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The scourge of chemical weapons should have been consigned to history by now, yet the last decade has witnessed their repeated use. … At the same time, we are observing an evolution in biological threats.

In 2022, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) continued to deliver on its mandate and commitment to ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention). OPCW also marked a major milestone with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on 29 April.

The situation in Ukraine increased the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. Under article X of the Convention, the Technical Secretariat provided assistance and protection to Ukraine upon the country's request. Notably, OPCW conducted capacity-building courses both online and in person for Ukrainian first responders to enhance their preparedness against the threat of chemical weapons use and in case of attacks targeting chemical industrial facilities. OPCW also provided the necessary equipment for chemical detection, together with training activities.

As OPCW entered its ninth year addressing the chemical weapons dossier in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Technical Secretariat again experienced delays in its activities to ensure that the Syrian Government resolved all gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies that had arisen from the initial declaration of its chemical weapons programme. That was due, inter alia, to the Syrian Arab Republic's refusal to issue a visa to the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team's lead technical expert, which is not in line with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, United Nations Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and corresponding OPCW Executive Council decisions. The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission maintained its work to establish the facts surrounding allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian Arab Republic. Likewise, the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team kept up its activities to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in the country, pursuant to the decision of the Conference of the States Parties adopted on 27 June 2018 (decision C-SS-4/DEC.3).

Despite the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPCW maintained its critical work of verifying the destruction of the remaining declared chemical weapons stockpiles. It also ramped up its chemical industry inspections in line with the Convention's article VI as the evolving circumstances of the pandemic allowed. As a result of the improved COVID-19 situation, OPCW was able to hold the regular sessions of the OPCW Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties in less stringent modalities in order to meet its obligation to ensure the implementation of the Convention.

To help build capacities among States parties to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons, the Technical Secretariat delivered on its international cooperation programmes by using online platforms and modules and returning to in-person events. That allowed the Technical Secretariat to assist in promoting the peaceful uses of chemistry; advancing scientific and technological cooperation; countering the threats posed by non-State actors; and expanding partnerships with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the chemical industry and other entities.

Work on the construction of the OPCW Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre) advanced significantly in 2022. The facility's construction was completed while respecting the budget and the established timelines. Additionally, OPCW continued its work to universalize the Chemical Weapons Convention, urging the remaining States not party to the Convention to join without delay or preconditions.

Figure 2.1.
Secretary-General's Mechanism: Nominated expert consultants, qualified experts and analytical laboratories by region

(As at 31 December 2022)

pie charts showing regional distribution

The Secretary-General has a mandate to carry out investigations when Member States bring to his attention the alleged use of chemical or biological weapons. To fulfil this mandate, the Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons was established. Under the Mechanism, a roster of experts and laboratories is maintained. The United Nations relies on countries to fill the roster by designating technical experts to deploy to the field on short notice, as well as analytical laboratories to support such investigations. Member States facilitate further training of qualified experts and expert consultants in close cooperation with the Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Capstone field exercise

During the capstone field exercise for the United Nations Secretary-General's Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, held in Berlin in September, participants conduct a simulated investigation of alleged biological-weapon use.

Throughout 2022, the Secretary-General continued to underscore the imperative of identifying and holding accountable those who have used chemical weapons, both as a responsibility to the victims of such weapons and as a preventative measure against future use. The Secretary-General also continued to underline the importance of the Chemical Weapons Convention as an essential pillar of the disarmament and non-proliferation regime and as a testament to the security benefits that multilateral instruments could provide. The Office for Disarmament Affairs continued to support the Secretary-General's good offices in furthering the implementation of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of the chemical weapons programme in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Office also worked with members of the Security Council in their efforts to build unity and restore adherence to the global norm against chemical weapons.

The year 2022 was also important for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention), which saw the rare activation of its formal provisions to address allegations of non-compliance.

In June, the Russian Federation requested to convene a formal consultative meeting under the Convention's article V — the second such meeting in the Convention's history — to consider the country's outstanding questions to the United States and Ukraine concerning the fulfilment of their respective obligations under the Convention in the context of the operation of biological laboratories in Ukraine (BWC/CONS/2022/3). Subsequently, in October, the Russian Federation invoked the Convention's article VI for the first time by lodging a complaint with the Security Council about the same concerns. In November, the draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation was taken up by the Security Council but not adopted (meeting coverage SC/15095).

Meanwhile, the ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention took place in Geneva from 28 November to 16 December to review the Convention's operation.[1] The Conference also had the mandate to review the progress of States parties in implementing the Convention and the decisions and recommendations agreed upon at its eighth Review Conference.

Considering the challenging geopolitical circumstances, many States parties went into the Review Conference aware of the obstacles to achieving a substantive outcome while still hopeful for agreement on an expanded intersessional programme. Although the decisions agreed on by consensus in the Final Document (BWC/CONF.IX/9) did not meet the highest expectations of some States parties, the modest outcome left others hopeful for the future work of the new intersessional programme, as several delegations expressed in their closing statements.

Figure 2.2.
Trends in confidence-building measures

Participation of States parties in the Biological Weapons Convention confidence-building measures, 1987-2022
Line graph showing number of confidence-building measures and percentage of States parties submitting confidence-building measures from 1987 to 2021

This graph shows the history of submission rates for reports of States parties under the Convention's confidence-building measures system introduced in 1987. While the overall level of participation in the measures has remained low over the years, a positive trend can be seen in recent years. In 2022, 98 States parties submitted confidence-building measures reports, resulting in a participation rate of more than 53 per cent, the highest so far.

In a positive development for the Convention's universalization, Namibia acceded to it on 25 February, becoming the 184th State party to the Convention. As at 31 December, four signatory States had not yet ratified the Convention, and nine States had neither signed nor ratified it.

Chemical weapons

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States parties. As at 31 December, it had 193 States parties and one signatory State that had not yet ratified or acceded to it.

Twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the States Parties

The twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention took place from 28 November to 2 December in The Hague, Netherlands. Representatives of 139 States parties, one signatory State, and one State not party attended the Conference (C-27/5, paras. 1.2–1.4). Delegates from 119 civil society organizations participated in person or by remote access, along with representatives from the chemical industry and the scientific community (C-27/DEC.4, annex; C-27/DEC.3, annex). The session was also attended by eight international organizations, specialized agencies and other international bodies (C-27/DEC.2, annex).

