Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Conference of the States Parties
Geneva, 7 – 11 December 2009
Statement by Dr. Hilde Janne Skorpen
Deputy Permanent Representative
Allow me at the outset to echo other delegations in congratulating you on your outstanding chairmanship of the Meeting of Experts in August. I am confident that we will achieve our objectives under your able leadership and guidance.
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is an essential instrument in achieving a world free of weapons of mass destruction. The BTWC has contributed in setting a much needed constructive tone in multilateral arms control diplomacy.
We are now in the midst of implementing the work programme. One of the main topics last year was biological safety and security. In June 2008 Norway and Indonesia together with the Implementation Support Unit of the BTWC organised a regional workshop on this topic in Jakarta. This initiative was followed up with an international conference in Oslo last June, with particular focus on reducing biological risks by building capacity in health security. The intention of this initiative has been to contribute to BTWCs intercessional programme of work, support national implementation and support the Foreign Policy and Global Initiative, which calls for greater awareness of the links between foreign policy and global health issues. Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand are part of this initiative.
An integral part of the BTWC is economic and technological development through cooperation in the field of peaceful biological activities, as set out in Article X. Given past differences on the interpretation of this article, we are pleased that the Oslo conference proved to be a successful exercise in sharing experiences on practical steps to implement article X of the Convention.
Further it underlined the importance and relevance of deepening international cooperation to strengthen disease surveillance and promote health security. Participants exchanged experiences from a variety of national perspectives and circumstances, with a view to identifying challenges and opportunities for greater cooperation and coordination in the health, security and arms control fields, and exploring prospects for further capacity-building activities that support both public health and security goals.
The outcome document of the Oslo workshop last June has, in our view, provided a substantial in-put to the deliberations at this Meeting of States Parties. In this respect, let me express our appreciation of the support provided by the Implementation Support Unit in all our activities.
A working paper was submitted by Indonesia and Norway at the Meeting of Experts in August providing a Chair’s summary of the workshop. We hope that the outcome of the workshop will facilitate our deliberations this week.
National implementation of the obligations set out in the Convention is fundamental to the effective functioning of the BTWC. We recognise that some countries need assistance with national implementation. This year, Norway has allocated resources for training courses in Asian countries on biological security and safety. These courses are carried out by the WHO and Norwegian Veritas (DNV).
The BTWC is part of a broad political partnership for promoting global health. As was also clearly stated at the last review conference, the BTWC should note the role of other agencies, such as the WHO, FAO and the OIE. These are the bodies that survey and combat disease on a daily basis, to the benefit of the health and security of us all. The point is that the BTWC must not seek to duplicate efforts of other institutions, but rather contribute to developing new synergies and building stronger partnerships.
This leads me to the next issue that I would like to highlight, which is the need to sustain and further strengthen the global norm to ensure that the ban on biological and toxin weapons is effective. Important in this respect is the full universalisation of the BTWC. In order to ensure full universality, we must continue to encourage and assist States in the process of signing, ratifying and implementing the Convention.
The lead-up to the 2011 Review Conference provides us an opportunity to deliberate on ways to further strengthen the BTWC, such as measures to verify compliance to the Convention.
A part of the exercise leading up to the Review Conference we should consider how to make better use of the confidence building measures (CBM).
Norway is pleased to refer to our cooperation with Geneva Forum, Germany and Switzerland in organizing three workshops focusing on “options and proposals to revise the mechanism of Confidence Building Measures.” First meeting was hosted by Switzerland earlier this autumn, while a second meeting will take place here in Geneva in the margins of the State Parties Conference, on 12 December.
Norway attaches great importance to transparency for the well functioning of the BTWC regime. This brings me to the final issue: Norway would like to emphasise the importance of strengthening partnerships and networks across regions.
We are aware of the regional divisions that sometimes occur during our deliberations. However, as the Review Conferences of the Convention in the past have demonstrated, when countries work to find common ground, important results can be achieved. This requires continued and enhanced cooperation, dialogue and the sharing of national experiences between developed and developing countries. The spirit of partnership should guide us in the preparations for the Review Conference in 2011.