Advancing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention With Bio-Transparency and Openness Initiative

Posted by Laura Kennedy
September 26, 2012
Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Kennedy at the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

As head of our delegation to the December 2011 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference, Secretary Clinton detailed a comprehensive U.S. program, including a new Bio-Transparency and Openness Initiative. While the BWC is not verifiable in the traditional sense, much can be done to enhance confidence in compliance with the treaty, one of the three pillars of the international non-proliferation regime against weapons of mass destruction.

As part of Secretary Clinton's initiative, the United States hosted a tour this summer of its National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Ft. Detrick, Maryland. I accompanied a small group of Geneva-based Ambassadors to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasure Center of the Department of Homeland Security. Senior officials from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Agriculture discussed the challenges of modern-day biological threats. The program featured the importance of a "whole- of- government" approach to combat biological threats, best practices in bio-safety and security and showcased our international cooperation and assistance programs.

Another step to implement the Secretary's Bio-Transparency and Openness Initiative was the International Conference on Health and Security (ICHS) hosted in Washington, D.C. on September 5-6. In close collaboration with the White House, we partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a number of other Departments to reinforce the message of transparency and collaboration. We also focused on another key aspect of the Obama Administration's bio policy -- the nexus between security and health. Illustrating the synergies between these two broad communities were the presentations by HHS Assistant Secretary Lurie and FBI Assistant Director Perren, World Health Organization's Assistant Secretary-General for Health Security and Environment Keiji Fukuda and BWC ISU Director Lenanne. Conference participants came from 30 countries and included both foreign affairs officials as well as experts from the law enforcement, security and public health fields. Further reflecting our view on today's bio threats and the need to develop broad-ranging national and international capacities, we included representatives from a number of international organizations, industry, science and NGO's. The conference panels and tabletop exercise demonstrated the value of cross-discipline coordination and collaboration on biological threat prevention, preparedness and response.

During the International Conference on Health and Security (ICHS), the FBI introduced a new tool to share bio-security and bioterrorism prevention and response best practices via a Web Portal for the International Bio-security and Prevention Forum (IBPF). We encourage those interested in learning more about this tool to visit the site at www.ibpforum.org and take advantage of this new resource to continue and expand our international dialogue.

More broadly, the Secretary's Bio-Transparency and Openness Initiative reflects the Administration's commitment to creating an unprecedented level of transparency and openness in the U.S. government in order to ensure greater accountability and effectiveness in governance. In a concluding note on the value of transparency and collaboration, we are posting speeches and documents from the International Conference on Health and Security on our website at http://geneva.usmission.gov/us-cd. I hope all of our readers, both in the United States and abroad, will visit it to learn more about this vital aspect of international security.

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