Few issues are more sensitive than that of verification of the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention (BTWC). Since the collapse of the Protocol discussions in 2001, there has been much debate as to how—in the absence of agreement among states parties—to strengthen compliance with the BTWC regime. Two intersessional processes have generated valuable ideas on possible steps to increase confidence and compliance. One concrete measure that has been suggested is that of a peer-review mechanism.
While common in academia, the utility or application of peer review for a disarmament treaty is perhaps not evident at first glance. This study explores the potential application of a peer-review mechanism for the BTWC through an initial survey of five distinct peer-review mechanisms already in use in the international community. With a deeper understanding of the purpose, structure, and mechanisms of peer-review processes, disarmament practitioners will be in a better position to discuss whether peer review might be one step to strengthen the BTWC regime.
The study is based on a definition of peer review for international organizations published by the Legal Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD characterizes peer review as “the systematic examination and assessment of the performance of a State by other States, with the ultimate goal of helping the reviewed State improve its policy making, adopt best practices, and comply with established standards and principles”.