The Conference reviewed the status of implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including activities such as disarmament, the prevention of the re-emergence of chemical weapons, assistance and protection, and international cooperation. It heard a briefing on progress made by the last declared chemical weapons possessor State party, the United States, regarding its destruction operations. In addition, delegates received updates on the resumed efforts of China and Japan to recover and destroy chemical weapons that were abandoned by Japan on the territory of China. The Conference also considered and approved by vote the mid-biennium revised programme and budget of OPCW for 2023 (C-27/DEC.11), providing necessary adjustments to the biennium programme and budget adopted in 2022.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

As at 31 December, 99.49 per cent, or 70,135 metric tons of the total amount of Category 1 chemical weapons declared by States parties (70,494 metric tons), had been destroyed. The destruction of all Category 1 chemical weapons stockpiles declared by six States parties had been completed previously.[2]

The aggregate amount of Category 2 chemical weapons destroyed stood at 1,811 metric tons or 100 per cent of the total amount declared. Albania, India, Libya, the Russian Federation, the Syrian Arab Republic and the United States had completed the destruction of all declared Category 2 chemical weapons.

The United States continued to make progress in its efforts to destroy all of its declared chemical weapons. As at 31 December, it had eliminated 98.71 per cent of its Category 1 chemical weapons and 100 per cent of its Category 2 and Category 3 chemical weapons.

After the suspension, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, of activities related to abandoned chemical weapons in 2020, China and Japan reported the resumption of excavation, recovery and destruction operations in Haerbaling, China, in 2021. In 2022, destruction operations in Harbin resumed on 14 June. On 13 July, China, Japan and the OPCW Technical Secretariat held their thirty-sixth trilateral meeting virtually. The participants discussed practical and technical issues regarding the destruction projects.

Despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Technical Secretariat was able to carry out 160 of the 180 planned article VI inspections in 2022. All planned Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 inspections were accomplished. In addition, 5 of 10 planned Schedule 3 inspections and 95 of 110 planned inspections of other chemical production facilities were completed.

OPCW maintains a global network of designated laboratories that must meet the organization's proficiency criteria and be capable of performing off-site analysis of samples collected by OPCW inspectors. In 2022, 66 laboratories from 39 States parties participated in OPCW confidence-building exercises and proficiency tests for the analysis of chemicals related to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The official OPCW proficiency test programme took place uninterrupted despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

In 2022, OPCW finalized major construction work on the Centre for Chemistry and Technology (ChemTech Centre). A ceremony to mark the Centre's opening was scheduled for May 2023. As at the end of 2022, OPCW had received over €34.25 million in financial contributions and pledges for the Centre from 54 countries, the European Union and other donors. The ChemTech Centre will enhance the capability of OPCW to achieve the purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It will increase the organization's ability to respond to new threats, prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons, and keep pace with developments in science and technology. The Centre will also provide a high-quality platform to conduct research, analysis and training, as well as a variety of international cooperation and assistance activities to bolster the Convention’s implementation. In addition to several existing activities that will take place at the Centre, the Technical Secretariat identified nine potential new programmes and activities that could be implemented there once it becomes operational.

Partnership with the chemical industry

The OPCW Technical Secretariat and the chemical industry continued efforts to strengthen their cooperation in accordance with the relevant recommendations of the third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Two meetings of the Chemical Industry Coordination Group took place remotely in 2022. Owing to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, both were held remotely. Participants representing the International Council of Chemical Associations, the International Chemical Trade Association and the Technical Secretariat discussed issues such as the impact of COVID-19, current trends and challenges in the global chemical industry. Participants also exchanged information on capacity-building activities, particularly on chemical safety and security.[3]

Education and outreach

In 2022, the OPCW Advisory Board on Education and Outreach met for its twelfth session from 8 to 10 February and for its thirteenth session from 19 to 21 July. The twelfth session was held online owing to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. In-person meetings of the Advisory Board resumed at the thirteenth session in July. During the year, the main areas of the Board's focus were e-learning, educational projects to strengthen partnerships with universities and active learning. The Advisory Board also continued to provide advice on raising awareness with regard to OPCW and its mission.

National implementation, assistance and protection against chemical weapons, and international cooperation in promoting peaceful uses of chemistry

The OPCW Technical Secretariat continued to assist States parties in achieving full and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It provided support in the areas of national implementation, assistance and protection against chemical weapons, and international cooperation in promoting peaceful uses of chemistry. In 2022, the Technical Secretariat conducted 97 online and in-person capacity-building and knowledge-sharing sessions, benefiting 3,075 participants from 156 States parties.

The Technical Secretariat provided technical assistance and capacity-building support to States parties through a wide range of activities designed to support the Convention’s effective implementation. In 2022, 935 participants from 125 States parties attended 24 events that supported States parties' implementation of the Convention.

Personnel of national authorities and other stakeholders received training through regional workshops on meeting the Convention's national obligations related to declarations and inspections, including strengthening national capacity to enforce the Convention’s transfer regime for scheduled chemicals. The Technical Secretariat organized a subregional workshop to enhance the understanding of French-speaking African countries concerning national implementing legislation for the Convention, with a focus on mitigating the risks associated with the acquisition or use of chemical weapons by non-State actors.

In addition, the Technical Secretariat provided additional targeted legislative support for States parties that had not implemented comprehensive legislation for the Chemical Weapons Convention. Specifically, it arranged several country-specific legislative reviews and a stakeholder forum that enhanced the understanding of key national stakeholders concerning their obligations and roles in the legislative process. It also organized a subregional forum to strengthen cooperation related to the Convention between Pacific Island States, the Technical Secretariat and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. That forum was focused on the subregional trade in toxic chemicals and appropriate chemical safety and security management.

In the field of assistance and protection related to the implementation of article X of the Convention, the Technical Secretariat continued to support and engage with States parties. The Technical Secretariat conducted 37 capacity-building activities (10 online courses and 27 in-person training sessions) to enhance capacity to respond to chemical incidents. Those events benefited 1,316 participants from 110 States parties.

In 2020, the Technical Secretariat initiated the development of a companion guidebook for medical practitioners to assist victims of chemical weapons and address the long-term effects of exposure to such weapons. As at the end of the year, the companion guidebook was in its final revision and expected to be published in 2023. The Technical Secretariat also continued to roll out its Online Self-Assessment Tool for States parties, which had been developed as part of a broader initiative to enable tailored support for specific States parties.

In 2022, the Technical Secretariat continued to implement article XI of the Convention in three thematic areas: integrated chemicals management; enhancement of laboratory capabilities; and chemical knowledge promotion and exchange. The Technical Secretariat organized 34 capacity-building events on those topics during the year, benefiting 747 experts from 112 States parties.

