIFICATION ARRANGEMENTS. WE IDENTIFIED THE DEVELOPMENT OF VERIFICATION MACHINERY AS A KEY OBJECTIVE FOR ADVANCING THE BWC IN OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE THIRD REVIEW CONFERENCE. SUBSEQUENT DEVELOPMENTS AS JUST NOTED HAVE ONLY REINFORCED OUR BELIEF THAT SUCH ARRANGEMENTS ARE ESSENTIAL. OUR FAITH IN THE CONTINUED VALUE OF THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION, IS LINKED CLOSELY TO OUR VIEW THAT EFFECTIVE ARRANGEMENTS TO STRENGTHEN THE BWC - ESPECIALLY IN THE VERIFICATION AREA - CAN BE DEVELOPED.

WE WERE ACCORDINGLY ENCOURAGED BY THE DECISION OF THE THIRD REVIEW CONFERENCE TO INITIATE A PROCESS WHICH WOULD ENABLE STATES PARTIES TO WORK TOWARDS THIS OBJECTIVE. THE SEQUENCE OF THE SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME FROM THE VEREX PROCESS ESTABLISHING THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF VERIFICATION, THE SUBSEQUENT 1994 SPECIAL CONFERENCE AND THE INITIATION LAST YEAR OF THE AD HOC GROUP NEGOTIATIONS ARE FAMILIAR TO ALL, AND DO NOT NEED DESCRIBING IN FURTHER DETAIL, BUT THEIR IMPORTANCE CANNOT BE DISCOUNTED. THEY WERE MAJOR STEPS TOWARDS THE VERIFICATION PROTOCOL WHICH WE ARE CONFIDENT WILL RESULT FROM THE AD HOC GROUP'S EFFORTS IN - WE HOPE - THE NEAR FUTURE. WE ARE HEARTENED BY THE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE NEGOTIATIONS ON THE PLANNED PROTOCOL OF A LARGE NUMBER OF STATES PARTIES. WE ARE ENCOURAGED BY THE SIGNIFICANT AND VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO THE PROCESS BY MANY INDIVIDUAL DELEGATIONS FROM ALL REGIONAL GROUPS.

WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT EFFECTIVE VERIFICATION ARRANGEMENTS CAN BE AGREED AND THAT THESE CAN BE IMPLEMENTED IN A MANNER WHICH DOES NOT THREATEN NATIONAL SECURITY OR COMMERCIALLY SENSITIVE MATERIAL.

WE BELIEVE THAT TO BE EFFECTIVE A VERIFICATION REGIME MUST INCLUDE PROVISION FOR:

  • MANDATORY DECLARATION OF RELEVANT FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES,
  • ON-SITE ACTIVITIES TO REINFORCE THE DECLARATIONS REGIME, INCLUDING ROUTINE INSPECTIONS,
  • RAPID AND EFFECTIVE INVESTIGATION OF A COMPLIANCE CONCERN BOTH AT SPECIFIC FACILITIES AND ACROSS A LARGER GEOGRAPHIC AREA, SUCH AS WOULD BE NEEDED TO INVESTIGATE AN ALLEGATION OF USE OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS.

CLEARLY, VERIFICATION MACHINERY OF THIS TYPE WILL REQUIRE ORGANISATIONAL SUPPORT. HOWEVER, WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT AN EFFICIENT, APPROPRIATELY SIZED STRUCTURE WOULD ADEQUATELY SUPPORT THE SORT OF VERIFICATION MACHINERY BEING PROPOSED.

THE DUAL-USE NATURE OF BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH MEANS THAT MEASURES DEMONSTRATING OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY IN RELATION TO BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN BOTH MILITARY AND CIVILIAN INSTALLATIONS MUST BE THE BASIS FOR A VERIFICATION REGIME. AND WHILE AUSTRALIA, IN COMMON WITH OTHER PARTIES, IS CONCERNED NOT TO HAMPER LEGITIMATE BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION AND TRADE, WE ACCEPT A DEGREE OF INTRUSION AS ONE OF THE NECESSARY COSTS OF SECURITY.

AS OUR WORK IN THE AD HOC GROUP OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS HAS SHOWN, THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN EFFECTIVE VERIFICATION REGIME FOR THE BWC IS NOT AN EASY TASK. FOR THE MOST PART, IT IS UNCHARTED TERRITORY IN WHICH WE ARE ALL FEELING OUR WAY.

