n African Security Review - The IRCR Appeal on Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity : why preventing hostile use of the life sciences is relevant to Africa : essay

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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Biological and chemical weapons are increasingly in the news. A series of events in the United States, beginning with the 11 September 2001 attacks and including mailed letters deliberately infected with anthrax later that year, have led to heightened fears of increasing resort to such agents for terror. Concurrently, the 2003 Iraq war, which failed to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has led to a great deal of cynicism about such threats, especially in the developing world. This article sets out the concerns of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the risks of new advances in the life sciences being turned to hostile use and explains what it is doing to try to encourage objective risk assessment and reduction in that context. We argue that, setting aside the rhetoric of the 'war on terror', there are sound reasons for actors in the life sciences in Africa to treat concerns about poisoning and the deliberate spread of disease seriously. It is in their interests to take practical action in line with their existing ethical and legal obligations in order to assess and reduce these threats.

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