2021 - PRELIMINARY DRAFT REPORT - BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS: TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS AND THE SPECTRE OF BIOTERRORISM IN THE POST-COVID-19 ERA

Leona ALLESLEV (Canada)

09 April 2021

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed global vulnerabilities to biological threats and refocused attention on the possibility of deliberate biological attacks. This draft report discusses the opportunities offered by biotechnology and other Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs), as well as the main challenges presented by biological weapons. In this context, the draft report provides a general overview of the current threat landscape. 

Recent scientific advances in the biotechnology sphere hold great promise in the fight against biological threats, whether intentional attacks or naturally occurring pandemics. However, these advances are also facilitating the development of increasingly sophisticated biological weapons, notably due to convergences between biotechnology and other Emerging Disruptive Technologies (EDTs). In this context, the report examines the risk of bioterrorism and the possibility of proliferation of biological weapons capabilities to non-state actors such as terrorist groups. The activities of NATO and its members in strengthening resilience and preparedness across the spectrum of biodefence activity are also discussed. Finally, the draft report outlines the international arms control framework against biological weapons, addresses the shortcomings of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and suggests possible ways it could be strengthened.

The preliminary draft report ends with several preliminary conclusions which highlight the role NATO parliamentarians can play in mitigating challenges to Allied biodefence. This includes generating greater awareness of the need for robust biodefence measures, supporting the strengthening of the BWC, and encouraging national authorities to ensure their policies and capabilities are sufficient to respond to current and future biological threats.

The preliminary draft report will be discussed by the Science and Technology Committee (STC) at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.


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