EVEN RECOGNISING THE DIFFICULTIES, AUSTRALIA HAS TO REGISTER ITS DISAPPOINTMENT THAT AFTER TWO YEARS WORK, THE PROGRESS ACHIEVED BY THE GROUP COULD ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS MODEST.

THE MAJOR FACTOR RESTRICTING THE PROGRESS OF THE GROUP HAS BEEN THE VERY LIMITED TIME AVAILABLE FOR NEGOTIATIONS. IN THIS REGARD WE WELCOME THE PROMISE OF AN INTENSIFICATION OF THE NEGOTIATIONS INHERENT IN THE AGREEMENT IN SEPTEMBER TO SET ASIDE NINE WEEKS FOR AD HOC GROUP MEETINGS IN THE COMING 12 MONTHS. WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE ADDITIONAL TIME SET ASIDE AFTER THAT TO ENABLE THE AD HOC GROUP TO INTENSIFY ITS WORK - THIS IS THE ONLY WAY OF ACHIEVING A VERIFICATION PROTOCOL WITHIN THE TIME-FRAME REQUIRED BY THE CHALLENGES FACING THE TREATY.

WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT MOMENTUM TOWARDS A CONCLUSION WOULD BE GREATLY ASSISTED IF A TARGET DATE FOR THE FINALISATION OF NEGOTIATIONS WERE TO BE SET. WE WOULD NOT PROPOSE AN UNREALISTICALLY EARLY DATE - AND FULLY APPRECIATE THE COMPLEXITIES INVOLVED IN THESE NEGOTIATIONS. HOWEVER, WE DO BELIEVE THAT SETTING A NOTIONAL TARGET DATE WILL ASSIST GREATLY TO FOCUS OUR ATTENTION AND LEAD US TO A TIMELY AND SATISFACTORY CONCLUSION.

WITH AN INTENSIFIED WORK PROGRAM IN 1997, WE BELIEVE THE TIME IS ALSO RIGHT TO MOVE TO A NEW STAGE OF NEGOTIATIONS. TO DATE THE PAPERS PRODUCED BY THE FRIENDS OF THE CHAIR HAVE SERVED US WELL IN CONSOLIDATING AND DEVELOPING THE IDEAS PUT FORWARD BY DELEGATIONS. HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE THE USEFULNESS OF THIS FORM OF NEGOTIATIONS HAS RUN ITS COURSE AND THAT WE SHOULD BE LOOKING TO MOVE TO SOME FORM OF TEXT BASED NEGOTIATIONS AT THE MARCH SESSION.

CAREFUL ATTENTION WILL NEED TO BE PAID TO ALL ELEMENTS OF THE MANDATE OF THE AD HOC GROUP.

PROMOTING UNIVERSALITY

AUSTRALIA ALSO RECOGNISES THE NEED FOR THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE BWC REGIME TO EXPAND TO ENCOMPASS ALL MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. IT IS A MATTER OF PARTICULAR CONCERN THAT IN REGIONS OF TENSION, LIKE THE MIDDLE EAST, PARTICIPATION IN THE BWC REGIME IS NOT UNIVERSAL.

WE ACCORDINGLY URGE ALL COUNTRIES WHICH HAVE NOT YET DONE SO TO JOIN THE BWC AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. WE BELIEVE THE ADDITION OF VERIFICATION MACHINERY CAN ONLY ENHANCE CONFIDENCE IN THE BWC, ENCOURAGING THOSE COUNTRIES WHICH HAVE SO FAR HELD BACK TO ACCEDE OR RATIFY THE CONVENTION.

CBMS

AT THE LAST REVIEW CONFERENCE AUSTRALIA STRONGLY SUPPORTED THE DEVELOPMENT OF STRENGTHENED CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES. SINCE THAT TIME THESE MEASURES HAVE PROVEN A USEFUL INTERIM TOOL TO INCREASE TRANSPARENCY AND BUILD CONFIDENCE IN THE REGIME. HOWEVER, AS WE ARE ALL AWARE, PARTICIPATION IN THE CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES HAS BEEN FAR FROM UNIVERSAL, AND THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HAS NOT, IN ALL CASES, DELIVERED THE HOPED FOR TRANSPARENCY. THE VARIOUS MEASURES BEING CONSIDERED UNDER THE COMPLIANCE MEASURES ASPECT OF THE AD HOC GROUP WORK OVERLAP WITH THE EXISTING CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES. FOR THIS REASON WE BELIEVE IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE TO CONSIDER ANY AMENDMENT TO THE EXISTING CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES AT THIS STAGE, BEFORE THE CONCLUSION OF THE AD HOC GROUP CONSIDERATIONS.