The Technical Secretariat also sustained its support in 2022 for activities under article XI to promote the peaceful uses of chemistry. In that context, in November, the Technical Secretariat held its seventh “Review and Evaluation Workshop of the Components of an Agreed Framework for the Full Implementation of Article XI”.

Meanwhile, the Associate Programme, the OPCW flagship capacity-building programme, was conducted in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Programme offered a six-week training course, including a segment at OPCW Headquarters and at the University of Surrey, which benefited 27 professionals from 27 States parties.

In addition to those activities, the Technical Secretariat, in cooperation with Morocco, launched the Education and Training Programme for Youth on Peaceful Uses of Chemistry, which comprised an online session and an in-person session in Kenitra, Morocco.

In November, the Technical Secretariat, together with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and international stakeholders and practitioners, launched a compendium on the engagement and advancement of women in chemical safety and security as part of the annual Symposium on Women in Chemistry, held at the United Nations campus in Turin, Italy.

During the reporting period, OPCW also continued to place special emphasis on supporting African States parties in the implementation of the Convention through its Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on the Chemical Weapons Convention. A total of 57 capacity-building events took place in 2022, which was the last year of the Programme’s fifth phase (2020–2022), including 26 events organized specifically for Africa, which benefited 935 participants from 47 African States parties. The Technical Secretariat also sustained its efforts to promote the exchange of scientific and technical information and resources in Africa. It did so through the sponsorship of scientific conferences, fellowships, research projects, and equipment transfers.

In March, the Technical Secretariat commenced preparations for the Programme's sixth phase (2023-2025). Consultations with African States parties and other stakeholders led to the successful design of the new phase’s concept, with a focus on improving controls over cross-border transfers of scheduled chemicals, developing assistance and protection capabilities against chemical emergencies, and advancing chemical safety and security management.

Mission to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic

In 2022, the OPCW Technical Secretariat continued its mission to verify the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic's declared chemical weapons programme. The OPCW Declaration Assessment Team continued its efforts to clarify all outstanding issues regarding the initial and subsequent declarations submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as with relevant decisions by the OPCW policymaking organs and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The Declaration Assessment Team conducted the twenty-fourth round of consultations with the Syrian Arab Republic in February 2021. As of December, the Technical Secretariat’s attempts to organize the twenty-fifth round of consultations in Damascus remained unsuccessful, first owing to the absence of a response from the Syrian Arab Republic and subsequently to the Government’s repeated refusal to issue an entry visa to the Team’s lead technical expert. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention and pursuant to Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the corresponding OPCW Executive Council decisions, the Syrian Arab Republic has an obligation to allow “immediate and unfettered access” to personnel designated by OPCW.

In May, the Technical Secretariat proposed that the Syrian Arab Republic address declaration-related issues through the exchange of correspondence, even if such exchanges demonstrably brought fewer outcomes as compared to the Team’s deployments to the Syrian Arab Republic.

Accordingly, in September, the Technical Secretariat provided the Syrian Arab Republic with the list of pending declarations and other documents requested by the Declaration Assessment Team since 2019, which could help resolve the 20 outstanding issues related to its initial declaration. As at 31 December, the Technical Secretariat had not received the requested declarations and documentation from the Syrian Arab Republic.

Pursuant to its ongoing efforts to implement its mandate, in December, the Technical Secretariat proposed to send, in January 2023, a reduced team composed of several members of the Declaration Assessment Team to conduct limited in-country activities in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Technical Secretariat emphasized that the limited activities would not involve any consultations between the Secretariat’s reduced team and the Syrian National Authority. The Syrian Arab Republic agreed with the Technical Secretariat’s proposal.

Pursuant to OPCW Executive Council decision EC-83/DEC.5, adopted in November 2016, the Technical Secretariat conducted the ninth round of inspections at the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre in September 2022.

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission continued to gather all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Fact-Finding Mission conducted several deployments and analysed all information obtained by its team and provided by the Syrian Arab Republic.

On 24 January, the Technical Secretariat issued a report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic (S/2017/2022) regarding the incidents of the alleged use of chemicals as a weapon in Marea, Syrian Arab Republic, on 1 and 3 September 2015. In the report, the Fact-Finding Mission concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that scheduled chemicals of the family of mustard agents had been used on 1 September 2015 in Marea, resulting in more than 50 injured people. Regarding the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon on 3 September 2015, the Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the results of the analysis of all available data obtained did not allow the Mission to establish whether or not the chemicals had been used as a weapon in Marea on that date.

On 31 January 2022, the Technical Secretariat issued another report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic (S/2020/2022) regarding the incident of alleged use of chemicals as a weapon in Kafr Zeita, Syrian Arab Republic, on 1 October 2016. The Fact-Finding Mission concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a chlorine cylinder had been used as a chemical weapon on 1 October 2016 in the town of Kafr Zeita, causing 20 people to suffer from suffocation and breathing difficulties.

The Fact-Finding Mission also handed over information to the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team,[4] as per the note of the Technical Secretariat dated 28 June 2019 (EC-91/S/3). The Fact-Finding Mission transferred information to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.

In 2022, the Investigation and Identification Team continued its investigations of several incidents where the Fact-Finding Mission had found that chemicals were used as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Investigation and Identification Team continued to request to meet with key representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic to discuss the Team’s work, the provision of any relevant information and access to locations that the Syrian authorities may be able to facilitate. As at the end of 2022, the Syrian Arab Republic had not responded to the requests repeatedly made by the Investigation and Identification Team.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat sustained its engagement with broad sectors of the global scientific community throughout the year to maintain strong ties with scientists and scientific societies, as well as stay fully informed of developments in science and technology. In support of those efforts, the Scientific Advisory Board met three times over the course of the year for its thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth, and thirty-sixth sessions: in March, June, and September, respectively (for the reports, see SAB-34/1, SAB-35/1 and SAB-36/1*). In-person meetings of the Scientific Advisory Board resumed at the thirty-fifth session in June. In 2022, the principal focus of the Board was on preparing and finalizing its scientific report in support of the fifth special session of the Conference of the States Parties to review the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, scheduled in 2023. That report was expected to be made available to States parties in early 2023.

Meanwhile, the work of the Temporary Working Group on the analysis of biotoxins continued.[5] The Group met three times over the course of the year, in March (virtually), June (in person) and October (in person) (for the meeting summaries, see SAB-36/WP.1 and SAB-36/WP.2 (the summary of the sixth meeting is forthcoming)).

