The Role of the Biological Weapons Convention in Disease Surveillance and Response

Christian Enemark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article assesses the role and significance of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) with respect to infectious disease surveillance and response to outbreaks. Increasingly, the BWC is being used as a platform for addressing infectious disease threats arising naturally as well as traditional concerns about malicious dissemination of pathogenic microorganisms. The latter have long had a place on the security agenda, but natural disease outbreaks too are now being partially ‘securitized’ through the use of the BWC as a forum for exchanging information and ideas on disease surveillance and response. The article focuses on two prominent issues discussed at recent meetings of BWC member states: enhancing capacity for disease surveillance and response; and responding to allegations of biological weapons use and investigating outbreaks deemed suspicious. It concludes, firstly, that the BWC supports the efforts of international health organizations to enhance disease surveillance and response capacity worldwide. And secondly, that the BWC, rather than the World Health Organization (WHO), is the appropriate institution to deal with biological weapons allegations and investigations of suspicious outbreaks. The overall message is that securitization in the health sphere cuts both ways. Adding a security dimension (BW) alongside the task of detecting and responding to naturally occurring disease outbreaks is beneficial, but requiring a non-security organization (the WHO) to assume a security role would be counterproductive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-494
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 09 Sept 2010


  • infectious diseases
  • biological weapons
  • public health
  • international law


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