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Home    >   Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention   >  Statement by Mr. Anmol Sher Singh Bedi, Senior Adviser during the meeting of the Working Group on the strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Geneva, 7 December 2023

Statement by Mr. Anmol Sher Singh Bedi, Senior Adviser during the meeting of the Working Group on the strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Geneva, 7 December 2023

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson,

At the outset, allow me to, on behalf of my delegation,appreciate your skilful steering of our Group, and we confirm to youour good wishes and support.

We alsonotethe commendable work by the ISU to support our activities.

Mr. Chairperson,

We congregate here towork on themandateassigned to us by the 9th Review Conference.

It is important to remind us what that mandate is.

The Conference tasked our Group to “identify, examine and develop specific and effective measures, including possible legally-binding measures, and to make recommendations to strengthen and institutionalise the Convention in all its aspects”.

Under this mandate, my delegation believes thatmeasures relating to compliance and verification hold a special importance in the strengthening the Convention.

Mr. Chairperson,

The issue of ensuring compliance and the broader question of verification within the BWC is not a new one.

While the issue, per se, has been brought for formal consideration after more than 20 years, it was seriously examined by the BWC States Parties, particularly in the 90s under the VEREX and Ad-hoc Group.

Rapid advances in bio-sciences coupled with the disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic, has revealed our shared vulnerability to catastrophic biological events. This has in some way put spotlight back on un-resolved issues such as compliance and verification in BWC.

It is our understanding that there may be a gap between what is technically feasible and what has been diplomatically possible within the context of BWC on compliance and verification.

Speaking from a normative perspective, India has consistently supported the need for the institutional strengthening of the Convention through negotiation of a comprehensive and legally binding protocol.

Such a protocol, as we have said earlier, should provide for an effective, universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanism.

Mr. Chairperson,

While this position has not changed - what has significantly changed since the last 25 years, amongst other factors, are the revolutionary developments in bio-sciences and bio-technology.

These changeshave impacted and they continue to impact - the evolving threat landscape -including the possible pathways to activities inconsistent with the object and purpose of BWC.

These factors pose fundamental questions, which would determine ourwork on verification in several ways. Some of the illustrative questions are as follows:

1.     What do we mean by verification in contemporary BWC context?  What do we mean by enhancing compliance?Where does monitoring fit into this, and what does it constitute?

2.    What could be the possible standards of compliance or verification that we seek to uphold?
Do we intend it to have States Partiesdemonstrate compliance; do we intend it to serve as a tool to deter non-compliance, or do we want an assurance of compliance? And if yes, can we achieve those results adequately and how?
All these three models, in our opinion, would impose a different standard of ambition/ scrutiny for verification.

3.    An inter-related question is whether our objective is to un-earth any illicit bio-activity at any point of time? Or we are trying to focus on unusual activities or events of a significant scale and which arespread over long term? Would verification help us tackle the more contemporary and emergent bio-threats particularly the one posed by illicit actors including terrorists?

4.     A more fundamental question is can we fully address this through the traditional verification approaches?Does the previous work done by VEREX and Ad hoc Group could in some way guide our work, if not the basis of our work?

5.     If the material accounting or quantification model, as in other arms control frameworks, appears challenging in the BWC context, should verification aim to validate contextual factors aroundbiological activities, which is a matter of a more qualitative analysis. If yes, how would it change the approach to verification in terms of measures and technical procedures?

Mr. Chairperson,

These questions are not new. Some of these were dealt during Ad hoc group negotiations.

My delegation believes that we need an informed and fresh opinion totackle these questions.

We also agree with othersabout the need to look at the issue of compliance and verification comprehensively.Thisexercise has to base itself in science and adopt a science-based approach.

It also has to take into account potential opportunities offered by S&T developmentswhich may contribute to verification.

My delegation also agrees with Singapore that anymeasures that we conceivemust attempt to strike a balance with legitimate national security or other relevant considerations.

Likewise, India has a tradition of engaging with wider public and its industry in consideration of such matters. For a verification regime that is fit for purpose, the imperative to nurture a constructive relationship with the bio-technology industry cannot be understated.

Moving on to CBMs, with your permission Mr. Chairperson, my delegation feels that they serve as an important transparency measure. They have played an important role in building trust, given the absence of verification under the Convention.

We support the further strengthening of the CBMs by possible expansion of the information sought, based on a consensus consideration - which will further reduce or prevent ambiguities.

India has been submitting its CBM reports in a timely manner. We are pleased to note that the CBM submissions this year are the highest ever - indicating a strong positive trend in the CBM submissions.

The utility of the CBMs should be further enhanced by promoting regular submission and improving the quality of responses in the data collected through CBMs.

India, however, believes that CBMs are not a tool to assess compliance but to promote transparency, and should be seen as such.

Mr. Chairperson,

The BWC lacks a technical Secretariat.

While the Implementation Support Unit has been doing commendable work, it lacks adequate resources both financial and human, and may not be able to meet effectively the growing demands on the Convention, and the increasing expectations of the States Parties.

This will certainly be true if new mechanisms are created, particularly on enhancing compliance.

There is thus a need to strengthen the ISUand place it on a strong and sustainable footing, corresponding with the responsibilities and the mandate it is assigned.

I thank you.

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