Biological weapons

The Biological Weapons Convention was opened for signature on 10 April 1972 and entered into force on 26 March 1975, becoming the first multilateral treaty banning an entire category of weapons. The Convention effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons.

As at 31 December, the Convention had 184 States parties. Four signatory States had yet to ratify the Convention, and nine States[6] had neither signed nor acceded to it.

Preparatory Committee for the ninth Review Conference

The Preparatory Committee for the ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention resumed its work in 2022, holding 12 meetings from 4 to 11 April.[7] The Vice-Chairs from the previous year, Florian Antohi (Hungary) and Tancredi Francese (Italy), continued to chair the Committee.

A total of 118 States attended the second session of the Preparatory Committee, including 115 States parties, one signatory State and two observer States (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/INF.2 and BWC/CONF.IX/PC/INF.2/Corr.1).

Various United Nations entities, including the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, joined the national delegations. The European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization participated as observer agencies. Nine non-governmental organizations and research institutesattended public meetings of the Preparatory Committee (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/INF.2, pp. 31-32).

During its April meeting, the Preparatory Committee conducted a general exchange of views, in which 50 States parties[8] and the European Union, as an observer agency, delivered statements. The number of speakers significantly increased compared with the figures from the Preparatory Committee session for the eighth Review Conference in 2016, where only 34 States parties had delivered statements during the general exchange of views.

States parties also submitted a total of 12 working papers.Proposals in the working papers were focused mainly on issues related to the creation of a review mechanism on developments in science and technology, the strengthening of the Convention by operationalizing specific articles, and suggestions on the intersessional programme to take place after the ninth Review Conference.

Following a decision by the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States Parties to hand over the presidency of the ninth Review Conference to another interested regional group, as well as subsequent informal consultations, the Preparatory Committee agreed to recommend that Leonardo Bencini (Italy) preside over the ninth Review Conference. It reached that agreement on the understanding that the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States Parties retained its rotational right to preside over the tenth Review Conference, to be held in 2027.

As agreed at its first session in December 2021, the Preparatory Committee in April discussed the necessary organizational aspects for the Review Conference. It agreed on the distribution of posts of Vice-Presidents of the Conference, as well as of Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the subsidiary bodies among the various regional groups. Regarding the date and duration, it decided that the ninth Review Conference would take place in Geneva from 28 November to 16 December 2022. The Preparatory Committee also agreed to recommend to the ninth Review Conference its draft provisional agenda(BWC/CONF.IX/PC/L.1) and its draft Rules of Procedure (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/L.2).

Furthermore, as requested by the December 2021 session of the Preparatory Committee, the Convention’s Implementation Support Unit prepared five background information documents,[9] as well as a report on its own activities from 2017 to 2022 (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/8). The Preparatory Committee also requested the Implementation Support Unit to prepare one additional background information document on new scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention, to be compiled from information submitted by States parties.

The main work of the Preparatory Committee was to consider comprehensively all provisions of the Convention. During the article-by-article discussions, 41 States parties[10] and one signatory State[11] took the floor. In addition to addressing the individual articles of the Convention, States parties considered cross-cutting issues such as science and technology, the next intersessional programme and matters concerning the Implementation Support Unit and its mandate. Most of the States parties expressed the view that the next intersessional programme should be more results-oriented by reaching a consensus on their deliberations and agreeing on some common understandings.

At the end of the Preparatory Committee on 11 April, States parties adopted its final report (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/10) by consensus. The Vice-Chairs of the Preparatory Committee subsequently circulated a letter to all States parties that contained a concise and factual summary of the proceedings.

Formal Consultative Meeting

On 29 June, the Russian Federation submitted a request to convene a formal consultative meeting under article V of the Biological Weapons Convention and the Final Declarations of the Convention’s second and third Review Conferences. The request concerned outstanding questions by the Russian Federation to the United States and to Ukraine concerning the fulfilment of their respective obligations under the Convention in the context of the operation of biological laboratories in Ukraine.

Following consultations and in accordance with the agreed timelines, an informal meeting to discuss the arrangements for the formal meeting took place in Geneva on 27 July, chaired by Aidan Liddle (United Kingdom). The understandings reached at the informal meeting regarding the organizational and procedural arrangements were outlined in a letter from the Chair dated 28 July 2022.

The Formal Consultative Meeting opened on 26 August for a brief procedural meeting and resumed on 5 September. The States parties held eight meetings chaired by György Molnár (Hungary). The States parties also elected Canada, China, the Republic of Moldova and the United Kingdom as Vice-Chairs of the Meeting.

The Formal Consultative Meeting took place in private, with participation only by States parties and signatory States to the Convention. A total of 89 States parties and one signatory State (BWC/CONS/2022/3, paras. 6 and 7) took part in the Meeting.

The Meeting heard a presentation by the Russian Federation of its article V consultation request regarding respective outstanding Russian questions to the United States and to Ukraine concerning the fulfilment of their respective obligations under the Convention in the context of the operation of biological laboratories in Ukraine. The Meeting then heard the response from the delegations of Ukraine and the United States. Each delegation then made further statements amplifying points raised in their initial statements.

Subsequently, the Meeting considered the issues for which the Russian Federation had requested it. The participants heard national statements from 42 States parties. One signatory State[12] also took the floor. There then followed an opportunity for the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States to respond.

In the report of the Meeting (BWC/CONS/2022/3), States parties welcomed the fact that the delegations of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States had sought to clarify their positions with respect to the Russian concerns. States parties also noted that the consultation was fully in conformity with the conclusions of the final document of the third Review Conference relevant to the application of article V of the Convention. No consensus was reached regarding the outcome of the Formal Consultative Meeting.

Ninth Review Conference

The ninth Review Conference convened in Geneva from 28 November to 16 December. The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, opened the Conference on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. At the same meeting, the Secretary-General addressed the Conference via a video message. The Conference included more than 1,000 participants from 137 States parties, two signatory States, four States neither parties nor signatories to the Convention, four United Nations entities, 12 international organizations and 48 non-governmental organizations and research institutes (BWC/CONF.IX/INF.1/Rev.1).

Leonardo Bencini (Italy) was elected by acclamation as the President of the Review Conference. A total of 20 Vice-Presidents were also elected (10 from the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States Parties, six from the Western Group and four from the Eastern European Group). Tatiana Molcean (Republic of Moldova) was elected as the Chair of the Committee of the Whole, and Sara Lindegren (Sweden) was elected as the Chair of the Drafting Committee. The Conference also adopted its agenda (BWC/CONF.IX/1) and its rules of procedure (BWC/CONF.IX/2). The Russian Federation announced its withdrawal from the Eastern European Group and the formation of a “Group of One”.

