Wiesbaden (DEU), December 2013

Wiesbaden (DEU), December 2013

Multilateral Conferences

Event date: 03/12/2013 - 04/12/2013

Conference in Support of Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004)

In December 2013, the German Federal Government, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), and the EU-Outreach programme in Export Control of Dual-Use Items organized a conference on UNSCR 1540, which was the second in the last two years. The event, particularly dedicated to the dialogue with the industry and the research community, reflects a core part in the implementation of the EU-Outreach programme. Whereas the main focus of the first conference in April 2012 had a general emphasis on proliferation threats, the focus in 2013 was on biosecurity.

The event was attended by 65 biosecurity experts from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Oceania, and Europe. On the first day, risks and challenges resulting from the misuse in the field of life science and biotechnology were introduced. The second day focused on responses to these threats. Representatives of the industry, governments, regional and international industry associations, international organizations, and academia presented their respective viewpoints on these topics.

Presentations on international treaties and conventions were complemented by speeches from representatives of industry, research, and industry associations. Issues of concern included for instance UNSCR 1540, the Biological Weapons Convention, close international cooperation in life science, the convergence of biology and chemistry, and “Do-it-yourself” biology.

One crucial aspect when talking about UNSCR 1540 and about biosecurity risks is export control. Here, transfer of dangerous agents, including relevant technology and software, dual-use equipment and know-how transfer were the topics that were presented and discussed broadly. The speakers from the Dual-Use Export Control Office (France), the Australia Group, and Merck KGaA pinpointed to the necessity for proportionate controls to allow legitimate trade of biological and chemical items for peaceful purposes. Furthermore, in a separate panel, dual-use research and the transfer of know-how was discussed.

During the conference, it became clear that a lot has been achieved. However, the discussion also showed that there is still a lot that needs to be done. Speakers from the industry and research community cautioned that an overregulation could do more harm than good. Nonetheless, they also underlined the need for further awareness raising for scientists, engineers and other involved parties, who might not necessarily see the significance of their work in relation to biosecurity and non-proliferation.