UNITED NATIONS—UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for action in three areas to prevent the disaster of biological weapons.
Guterres made the appeal in a video message to participants of the Ninth Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference in Geneva.
The first area of action is to give teeth to the convention’s accountability provisions to ensure that scientific advances are not exploited for hostile purposes, said Guterres. “Let’s make sure that science and technology are used for the benefit of humanity — not its destruction — and that peace remains at the heart of all scientific development and cooperation.”
Second, update the thinking on verification and compliance to fit today’s threats. The world has changed dramatically over the last five decades. The convention should change with it, he said.
Third, give the convention the increased financial and human resources it needs to carry out this important work, said Guterres.
“The world generously supports global regimes against chemical weapons and nuclear proliferation. We should do the same for biological weapons with a significant increase in the convention’s budget,” he said. “Now is the time to close off every avenue to the development and use of these weapons.”
Fifty years ago, when the Biological Weapons Convention was open for signature, the global community stood as one and declared that the deliberate use of disease as a weapon was an affront to humanity. The convention affirms the conscience of humankind, said Guterres.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees. Now imagine a different kind of disease — one that is both deliberately designed and can race through the global population even faster,” he said. “Biological weapons are not the product of science fiction. They are a clear and present danger. That’s why strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention is more important than ever.”