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Fifty years ago, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was opened for signature and later became the first treaty to ban an entire category of weapons. Today, with over 180 States Parties, it is the cornerstone of international efforts to prevent biological weapons.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the devastating impact that disease can have on the world. We must recognize that other biological risks are growing and take action to address them. We face not only an increased threat of naturally occurring diseases, but also the potential for laboratory accidents and the intentional misuse of life sciences and biotechnology. The weaponization of biological agents and toxins violates the BTWC and is unacceptable, and the use of biological weapons – in the words of the Convention – “would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind.”

We are determined to use the occasion of this important anniversary as a reminder of the need to strengthen and revitalize the BTWC. As we look to its Ninth Review Conference later this year, the United States urges States Parties to overcome differences and take urgent steps to guard against the development and use of biological weapons.

Specifically, we believe the Review Conference should take near-term, concrete action to strengthen the Convention and benefit States Parties in such areas as increasing resources for international assistance and cooperation and establishing a mechanism to review advances in science and technology. Additionally, we have proposed that the Conference establish a new expert group to study additional measures to strengthen implementation of the Convention, increase transparency, and enhance assurances of compliance. We also urge all states that have not yet become party to the BTWC to join it now, so they can play an active role in this year’s Review Conference.

The best way to commemorate this anniversary is for States Parties to work together to strengthen the BTWC and end the threat of biological weapons. Through our collective action to counter all biological threats – naturally occurring, accidental, and deliberate – we can make the world a safer place for all.

U.S. Department of State

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