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Biological Weapons

Article V of the BWC and its contingency mechanism

Article V of the BWC and its contingency mechanism

Article V: The States Parties to this Convention undertake to consult one another and to co-operate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention. Consultation and co-operation pursuant to this Article may also be undertaken through appropriate international procedures within the framework of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter.

First developed at the First Review Conference, the contingency mechanism initially consisted in establishing " the right of any State Party (...) to request that a consultative meeting open to all State Parties be convened at expert level". This meeting was defined as only one of the "various international procedures" concerning consultations and cooperation under Article V of the BWC.

The mechanism was completed by the Second Review Conference, which notably established the right for State Parties to “request specialized assistance (...) through international procedures within the framework of the United Nations", along with a request for states to cooperate with the consultative meeting. The Third Review Conference later set the financing and rules of procedure of the meeting and drew a timeline for both the informal procedural meeting (within 30 days of the receipt of the request to depositaries) and the formal consultative meeting (within 60 days).

The process has only been invoked twice: in 1997 at the request of Cuba and in 2022 at the request of the Russian Federation.

The 1997 BWC Formal Consultative Meeting

A formal Consultative Meeting was convened under Article V of the BWC from 25 to 27 August 1997 in Geneva at the request of the Government of Cuba. The meetings were under the Chairmanship of Ian Soutar, Ambassador of the United Kingdom. As decided during the first meeting, Vice-Chairmen were elected from Brazil, Canada, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Netherlands, Nigeria and the Russian Federation. They composed the Bureau of the Formal Consultative Meeting, with the mission to issue a report by the end of the year. Both parties first argued their case for 30 minutes and later completed with a statement each. Following a disagreement over the fulfilment of the requirements of Article V,  States were invited to submit observations within the month on the information provided by both parties. 13 States-Parties, therefore, decided to submit further observations on the matter. Based on this information, the Chairman and Vice-Chairmen consulted on the issues raised by Cuba. No international follow-up procedure or specialized assistance was requested.  The final report states that no "definitive conclusion" has been reached over the allegations of the Cuban Government.

For more information:

For more information on the 1997 Consultative Meeting