Projects / Past Projects

Verification concepts – Building on the UNSCOM/UNMOVIC experience

Project Period: 2005-2007
Funding: MacArthur Foundation
Project officer: Jan van Aken

The goal of this project was to compile, evaluate and summarise all concepts and methods used by the UN inspectors (UNSCOM and UNMOVIC) in inspecting and monitoring Iraq’s dual use capabilities in the biological field and to prepare a comprehensive compendium of state-of-the-art and “field-tested” technologies and methodologies for verification and monitoring in the biological field.

After analysing all concepts and methods used by UNSCOM and UNMOVIC in inspecting and monitoring Iraq’s capabilities in the biological field and condensing them into a “Lessons Learned” report, three verification methods were looked at in greater detail: export/import monitoring because it was a major source of information leading to the discovery of the Iraqi bioweapons programme in the mid-1990s, aerial surveillance because of its importance for inspection planning and preparation, and sampling and analysis because it was one of the most important tools to gather physical evidence for proscribed biological activities.

UN inspections in Iraq were a tremendous success story. In the biological area they uncovered the hidden bioweapons programme despite Iraqi efforts to conceal it, disarmed Iraq by destroying weapons and facilities and equipment used in the programme, and prevented the reestablishment of the programme. During their 17 years of existence, UNSCOM and UNMOVIC were working on a steep learning curve. Their experiences, successes and failures provide a treasure trove of lessons to be learned for future biological nonproliferation, disarmament, arms control and verification. The project contributed to preserving the knowledge accumulated by UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. This is particularly important because the formal mandate of UNMOVIC was terminated in June 2007 by UNSC Resolution 1762. Preserving the knowledge is also important for informing future monitoring activities in the biological field.