'Be vigilant against threat of biological weapons'

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged the whole world to continue to remain vigilant against the threat of biological weapons despite the progress made by the international community in preventing their spread, media reported on Friday.

IANS| Updated: Mar 27, 2015, 09:00 AM IST

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged the whole world to continue to remain vigilant against the threat of biological weapons despite the progress made by the international community in preventing their spread, media reported on Friday.

In his message marking the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Biological Weapons Convention, the secretary-general noted that "the norm against the use and possession of biological weapons remains strong, and no country identifies itself as possessing biological weapons," reported Xinhua. 

The Biological Weapons Convention opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. 

It prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is a key element, along with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, in the international community's efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It was also the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons. 

It currently has 173 States Parties.

"Member states need to remain aware of the looming threat that such devastating armaments pose to humanity and continue to enforce efforts to eliminate their availability," the UN chief said.

"The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrates the damage which diseases can inflict, damage which could increase massively were such diseases deliberately misused as weapons," he said.

"On the other hand, the outbreak also demonstrates the commitment of the international community to respond to such threats, whether natural or deliberate," he said. 

"It also shows the vital role of science in creating better defences."

Meanwhile, the secretary-general called on the 23 governments that have not yet joined the Convention to do so "without delay," adding that in its anniversary year, and with the Eighth Review Conference to be held in 2016, "all countries should reaffirm their unequivocal rejection of the use of disease as a weapon."

"We must remain vigilant," the UN chief said. 

"The Eighth Review Conference in 2016 is an opportunity to consolidate progress and consider how to adapt this landmark Convention to the challenges posed by advances in science and technology as well as potential risks posed by terrorists and other non-State actors."

"I encourage States Parties to think creatively about how to build confidence in compliance with the Convention," he added.