Thereafter, the general debate ran until 29 November, with statements by 92 States parties, seven international organizations and, in an informal session, 18 non-governmental organizations and research institutes (BWC/CONF.IX/9, para. 36). Many speakers noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had served as a wake-up call for the Conference to take substantive and timely actions to strengthen the Convention. States parties submitted a total of 65 working papers to the Review Conference. Proposals covered a wide range of issues that States parties carefully considered during the Conference.

Upon the conclusion of the general debate, 11 meetings of the Committee of the Whole and 16 plenary meetings were held before the Review Conference concluded on 16 December. The Drafting Committee held no formal meetings; instead, its Chair oversaw a series of informal plenaries on the “forward-looking” part of the final document.

The Committee of the Whole reviewed the provisions of the Convention article by article. At its eleventh and final meeting on 12 December, a compilation of all proposals[13] was presented, but the Committee was unable to reach a consensus on annexing the compilation to its report. Accordingly, its Chair submitted a short procedural report (BWC/CONF.IX/COW/1) to the Conference at its plenary meeting on 13 December.

Regarding the “forward-looking” aspects of the final document, the President of the Conference appointed six facilitators[14] in order to help States parties find common ground.In the middle of the second week of the Review Conference, the facilitators issued a joint non-paper that contained draft elements for the final document.

Following intense consultations with delegations and taking into account additional feedback from the facilitators, in his capacity as President, Mr. Bencini issued a draft of the final document on 13 December (BWC/CONF.IX/CRP.2). As its Part II, that document included a revised version of the article-by-article review from the Committee of the Whole and, as its Part III, a refinement of the facilitators’ joint non-paper.

The President continued to hold informal consultations with States parties to reach a consensus on the substantive text to be included in the final document. He presented a revised draft of the final document on the penultimate day of the Conference (BWC/CONF.IX/CRP.2/Rev.1). However, after extensive informal consultations, despite the President’s best efforts, it became clear that the States parties could not reach a consensus on the article-by-article review (originally Part II of BWC/CONF.IX/CRP.2 and Rev.1). The President, therefore, issued a revised draft of the final document excluding Part II (BWC/CONF.IX/CRP.2/Rev.2) which was presented to the Conference and was adopted by consensus with some minor oral amendments on 16 December (BWC/CONF.IX/9).

New intersessional programme for the period from 2023 to 2026

The agreed Final Document included decisions on a new intersessional programme for the period from 2023 to 2026. The Conference decided to hold annual Meetings of States Parties for three days each year in Geneva. The first such meeting will be held from 11 to 13 December 2023.

Most notably, the Conference decided to establish a new Working Group to identify, examine and develop specific and effective measures, including possible legally binding measures, and to make recommendations to strengthen and institutionalize the Convention in all its aspects. The Working Group will address the following: (a) measures on international cooperation and assistance under article X; (b) measures on scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention; (c) measures on confidence-building and transparency; (d) measures on compliance and verification; (e) measures on national implementation of the Convention; (f) measures on assistance, response and preparedness under article VII; and (g) measures on organizational, institutional and financial arrangements.

Fifteen days per year were allocated to the Working Group for its substantive meetings for the period from 2023 to 2026. The Review Conference urged the Working Group to complete its work as soon as possible, preferably before the end of 2025. The Working Group will convene in Geneva for its first meeting from 15 to 16 March 2023 to discuss organizational issues. The substantive meetings of the Working Group in 2023 will be held from 7 to 18 August and from 4 to 8 December. For subsequent years, the Meetings of States Parties would set the dates of the meetings of the Working Group, with the understanding that one of the meetings each year would be held back-to-back with the Meeting of States Parties.

The Review Conference decided that, upon completing its work, the Working Group would adopt a consensus report including conclusions and recommendations according to its mandate. The report would be submitted to the tenth Review Conference in 2027 or to an earlier special conference, if requested.

The Review Conference also agreed to develop, with a view to establishing mechanisms to facilitate and support the full implementation of international cooperation and assistance under article X, to review and assess scientific and technological developments relevant to the Convention, and to provide States parties with relevant advice. The Working Group would make appropriate recommendations for those mechanisms to be established.

The Conference reiterated the importance of universalization and encouraged States parties to continue their efforts in promoting universal adherence. The Conference also renewed the Biological Weapons Convention sponsorship programme. Moreover, the mandate of the Implementation Support Unit was renewed, with an additional staff member added to the Unit for the period from 2023 to 2027.

While most of the States parties that made statements at the closing session noted the modest substantive outcome, they also expressed satisfaction at the historical progress, recognizing that the mandate for the upcoming intersessional programme provided an opportunity for the substantive strengthening of the Convention in all its aspects.

Work of the Implementation Support Unit

The mandated activities of the Implementation Support Unit included the provision of administrative support to the ninth Review Conference, including its Preparatory Committee, as well as comprehensive implementation and universalization of the Convention and the exchange of confidence-building measures. In addition, the Unit continued to maintain the database for assistance requests and offers, facilitated the Convention’s sponsorship programme and supported, as appropriate, the implementation by States parties of the decisions and recommendations of the eighth Review Conference.

The Unit's support for the administration of the Convention in 2022 included, most notably, serving as the secretariat for the Review Conference and its Preparatory Committee. In that respect, the Unit provided administrative support to the President of the Review Conference, which included: drafting and issuing communications to States parties, international organizations and non-governmental organizations; drafting speeches and other materials for the President; processing more than 2,000 meeting registrations for the Review Conference and the Preparatory Committee; researching, drafting and/or collating eight substantive background documents; preparing conference documents and reports; processing working papers; and providing procedural, technical and substantive advice to the President of the Review Conference and the other office holders. The Unit also served as the Secretariat for the Formal Consultative Meeting under article V, which included drafting and issuing communications to States parties, preparing materials for the Chair, collating background information and historical reports, and providing procedural, technical and substantive advice to the Chair.

Other duties of the Unit in 2022 included organizing and participating in relevant workshops. Those workshops included four regional preparatory meetings that were held before the Review Conference and organized with the support of the European Union, as well as other international seminars and meetings.

Regarding confidence-building measures, the Unit maintained capabilities for electronic reporting, compiled and distributed submissions, provided routine assistance and substantive advice, and followed up with States parties on their submissions. The Unit also reported on the history and submission of confidence-building measures in a background information document submitted to the Preparatory Committee (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/3). In 2022, 98 States parties submitted annual reports on confidence-building measures, covering relevant activities in 2021. That was the largest number of submissions ever made in one year, reflecting a participation rate of more than 53 per cent (see figure 2.2.).

