Meeting the challenges of biological threats: Strengthening the UN role in biological non-proliferation regimes
AuthorAhmed Burshaid Al-Dhaheri, Mubarak Saeed
Committee membersТомашевић, Владимир
MetadataShow full item record
There is no doubt that the security architecture of the world is rapidly and dynamically changing in the time we live in. These changes bring new security challenges. One of them is certainly the increasing danger of possible use of biological weapons in war and terrorist activities. Biological warfare has always attracted people, since the earliest times of civilization, and in all wars, many people died from epidemics of infectious diseases that are a natural companion of war conflicts. During the Cold War period, biological weapons (BW) were part of the arsenals of both world superpowers. Nevertheless, September 11, 2001 represents a turning point after which the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including biological ones, becomes part of the propaganda narrative following each local or regional war conflict that have been fought since then. Until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the background of which all the time was taking place serious geopolitical... game, as well as the beginning of the great re-composition of the world that is inexorably moving towards multicentrism, as it is clearly confirmed by recent events on the world stage, assessments of the prospects and the effects of the possible use of biological weapons were reduced to the formulation "low probability-high consequence", and therefore great attention was paid to preventing and deterring of potential users, primarily by establishing legal regulations in national frameworks in order to sanction the potential production, storage, transfer and use of biological agents and their products - toxins. The basis for drafting such acts was the Convention on Biological Weapons (BWC) - Biological Convention from 1972 (full name of the document: Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Storage of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons and on Their Destruction), which has certain shortcomings, like any act of this nature and represents only an umbrella document in this area. According to the current regulations, the main role and responsibility for the implementation of the Convention rests with the signatory states, and it takes place through three levels (one of which is legally founded, the second is political, while the third one is completely voluntary). The UN Security Council has the role of final arbiter in the case of allegations of violations of the Biological Convention. The Implementation Support Unit supports Member States in their efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention, while the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) have a potential expert and advisory role in clarifying events as well as the situations in this domain, in order to help the signatory states in comprehensively and successfully dealing with this complex international phenomenon. However, the level of verification remains one of the basic challenges related to the disarmament and prevention of the proliferation of biological weapons, because for some reason an independent expert international body under the auspices of the UN - the Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons has not yet been formed. It seems for some reason politically unacceptable to most actors on the world stage, such as the negotiations on verification mechanisms that have been stalled for the past 20 years. The progress of science, especially in the field of molecular biology, biotechnology and nanotechnology, pharmacology, synthetic biology, can lead to serious consequences in terms of the further development of more dangerous and deadly biological weapons, whether it is a completely new, even genetically or ethnically specific or a result of modification of the existing ones, as well as it could present a combination with other biological, chemical and radiological, but also with conventional weapons. Accordingly, within the framework of international arrangements and multilateral agreements for prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and subsequent control mechanisms, including those related to dual-use goods and assets, this problem should be a subject of specific and continuous monitoring. All this primarily refers to the already mentioned rapid development of science in this area, which brings fantastic benefits in the development of new drugs, diagnostic tools, therapy, but also makes possible development of potentially deadly and very specific biological weapons, as well as means and opportunities for their dissemination and spreading. This is precisely why databases related to the structures of the genomes of humans and microorganisms should be secured, the work of laboratories and their capabilities should be carefully monitored, the epidemiological and epizootological situation in the various geographic fields should be followed, and preventive measures and an adequate response should be undertaken in the event of a potential threat appearance. It must be a constant proactive task and obligation of all participants and the signatories of the Biological Convention, as well as of the mentioned international control body, the formation of which would be an imperative of the times, especially at the actual geopolitical moment. Rules and obligations must be equally binding for all actors, regardless of the size and power of states in the geopolitical arena. It is extremely important to implement measures of constant education and raising the awareness of researchers in this domain, as well as strengthening their ethical code, so that their knowledge is not misused for the further development of dangerous biological weapons. It is certainly a specific task for the intelligence-security, academic, medical-biological sectors, but it also must be an important area for the improvement of international cooperation in this domain. Preventing the proliferation of biological weapons certainly requires a qualitatively new approach and strengthening of mechanisms for the implementation of the Biological Convention at the international level, sincere cooperation, as well as essential results in the field of verification and control in order to strengthen international security and common development and prosperity.