ARTICLE X

AN ISSUE OF CLEAR RELEVANCE TO THE WORK OF THIS CONFERENCE, AND ALSO TO THE AD HOC GROUP, IS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ARTICLE X OF THL BWC. AUSTRALIA BELIEVES THIS ARTICLE OF THE BWC TO BE A KEY ELEMENT OF THE TREATY AND IS STRONGLY COMMITTED TO THE PRINCIPLES SET OUT THEREIN. THE PROMOTION OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, AND THE SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS, OF ALL COUNTRIES WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION IN THE FIELD OF BIOTECHNOLOGY ARE MATTERS OF VITAL IMPORTANCE AFFECTING ALL STATES PARTIES. IT IS A KEY STRAND OF CONSIDERATION IN THE AD HOC GROUP.

AUSTRALIA WELCOMES THE COOPERATIVE APPROACH BEING TAKEN BY STATES PARTIES, AND THE INCREASING RECOGNITION OF THE WIDE RANGE OF ACTIVITY IN THE AREA OF BIOTECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE AND ASSISTANCE RELEVANT TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ARTICLE X. MY DELEGATION WILL CIRCULATE DURING THIS CONFERENCE A PAPER OUTLINING THE FULL RANGE OF COOPERATION IN WHICH AUSTRALIA IS INVOLVED. WE ALSO LOOK FORWARD TO A POSITIVE AND PRACTICALLY ORIENTED DISCUSSION ON WAYS OF ENHANCING COOPERATION IN THE FIELD OF BIOTECHNOLOGY.

REGIONAL ASPECTS

BEFORE CONCLUDING, I WISH TO RECORD AUSTRALIA'S RECOGNITION OF THE GROWING SUPPORT FOR THE BWC IN OUR REGION. AN INCREASING NUMBER OF COUNTRIES IN THE SOUTH EAST ASIA/PACIFIC AREA HAVE RECOGNISED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BWC IN ENSURING THIS PART OF THE WORLD REMAINS FREE FROM THE INTRODUCTION OF SUCH WEAPONS, AND THE DESIRABILITY OF AN EFFECTIVE GLOBAL BAN ON BW.

FULL MEMBERSHIP OF THE BWC REGIME IS NOW ALMOST UNIVERSAL IN THE SOUTH EAST ASIAN REGION. WE PARTICULARLY WELCOME THE RATIFICATION OF THE BWC BY OUR CLOSE NEIGHBOUR, INDONESIA, SOON AFTER THE THIRD REVIEW CONFERENCE - AND THE ACTIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE CONTRIBUTION IT IS MAKING TO EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN THE BWC.

IT SHOULD ALSO BE NOTED THAT LATE NEXT WEEK A SEMINAR ON

NON-PROLIFERATION ISSUES WILL BE HELD IN INDONESIA UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM WHICH WILL, AMONG OTHER THINGS, CONSIDER THE VALUE OF THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION AS AN ELEMENT IN ASIA/PACIFIC SECURITY. AUSTRALIA IS PLEASED TO BE INVOLVED AS A JOINT SPONSOR IN SUPPORTING THIS SEMINAR.

MR PRESIDENT

SO FAR OUR BRISK AND BUSINESSLIKE PACE HAS BEEN A PROMISING APPROACH TO THE CHALLENGES AHEAD. ONE OF THE APPEALING FEATURES OF THIS NEGOTIATION HAS BEEN ITS PRACTICAL AND FOCUSED STYLE AND IF WE CAN MAINTAIN THAT WE WILL MANAGE WELL.

IN CONCLUDING, I WOULD LIKE TO REAFFIRM THE COMMITMENT OF MY DELEGATION TO YOUR EFFORTS TO ENSURE THIS CONFERENCE IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS POSSIBLE.

THANK YOU.