As regards universalization, the Unit supported the President of the ninth Review Conference in his activities to promote universalization, assisting him with correspondence with States not party to the Convention and preparing for his meetings in Geneva and New York with representatives of non-States parties. Additionally, and as requested by States parties, the Unit prepared a background information document on the status of the Convention’s universalization (BWC/CONF.IX/PC/7). It also supported States parties in promoting universalization, coordinating their activities and informing them about progress on accessions or ratifications. Moreover, the Unit provided information and advice about the Convention to several signatories and non-States parties.

The Unit continued to update the online database of requests for and offers to provide assistance relevant to the Convention. As at the end of 2022, the database contained 65 offers of assistance from 10 States parties and one group of States parties, and 52 requests for assistance from 17 States parties.

The Unit also administered the sponsorship programme designed to support and increase the participation of developing States parties in the meetings of the intersessional programme. In 2022, the programme received a record amount of $277,250 in contributions from one State party and two groups of States parties: France, the European Union and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. In addition, other States parties supported the sponsorship programme through bilateral arrangements. As a result, 20 experts from developing countries participated in the April meeting of the Preparatory Committee, and 43 experts attended the Review Conference.

International support for the Biological Weapons Convention

The year 2022 saw the partial resumption of in-person activities under European Union Council decision 2019/97 in support of the Convention after the lifting of most COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

Throughout the year, a strong focus of those activities was to support the preparations for the ninth Review Conference. To that end, regional preparatory meetings open to all States parties were held in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Panama City and Vienna. The meetings brought together government officials from States parties and representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and other international organizations and civil society, including academia, to discuss major themes to be addressed at the Review Conference. The meetings aimed to provide information on key issues and to facilitate a successful outcome of the Review Conference. In addition, thanks to the European Union’s contribution to the sponsorship programme, experts from 16 States were sponsored to attend the Preparatory Committee in April, and experts from 23 States were sponsored to attend the Review Conference.

The year 2022 also saw the continuation of activities initiated in 2021 within the framework of a peer review exercise with Kyrgyzstan. In August, representatives from various Kyrgyz authorities, regional and international organizations, as well as representatives from five States parties — Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and the United States — met in Kyrgyzstan to exchange best practices on the Convention’s national implementation. As a follow-on to the peer review exercise held in Kyrgyzstan, a Kyrgyz delegation met in Geneva on the margins of the Review Conference to continue a discussion of their draft law on biosafety.

The European Union Council decision also supported the organization of several activities in the framework of the Youth for Biosecurity initiative. The third Biosecurity Diplomacy Workshop for young scientists from the Global South took place as a series of virtual sessions in 2022. Efforts were also undertaken to continue fostering increased collaboration among various youth networks. On the occasion of the Review Conference, the youth network developed Youth Recommendations for the Ninth Review Conference, building on the Youth Declaration for Biosecurity launched the previous year. In addition, two awareness-raising events were organized for youth in Kenya and the State of Palestine.

The Council decision also funded further progress in advancing two capacity-building assistance programmes.15 In 2022, the activities under those programmes included virtual training sessions on how to prepare and submit reports on confidence-building measures, as well as an in-person collaboration between one beneficiary State and another State party to create a national inventory of dangerous pathogens. As a result of such activities, several recipient States parties submitted their reports on confidence-building measures for the first time in 2022.

In November 2021, the Council of the European Union adopted decision 2021/2072 in support of building resilience in biosafety and biosecurity through the Convention. The new two-year project will complement Council decision 2019/97 by placing a particular focus on (a) strengthening biosafety and biosecurity capabilities and coordination in Africa; (b) building capacity for Biological Weapons Convention national contact points; (c) facilitating the review of developments in science and technology of relevance to the Convention; and (d) broadening support for voluntary transparency exercises.

In September, under the Council decision's first pillar, a universalization event was organized in Addis Ababa for missions to the African Union of African States not party to the Convention. Representatives of Comoros, Djibouti and Egypt attended the event. The African Union Commission, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the European Union delegation to the African Union, the 1540 Support Unit[16] and the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit also participated. Furthermore, the Council decision enabled the Office for Disarmament Affairs to position a staff member in Addis Ababa to support awareness-raising and coordination on the Convention across the continent.

Under the third pillar of Council decision 2021/2072, an international science and technology conference was held in New Delhi in October to prepare for the Review Conference. The science and technology conference provided a platform for technical experts and scientists from across the globe to review advances in science and technology, including the identification of risks and opportunities relevant to the Convention. Participants addressed security, safety and ethical concerns related to such developments, along with ways to develop a robust science-policy interface. Following the Conference, a virtual event was organized on 24 November to present the major outcomes and key takeaways of the science and technology conference ahead of the Review Conference. Furthermore, a Science for Diplomats event was conducted on the margins of the Review Conference, targeting diplomats, policymakers and delegates through hands-on life science exercises and a scenario-based activity.

Supporting universalization and effective implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention in Africa


As at 31 December, the Biological Weapons Convention had 184 States parties. Of the 13 States that had yet to join the Convention, seven were in Africa,[17] making it a key region for universalization efforts. In addition, several States parties from Africa had requested assistance to enhance national implementation of the Convention. In recent years, the Implementation Support Unit assisted several States parties in the region, upon their request, in the framework of specific projects. With an increasing demand for assistance, it was considered that, for larger impact and sustainability, a longer-term engagement with, and continued support to, African countries was necessary.

The Signature Initiative to Mitigate Deliberate Biological Threats in Africa, conceived in 2020 by the Global Partnership Against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, provided a timely opportunity for the Implementation Support Unit to develop and implement a project that comprehensively supports African countries in their efforts to enhance the Convention’s implementation and promote its universalization in the region.

Project goals and objectives

The project on “Supporting Universalization and Effective Implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention in Africa”, sponsored by the Global Partnership, is a four-year project launched in April. It represents the largest activity implemented to date by the Unit, with a budget of $5.9 million and up to five posts established in support of its implementation.

The project is expected to provide concrete benefits at all levels. At the national level, African States will benefit from tailored support to facilitate adhering to the Convention and to address their needs and priorities for enhancing its implementation. Furthermore, African States would benefit from increased awareness, understanding and expertise about the Biological Weapons Convention among stakeholders in national biosafety, biosecurity and non-proliferation. At the regional level, African States would benefit from an exchange of national experiences in implementing the Convention and achieving the benefits of full and effective implementation. At the international level, enlarged membership to the Convention and improved implementation in Africa would significantly strengthen the global norm against the deliberate use of biological agents as weapons.

