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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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ASPR Participates in Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention Review Conference

Author: Valdes, Allan (HHS/ASPR/COO)
Published Date: 12/23/2011 10:16:00 AM
Category: Exercises & Trainings;

The 1976 Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention is a critical international agreement that supports global security and public health preparedness and response. Under the BTWC, 165 nations (called “States Parties”) have agreed not to develop, produce, stockpile, acquire, retain, or transfer biological agents or toxins (things like anthrax) except when justified for preventive, protective or other peaceful purposes. Every five years, signatory nations come together at the United Nations in Geneva at a conference known as REVCON to do an article-by-article review of the Convention, taking into account the implications of relevant developments in science and technology. They also follow up on decisions and recommendations of the last review and plan actions to take over the next five years. The most recent REVCON concludes this week, and I’ve just returned from eight days in Geneva, where I represented ASPR and HHS in discussions on public health preparedness and response.

Twenty U.S. government officials from across the various U.S. agencies are participating and serving as delegation members and advisors, accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Laura Kennedy. In addition to the meeting of States Parties in the large “Meeting of the Whole”, the three-week period of the REVCON brings together a variety of non-governmental organizations to help inform the deliberations of the entire body.
 
This year, for example, there was extensive outreach to industry regarding the pace of science and how advances in the biological sciences and in novel technology may influence our ability to assure that biological science isn’t misdirected for destructive purposes.

 

Important issues being discussed at this year’s convention include the manner or degree to which Article 10 has been implemented.  Article 10 basically stipulates that States with available resources should assist other States with transfer of technology or other means to encourage the ability of recipient states to more fully realize their responsibilities under the convention.
 
To that end, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services along with other agencies provided several presentations to describe how our international outreach in public health and medical preparedness and response augmented the U.S. policies and programs to show transparency and provide assistance as called for under the convention.
 
As this week draws to a close, the U.S. delegation is working closely with allies to help craft agreeable language around these sorts of issues to help all State Parties implement their responsibilities under the BTWC.

 


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