Presentation and position of France [fr]

What is at stake

Biological weapons can be defined as microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes. Biological weapons can also include weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. 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 (BWC) is the main legal instrument to struggle against biological proliferation. The BWC embodies the first treaty to have banished an entire category of weapons. The BWC prevents any conception, production, storage and transfer of biological weapons. As such the BWC is complementary to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prevents the use of chemical and biological weapons. The BWC was open to ratification on 10, April 1972 and enforced on 26, March 1975. Today, the BWC counts 183 member States. France became a State Party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) on 27, September 1984. Since then, France plays 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 fight against biological proliferation includes the following points :

-  An active involvement in BWC annual 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. In 2019, France chaired the annual BWC meeting of States Parties. One of the goal of this meeting was to prepare the next review conference in 2021 ;

-  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 BWC mechanism which increases transparency and improves confidence between Convention States Parties ;

-  Priority is given to national and international measures built to reinforce the implementation of the Convention. France considers exporting control measures as being of the utmost importance. France hosts each year the Australia Group plenary meeting and actively assists in its workshops ;

-  The promotion of the concept of peer review. Founded on a volunteering basis, this mechanism reinforces 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 States Parties 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 ;

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

-  A concrete involvement in the fight against proliferation via the G8 global partnership against weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery ;

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

-  A substantial involvement in the implementation of EU initiatives as regards disarmament and fight 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 contributes actively to EU excellency centers which goal is to propagate EU best practices as regards nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical (NRBC).

French biodefence plan

Since several years, France conducts biodefence plans dedicated to reinforce civilian 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 BWC.
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 civilian protection towards bio-terrorism. These capacities contribute to the WHO global sanitary security strategy taking into account 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, 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. The reinforcement of biosafety and biosecurity implementation measures embodies an efficient way to fight against biological proliferation.

publié le 01/04/2020

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