The project aims to increase the Convention's membership and enhance its implementation in Africa through a focus on four key priority areas: promotion of universalization of the Convention; assistance to States parties for the development of implementing legislation for the Convention; support for the preparation and submission of confidence-building measures; and facilitating the establishment or designation of national contact points.


The Implementation Support Unit began executing the project in April in close collaboration with interested States, regional and subregional partners, as well as assistance providers, to benefit from synergies and ensure coordination with other existing initiatives. Such initiatives included those supporting the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), the Biosafety and Biosecurity Initiative 2021–2025 Strategic Plan of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the respective European Union Council decisions in support of the Biological Weapons Convention. The project team adopted a multi-stage implementation process for the four-year time frame until 2026.

Project phases


Development of the strategic and conceptual framework and implementation modalities

Upon the launch of the project in April, activities were first focused on developing the strategic and conceptual framework and implementation modalities. To gather feedback from key project partners on the proposed implementation framework and to ensure a coordinated approach, as well as to incorporate best practices and lessons learned from relevant programmes in Africa, the Implementation Support Unit organized a coordination workshop in Geneva on 26 and 27 July. A total of 42 participants from 16 States parties, four regional or international organizations, three United Nations entities and four non-governmental organizations attended the event.

The workshop paved the way for the project's successful implementation by providing valuable input for identifying and addressing the challenges faced by African States in their efforts to join and enhance the implementation of the Convention, including on the following: approaches and modalities for implementing project activities that incorporate a needs-based approach and that ensure impact and sustainability; venues for collaboration with key project partners and coordination mechanisms; effective implementation of a gender perspective in project activities; and strategies, opportunities and mechanisms to promote interest and ownership of national stakeholders in project outcomes.

Overall lack of awareness about the Convention, competing priorities, lack of a designated institution responsible for related matters and the multiplicity of actors to be engaged are among the challenges to be addressed to achieve results for the project, as identified during the workshop. Participants also highlighted the relevance of making use of synergies and complementarities with regional partners and initiatives. The first project phase concluded successfully in December by incorporating the feedback into the strategic project framework and recruiting the project staff.

Conduct of regional and subregional assessments and development of workplans

In parallel, and as of October, the project progressed towards its second phase: holding five regional workshops to establish regional baselines in terms of the Convention’s national implementation, assess national priorities and needs, and identify actions and activities to be implemented to support participating countries in matters related to the Convention.

The Implementation Support Unit organized the first regional workshop for Eastern Africa on 18 and 19 October in Mombasa, Kenya, in collaboration with the Government of Kenya through the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation. Overall, 95 participants joined in person, and an additional 430 Kenyan representatives connected remotely. Officials from eight Eastern African States parties (Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) and four Eastern African States that had yet to join the Convention (Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan) attended the workshop. The event was attended by international experts from four United Nations entities: the Implementation Support Unit; the 1540 Regional Coordinator for Africa; the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute; and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa. The workshop also drew the participation of three regional organizations: the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Centre of Excellence Regional Secretariat in Nairobi; and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa. One non-governmental organization, Parliamentarians for Global Action, also joined the event. Two member countries of the Global Partnership, Canada and the United States, were also represented at the workshop.

All eight participating African States parties identified gaps in all or some of the elements of national implementing legislation, such as criminalization of offences, trade controls, oversight regime over biological agents and enforcement, as well as biosafety and biosecurity requirements. Two out of the eight participating States parties had never submitted a confidence-building measures report, while one had yet to designate a national contact point. Additionally, participants identified some common challenges affecting the Convention’s implementation, inter alia: competing priorities; lack of resources and institutional arrangements for implementation; lack of awareness about the Convention, including at the policy level; difficulties in establishing and maintaining regular information exchange between Permanent Missions in Geneva, ministries and technical experts; gaps in national legal frameworks, which hinder the adoption of implementing measures, such as collection information on confidence-building measures and designation of a national contact point; and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented some States from conducting activities to advance the Convention’s universalization and its effective implementation.

All participating States parties expressed interest in taking steps to enhance the Convention’s implementation and benefiting from the support available under the four-year project in the various areas, such as through awareness-raising, research, training, drafting and advocacy activities. In some States parties, the project provided the starting point to identify and implement activities in support of enhanced national implementation, biosafety and biosecurity, while in other States, the project provided a welcome opportunity to support ongoing or planned activities in that respect, such as those identified in national action plans for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004). All participating States that were not yet party to the Convention expressed their interest in following up on the national accession or ratification process. They also expressed their appreciation for, or interest in, advocacy and awareness-raising activities to achieve adherence to the Convention, as well as in receiving support in preparing for national implementation, including on matters related to legislation and biosafety and biosecurity frameworks.

Progress and next steps

Improving biosafety, biosecurity and biological non-proliferation frameworks, consistent with international obligations such as those arising from the Convention, has been a challenge for many African States. The project provides an opportunity for African Governments, global and regional partners to take concrete steps towards the common goal of preventing the risk of proliferation of biological weapons in Africa. Following the project’s launch in April, good progress was made with respect to the Convention’s universalization and its effective implementation in Africa.

Project progress
As at project start (April) As at 31 December
Number of African States parties 46 47
(one new State party)
National implementing legislation Only a few States parties with comprehensive legislation on the Convention Work initiated with two States
Number of confidence-building measures submissions from African States parties 21 24
Number of designated national contact points in Africa 27 30
(including 4 updates)
Number of workplans developed with African States None 12

Familiarization and training

  • Two side events hosted on the margins of Biological Weapons Convention meetings in Geneva
  • Seventeen briefings on the project, delivered at national, regional or international events
  • One hybrid regional workshop organized, with 95 representatives (in person) and 430 experts (online) from 12 African States
  • Ten sponsorship opportunities provided to African officials and experts to attend official meetings of the Convention in 2022

The Implementation Support Unit plans to organize the remaining four regional workshops for Central Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa and Western Africa during 2023. In parallel with the regional events, the Unit will initiate the implementation of national activities aimed at providing assistance, including those in line with the agreed workplans.

Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons

When Member States report the alleged use of chemical or biological weapons to the Secretary-General, he has the mandate to carry out investigations. To fulfil that mandate, the United Nations relies on countries to nominate technical experts to deploy to the field on short notice, as well as analytical laboratories to support such investigations. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs maintains a roster of those nominations.

