Presentation and position of France [fr]

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is the main legal instrument to struggle against biological proliferation. The BTWC embodies the first treaty to have banished an entire category of weapons. The BTWC prevents any conception, production, storage and transfer of biological weapons. As such the BTWC is complementary to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prevents the use of chemical and biological weapons. The BTWC is open to ratification on 10, April 1972 and enforced on 26, March 1975. Today, the BTWC counts 181 member States.

What is at stake

Biological weapons can be defined as microbiological agents or other biological agents and toxins no matter the place of production, the method of production, the types and quantities with no non-prophylactic purposes as well as protection or other pacific ends. Biological weapons can also include weapons, facilities or vectors intended for inimical ends or employed in armed conflicts. Considering their high potential of hindrance, biological weapons are registered as weapons of mass destruction.

Since 1925, the Geneva Protocol forbids the use of asphyxiating, toxic or other gas, including bacteriological means in a context of war. Nowadays, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is the main legal instrument to struggle against biological proliferation. The BTWC embodies the first treaty to have banished an entire category of weapons. The BTWC prevents any conception, production, storage and transfer of biological weapons. As such the BTWC is complementary to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prevents the use of chemical and biological weapons. The BTWC is open to ratification on 10, April 1972 and enforced on 26, March 1975. Today, the BTWC counts 181 member States. France took part in the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) on 27, September 1984. Since then, the country keeps playing an active part in reinforcing the regime and the authority of the Convention as well as fostering its implementation.

French position and actions

Facing the dangers entailed by biological weapons, France is fully aware of not only the uncommon aspect of such weapons (including the dual aspect of research activities in the biology area), but also the underlying prohibitory regime.
French action as regards disarmament and its struggle against biological proliferation includes the following points :

-  An active involvement in BTWC biannual meetings, in order to maintain awareness on biological proliferation questions and make significant progress on the consensus in accordance with the Convention implementing measures. The intersessional program framed by the Convention showed interest in gathering experts and diplomats around common values and principles. This program intended to concretely address the prohibition on biological weapons.

-  An annual publication of confidence-building measures framed by the BTWC and incentives for other States to do so : confidence-building measures are yearly declarations concerning activities linked to the BTWC. Submitting confidence-building measures is politically binding. France considers confidence- building measures as a core BTWC mechanism which increases transparency and improves confidence between Convention member-States.

-  Priority is given to national and international measures built to reinforce the implementation of the Convention : France played an important part in the negotiation of 1995 for a BTWC verification protocol. The country suggested, during the last Conference examination, to implement concrete measures to efficiently assess the respect by member-States of their obligations entailed by the Convention. Besides, France considers exporting control measures as being of the utmost importance. The country hosts each year the Australia Group planetary meeting and actively assists in its workshops.

-  Since 2011, France promotes the concept of peer review. Founded on a volunteering basis, this mechanism would reinforce confidence-building measures between member-States, improve the national BTWC implementation and ease the best practices sharing. The peer review concept is an invitation of one to several experts from different member-states to review national provisions to insure their compliance with the obligations of the Convention. It can also include field visits in order to give concrete example of the provision. After the organization of a pilot exercise in December 2013, France keeps promoting this concept. Since then, 14 member States volunteered to organize or attend to similar transparency exercises ;

-  A substantial contribution to the BTWC universalization endeavors : France frequently leads, via its diplomatic network, actions in order to raise awareness among non-member BTWC states. This approach aims to universalize the prohibition of biological weapons ;

-  A concrete involvement in the struggle against proliferation via the G8 global partnership against weapons of mass destruction and its vectors. In 2011 in Deauville, heads of G8 States decided to renew the global partnership and broaden its purposes by giving a prominent place to biosecurity. France leads several actions in this area ;

-  Several programs and assistance projects in the area of public health and struggle against infectious diseases ;

-  A substantial involvement in the implementation of EU initiatives as regards disarmament and struggle against biological proliferation : France is fully involved in EU actions promoting the implementation and the universalization of the Convention. These initiatives are framed by the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (2003). France initiated new actions against proliferation which were adopted in 2008. These actions includes the launch of EU excellency centers which goal is to propagate EU best practices as regards nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical (NRBC) risks to which France contributes actively.

French biodefence plan

Since several years, France conducts biodefence plans dedicated to reinforce civilian’s protection and the protection of deployed forces on theaters of operation against potential biological attacks. These plans are conducted in the strict respect of the BTWC.
The biodefence plan for the forces ‘protection include two phases :

-  The first phase includes means of epidemiological surveillance, and completes the WHO global surveillance network and biological agents detection means in the environment ;

-  The second phase intends to provide biomedical protection towards some biological agents : vaccines, antibiotics, serums or antidotes.

The developed capacities can be used for national civilians’ protection towards bio-terrorism. These capacities contribute to the WHO global sanitary security strategy counting challenges as regards infectious and emerging diseases.

Biosecurity and biosafety

Biosecurity is a sum of norms and procedures defining everything concerning workers’ and environmental protection against an accidental dissemination of biological agents. Technologies implemented to insure pathogens containment (filters, protective equipment, etc.) are part of this approach.

Biosafety includes procedures to avoid pathogens dissemination (including theft, misappropriation or any other malevolent act).

In an epidemiologic sensible context (SARS, avian influenza, H1N1), biological facilities security is a top-priority.
A sum of procedures aiming to insure traceability of all laboratory operations (from the site security and control to operations access on equipment on pathogens) is therefore implemented. The purpose is to identify and remove any involuntary error sources. This process can contribute to identify malevolent acts.

In the frame of the G8 global partnership, France offers its assistance as regards biosecurity and biosafety. These last years, France led several cooperation projects including in Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The reinforcement of biosafety and biosecurity implementation measures embodies an efficient way to struggle against biological proliferation.

To get more information on international disarmament and non-biological proliferation tools :

France Diplomatie : France and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery

BTWC text

To get more information on EU tools :

European Union Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative NRBC

Action Plan to enhance preparedness against chemical, biological, radiological and
nuclear security risks (PDF, 239 Ko)

publié le 13/08/2018

top of the page