Carnegie Corporation of New York Targets the Threat Posed By Biological Weapons

Together with nuclear and chemical arms, biological weapons comprise the “unholy trinity” of weapons of mass destruction. While possessing equivalent lethality, biological weapons are in some ways even more dangerous. They are easy to produce, their ingredients are readily available and they are constrained by the weakest of control regimes. Carnegie Corporation of New York, long in the arms control frontlines, has focused its attention on strategies that will attempt to limit the development and spread of these destructive weapons. 

Currently more countries possess chemical and biological weapons capabilities than nuclear arsenals. Although the monitoring provisions of the chemical weapons convention are far from perfect, those surrounding biological weapons are virtually nonexistent. Negotiations on the biological and toxin weapons convention began in 1995 and continue with little progress. There is no organization surrounding the convention, no budget and no inspection provisions, merely a pledge by states never to “develop, produce or stockpile” biological agents or toxins. 

To address this dangerous absence of protection against biological weapons, the Corporation’s Board of Trustees, at their February meeting, voted to fund a cluster of grants for research and educational institutions that target a specific aspect of the work necessary to build a stronger Biological Weapons Convention. The board has awarded almost a million dollars over two years to four organizations involved in complementary and collaborative work: the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies, the Harvard Sussex Program, the Federation of American Scientists Fund and the Henry L. Stimson Center. 

“The goals of the 1972 Biological Weapons treaty have not been attained partially because there has been too little attention paid to this lethal family of weapons,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “We at Carnegie believe that this comprehensive group of grants will elevate the issue, re-invigorate the protocol debate and help the public understand what is at stake should these deadly weapons be available to terrorists.”

“The recent standoff with Iraq over their suspected offensive biological weapons capability indicated that the issue of biological weapons is a current and present danger,” said David Speedie, chair of Carnegie's International Peace and Security program. “The work of these four organizations will mean that all the bases with regard to Biological Weapons Convention will be covered.”

“Clearly in this age of terrorism, the threat posed by biological weaponry becomes even more frightening, and it is incumbent on American leadership to move now to curb the production and deployment of microorganisms that can cause specific diseases in human and animals and plants,” argued former senator Sam Nunn, a current Carnegie trustee.

Acknowledging that these grants cannot guarantee the world will be safe from biological threats, the board of the corporation argued forcefully that at this critical juncture in biological arms control area, focussing public attention on the need to establish clear constraints is imperative. In 2000, there will be a major effort to conclude the compliance protocol addition to the convention. The review conference for governments is scheduled for 2001.

“There is a limited window of opportunity to impact the policy and policymaking debate and we believe the time to do it is now, before threats become tragedies,” said Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey and chair of the Carnegie board.

A $200,000 grant to Bradford University will support the effort to increase public and specialist access to all available documents involved in biological weapons convention talks in Geneva, Switzerland. Scholars at Bradford point to a lack of communication among biomedical, scientific, and nongovernmental groups involved in the talks. They will improve and expand a web site that has become a locus for negotiation information and post all negotiation documents along with their own expert analysis. The Web site is jointly operated with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and is committed to ensuring all communities central to the adoption of the protocol remained informed about the process of negotiations. During its five-year life, the joint Web site has won recognition for the quality of its research and its publications. This grant will help the institute increase its audience. 

The Harvard Sussex Program, a joint venture between Harvard University and the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, brings together international ministers, government officials and ambassadors along with professors of biology. It has staff at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague and produces a quarterly journals on the Chemical Biological Weapons Conventions Bulletin. This grant will allow Harvard Sussex to expand its outreach with government officials and independent scholars around the implementation of the protocols. The two-year $250,000 grant will also support continued research. The archival work by the two groups is universally respected and both have a proven track record of high accomplishment and credibility. They are respected for the accuracy of their research and their accounting of treaty negotiations. 

The two-year $212,000 grant to the Federation of American Scientists Fund in Washington, DC will support the technical advisory work produced by scientists skilled in biological research. The data and analysis produced by the federation bridges the gap between science and policy on technical issues and is used regularly to inform the work of the Ad Hoc Group created in 1993 to negotiate a legally binding verification protocol. The scientists donate their time to this work and with this grant will be able to travel to Geneva for negotiation sessions. The group has also been meeting with representatives from the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and will continue to work with them on nonproliferation strategies.

The Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation project at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, DC will prepare and disseminate analysis of key biological issues with its two-year $300,000 grant. Scholars at the center are examining terrorism response procedures in the U.S. and are following progress of the Geneva protocol, a multinational effort to develop a verification system for the 72 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

University of Bradford
West Yorkshire, U.K.
Malcom R. Dando
Professor of International Peace

Harvard University
Mathew S. Meselson
Haravard Sussex Program

University of Sussex
J.P. Perry Robinson
Harvard Sussex Program

Federation of American Scientists Fund
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg Chair
FAS Working Group on Biological Weapons

Henry L. Stimson Center
Michael Krepon