In 2022, in its role as custodian of the Mechanism, the Office for Disarmament Affairs held in-person training and outreach events, which complemented continued virtual workshops and webinars.

In June, experts nominated to the roster took part in a basic training course offered by South Africa. The two-week course took place in Johannesburg and was organized by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. It was the first training course since late 2019 and notably also the first training event hosted by a State outside of the United Nations Western European and Other States regional group. The 17 participants from 13 States learned about the background and mandate of the Mechanism. They discussed all relevant aspects of a mission that would take place under the Mechanism, including safety and security, sampling, decontamination, planning and report writing. The final part was a one-day field exercise centred around a fictitious scenario.

In September, Germany hosted a capstone exercise for rostered experts. That exercise was originally planned to take place in September 2020 but had to be postponed owing to the pandemic. More than 50 experts, observers, evaluators and United Nations staff took part in the exercise, which was held in different locations in Berlin and aimed at mimicking a real-life investigation. It was the first such exercise since 2014, marking an essential milestone for the Mechanism.

In 2022, the Office for Disarmament Affairs continued the strong virtual engagement with experts and partners that began during the pandemic:

  • In April, the Office conducted the annual call-out exercise (a routine, unannounced exercise to test response time and check the continued availability of experts on the roster).
  • From 10 to 18 May, the Office for Disarmament Affairs hosted four virtual onboarding sessions for newly nominated experts and laboratory focal points. Ninety-eight experts from 33 countries participated in those webinars.
  • In December, the Office hosted a virtual round-table discussion for all rostered experts to discuss past and upcoming activities related to strengthening the Mechanism.
  • On 30 June, the Office was invited to provide a virtual presentation at the Global Health Security Conference, providing information on the Mechanism’s mandate and its importance as the only international tool to investigate allegations of biological weapon use in an impartial and scientific manner.
  • In November, the Office for Disarmament Affairs delivered a presentation on the Mechanism at the African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity, organized by the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium in Lagos, Nigeria.
  • In December, the Office joined an event hosted by the Robert Koch Institute on the margins of the ninth Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference, focusing on Germany’s support for the Mechanism.

Outreach to raise awareness about the Mechanism and to enhance the diversity of its rostered experts and laboratories with respect to subject matter expertise, geography and gender balance remained a priority for the Office for Disarmament Affairs. To support those goals, in October, the Office hosted its second annual briefing of Member States on the margins of the First Committee session. In his opening remarks, the Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs highlighted the essential role of Member States in maintaining and strengthening the Mechanism. A presentation on the nomination process and further information on the Mechanism followed those remarks. In December, the Office distributed the annual note verbale to Member States requesting the nominations of experts and laboratories for the roster.

In 2022, the Office for Disarmament Affairs made several presentations on the Mechanism as part of its outreach efforts. In March, the Office hosted two webinars for African, Latin American and Caribbean States as part of efforts to improve the overall geographic representation of experts and laboratories nominated to the roster and to highlight the opportunity for all Member States to participate in activities to support the Mechanism. On 31 March, the Office organized an in-person outreach workshop for member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Geneva. During the workshop, representatives from the Robert Koch Institute (Germany) and the Spiez laboratory (Switzerland) spoke about activities organized in support of the Mechanism and representatives from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Health Organization highlighted the cooperation between their organizations and the Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Export Controls

Australia Group

Although a majority of COVID-19-related restrictions had been lifted by early 2022, a planned in-person intersessional meeting did not proceed. Some countries of the Australia Group[18] were still experiencing restrictive travel and quarantine issues, which would have prevented them from attending. Therefore, the Group’s secretariat held another round of virtual meetings, which included the New and Evolving Technologies Technical Experts’ Meeting on 10 March and the Implementation Meeting on 17 March.

Later in the year, from 4 to 8 July, the Group held its 2022 plenary meeting in Paris, with many participating countries taking the opportunity to send delegations. As the first in-person plenary meeting of the Group since 2019, the gathering enabled the Group to capitalize on work already undertaken and outcomes achieved from the virtual meetings held in 2020, 2021 and early 2022. The participants agreed on a number of decisions on updates to the Australia Group common control lists.

[1] The Review Conference was held in accordance with article XII of the Convention.

[2] Chemical weapons categories are based on the respective Schedules contained in the Convention’s annex on chemicals.

[3] For details on OPCW engagement with the chemical industry, see C-27/DG.14.

[4] In accordance with decision C-SS-4/DEC.3 of 27 June 2018, the Technical Secretariat established the Investigation and Identification Team in 2019 with the mandate to identify individuals or entities directly or indirectly involved in the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, by investigating and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those weapons.

[5] The Temporary Working Group was established by the OPCW Director-General on 26 January 2021 with an initial two-year mandate. For the Group’s terms of reference, see SAB-31/1, annex 2.

[6] Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia (Federated States of), South Sudan and Tuvalu.

[7] In accordance with the decision of the 2020 Meeting of States Parties, which took place in November 2021 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee held two meetings in Geneva on 20 December 2021. This section will only address the second session of the Preparatory Committee, as the first session was addressed in the 2021 Disarmament Yearbook.

[8] Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Group of the Non-Aligned Movement and Other States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention), Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Georgia, Germany, Germany (on behalf of the Global Partnership Against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction), India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).

[10] Argentina, Australia, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Germany (on behalf of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction), India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).

[11] Syrian Arab Republic.

[12] Ibid.

[14] Assistance and cooperation (Article X): Maria Teresa Almojuela (Philippines); Review of developments in the field of science and technology related to the Convention: Ljupčo Gjorgjinski (North Macedonia); National implementation: Grisselle del Carmen Rodriguez Ramirez (Panama); Assistance, response and preparedness (Article VII): Tiyamike Banda (Malawi); Future intersessional work programme: Tancredi Francese (Italy); and Finances and the Implementation Support Unit: Henriëtte van Gulik (Netherlands).

[15] The Extended Assistance Programmes provides technical assistance to States parties to develop their national capacities to implement the Convention. The National Preparedness Programmes provide technical assistance and support to States parties to develop their preparedness, prevention and response capabilities in the event of a biological attack or incident.

[16] Support Unit of the Office for Disarmament Affairs for the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).

[17] Of the seven African non-States parties, two are signatory States (Egypt and Somalia), and five are non-signatory States (Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea and South Sudan). The non-African States that had not joined the Convention were Haití, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia (Federated States of), the Syrian Arab Republic and Tuvalu.

[18] The Australia Group comprises 42 States and the European Union. The 42 participating States are the following: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.