Because of the “dual use” character of most of the activities in biotechnology, transparency is one of the key mechanisms for strengthening the BWC. Transparency about and the willingness to explain the biological activities performed in a given country are of utmost importance in order to increase confidence in the peaceful nature of activities. Excessive secrecy of military and civilian activities in the biological field will sooner or later lead to misinterpretation and might result in suspicions of non-compliance.
Due to the persistent lack of a verification mechanism for the BWC, the confidence building measures (CBMs) that States Parties to the BWC agreed on in 1986, remain the only transparency enhancing mechanism in the framework of the BWC. The CBMs, which took the form of data exchange measures, were extended at the Third BWC Review Conference in 1991. They were not discussed in detail at the Fourth Review Conference in 1996, and no or little progress was achieved on them during the Fifth and Sixth Review Conference in 2001 and 2006.
The CBMs are administered through the BWC Implementation Support Unit (ISU).
The ZNF has been closely following developments of the CBM mechanism, has analysed the data exchanged under the CBMs, and has developed recommendations on how to improve the CBMs by focussing their content on the most relevant information and by increasing participation.
We produce an annual reader summarising the CBMs that are made publicly available.