Assistance, Response and Preparedness under the Biological Weapons Convention

“Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to provide or support assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to the Convention which so requests, if the Security Council decides that such Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention.” (Article VII, Biological Weapons Convention)


Article VII of the Convention provides a tool for States Parties to request and receive assistance in case they have been exposed to danger as a result of a violation of the Convention’s provisions. The article represents an expression of international solidarity aimed at presenting a potential aggressor with the prospect of united opposition from all other States Parties.

Furthermore, the article should serve as a further disincentive to contravention of the BWC and deter the potential use of biological weapons by diminishing their military utility, if international assistance from other States Parties were to be provided.

Article VII has never been invoked since the Convention’s entry into force in 1975.

Photo credit: Spiez Laboratory

Additional understandings and agreements reached by States Parties at previous review conferences

Additional understandings and agreements reached by States Parties on Article VII at previous review conferences relate broadly to the issues of implementation of these provisions and of global health security. The full text of these additional understandings and agreements can be found in a report prepared by the Implementation Support Unit in 2018 (see Annex I).

Consideration of Article VII by States Parties during intersessional programmes

Intersessional programme 2018 – 2020

States Parties consider the following Article VII related topics at the annual Meetings of Experts on Assistance, Response and Preparedness (MX4) and the annual Meetings of States Parties:

  • Practical challenges facing the implementation of Article VII, and possible solutions
  • A set of guidelines and formats to assist a State Party, if required, when submitting an application for assistance in the framework of Article VII
  • Procedures, including the establishment and use of the assistance database, to improve the prompt and efficient response without preconditions to a request of assistance by a State Party under Article VII, and coordination and cooperation among States Parties and with relevant international and regional organizations such as WHO, OIE and FAO, as appropriate
  • Examination of how the concept of mobile biomedical units might contribute to effective assistance, response and preparation with a view to enhancing implementation of the Convention
  • Exploration of approaches by which States Parties, individually or collectively, might contribute to the strengthening of international response capabilities for infectious disease outbreaks, whether natural or deliberate in origin
  • Exploration of means to prepare for, respond to and render assistance in case of the possible hostile use of biological agents and toxins against agriculture, livestock as well as the natural environment

Further information on the deliberations can be found in the respective meeting reports. The Implementation Support United prepared a background information document on assistance, response and preparedness in 2018.

Previous intersessional programmes

States Parties considered the following Article VII related aspects during previous intersessional programmes:  

  • “How to strengthen implementation of Article VII, including consideration of detailed procedures and mechanisms for the provision of assistance and cooperation of states Parties”( 2014 and 2015);
  • “Provision of assistance and coordination with relevant organizations upon request by any State Party in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons, including improving national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection and diagnosis and public health systems.” (2010); and
  • Enhancing international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease” (2004).

Further information on common understandings reached by States Parties can be found in the respective meeting reports.