Chemical and Biological Weapons Workshop

An Experts’ Workshop on “The control of chemical and biological weapons” was held at the University of Toronto on April 15,1989, as an activity of the Working Group on International Surveillance and Verification. Drs. George Ignatieff and Janet Wood (both members of Science for Peace) were co-chairs of the Workshop, Dr. Eric Fawcett was the formal representative of Science for Peace and Mr. Walter Dorn (Science for Peace) was coordinator for the Workshop as well as being chairperson of the Working Group. There were participants from Canada, the USA, USSR, UN, Middle East including government representatives, academics, and peace group members. The aim was progress towards permanent elimination of chemical and biological weapons with strict international controls and improved verification and compliance.

The essential results of the Workshop, condensed for Bulletin publication are as follows:

Discussion Group I: Overcoming verification challenges

Recommendations (arrived at in keeping with experience of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) are that personnel should be trained for inspection procedures required for existing and pending agreements on chemical and biological weapons, and that such training include international projects.

Discussion Group II: Evaluation, response and other measures to promote compliance.

It is recommended that, as an example for other nations and to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, the Canadian parliament legislate a national treaty binding on all subjects. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention a verification/compliance system would have three stages: data collection; data analysis and evaluation; response. Included in these stages would be specified standard procedures for data collection; impartial consideration of data within the verification agency (in cases representing either non-compliance or anomaly); upscaled reporting on anomalies, and possible penalties and sanctions against acts of noncompliance.

To avoid needless delay in ratifying the treaty, ratifying states might be invited to declare that the convention enters into force for them as soon as ten (or fifteen) other states have made the same declaration. A small inspection body could then be established that could expand as necessary, when (the) treaty enters into force for (a) majority of states.

Discussion Group III: Export controls and confidence-building measures.

Whereas Chemical Weapons Convention parties may consider acting in concert against export of scheduled chemicals to non-parties if Convention circumventions are indicated, export controls should not hinder the industrial use of chemicals for peaceful purposes, especially in developing countries whose economies could be damaged. To build confidence in a convention there should be exchanges of information and visitors between states or regions, and international meetings in connection with the World Disarmament Campaign.

Discussion Group IV: The role of citizen-reporting and non-governmental organizations (NG0s).

Citizen-reporting, as endorsed and required by governments, should supplement technological means of verification — the anonymity and safety of informants being guaranteed. The NGO activities should be organized to receive citizens’ reports and construct a global picture of chemical and biological weapons activities and report apparent irregularities. Each state signatory to the the Convention should be obliged to deposit information on antidotes to chemical and biological agents with a world health body responsible for distributing such information world wide. NGOs should work closely with policy-makers to provide citizens with the information they need for effective participation in treaty verification.

Those organizing this successful Workshop — including especially Walter Dorn — deserve much credit and our warm thanks for their highly effective efforts.