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Faith group says ‘human dignity’ should be key to bioweapons accord

January 4, 2012

Geneva

More than 100 countries agreed on Dec. 22 here to a set of initiatives to strengthen international cooperation to prevent biological weapons such as toxins or infectious agents being developed or used by terrorists or nations.

Trevor Griffiths, representative for Brussels-based Pax Christi International, however, stressed that “the key principles guiding relevant initiatives should be human dignity and human security.”

“Recognition that natural and deliberately caused disease outbreaks both merit the same response is essential,” he said. “Any investment in preparing for response to potential future outbreaks should not be to the detriment of essential investment in basic public health, clean water and sanitation and a healthy living environment,” he added.

It was the seventh review (which took place from Dec. 5-22) by the 165 countries that are parties to the 1975 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.

The countries agreed to enhance transparency, and “reduce doubts and suspicions,” and also agreed to boost “confidence-building measures” such as exchanging data on research centers and laboratories, national biological defense research and development programs, and information on outbreaks of infectious diseases.

They also agreed to enforce national legislation and strengthen national institutions and coordination among law enforcement agencies. They also agreed to have experts review developments in the fields of life sciences and technology and to guard against them being misused to produce bioweapons.

Asked about the outcome, Laura Kennedy, U.S. ambassador for disarmament, told ENInews “it’s modest, but it’s tangible,” and singled out the update of the confidence-building measures.

A coalition of non-aligned developing countries (which include Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan) and Russia reiterated the need for a legally binding verification protocol.

In light of U.S. opposition, however, the issue was not pushed to the brink, diplomatic sources said. Diplomats said the U.S. is apprehensive about its facilities being subjected to mandatory international inspections.

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