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

Leona ALLESLEV (Canada)

03 September 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. 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 EDTs. In this context, the report examines the risk of bioterrorism and the possibility of the 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 regarding biological weapons, identifies shortcomings of the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction” (BTWC) and suggests possible ways it could be strengthened.
The draft report offers several conclusions which highlight the role NATO parliamentarians can play in mitigating challenges to Allied biodefence. These include generating greater awareness of the need for robust biodefence measures, supporting the strengthening of the BTWC, and encouraging national authorities to ensure that their policies and capabilities are sufficient to respond to current and future biological threats. The rapporteur also stresses the vital contribution of NATO militaries to tackle biological threats and the need to not cut defence spending, but to better source biodefence capabilities and strengthen them.
This draft report will be presented and discussed by the Science and Technology Committee (STC) for adoption at the Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
 


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