WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — The Annual Meeting of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention began Monday in Geneva and is scheduled to conclude on Friday, December 10, 2010. Ambassador Laura Kennedy, the United States Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, leads the U.S. delegation as the U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Issues.

The United States continues to show its commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) through President Obama’s National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, introduced by Ellen Tauscher, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, at the BWC Annual Meeting of States Parties in 2009.

Under the agreed intersessional work program, this year’s Meeting of States Parties focuses on the provision of assistance and coordination, upon request by any State Party, in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons. The United States recognizes that it is essential for the world community to rapidly detect, respond to and contain infectious disease or other public health events, whether naturally occurring or man-made, that occur anywhere in the world, and is committed to supporting a coordinated and connected system to detect and respond to the disease threat. This commitment is demonstrated through our support of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations (2005). In 2010, the United States hosted two international conferences highlighting the interrelationship between the Biological Weapons Convention and those Regulations, and recently completed a workshop on international perspectives on bio-risk management.

The intersessional meetings of the past two years have been important opportunities for experts from around the world to discuss the components of comprehensive disease surveillance and response, impediments to implementing efficient and effective systems, and lessons and recommendations that can help build capacity around the world that is vital for public health and invaluable in the event that a biological weapon is used. In support of this year’s intersessional topic the United States seeks to highlight the potential value of the “One Health” approach to disease surveillance; emphasize the importance of cooperation between public health and law enforcement, and among relevant international organizations; and draw particular attention to the need to build capacity in advance of a potential biological weapons attack.

Leading to the BWC Review Conference in December 2011, the United States is working toward three overarching objectives: building global capacity to combat infectious disease, regardless of origin; preventing bioterrorism; and promoting confidence in effective BWC implementation and compliance by showing transparency.