On September 30, Myanmar’s parliament approved the government’s proposal to accede to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The proposal to accede to this convention, which bans the development, production, and stockpiling of biological weapons and which Myanmar had signed the year of its inception, was submitted to parliament by Thant Kyaw, deputy minister for foreign affairs, who stated that “Over 170 countries have already ratified the BWC. All ASEAN countries have except us.” Later, he added that Myanmar’s accession would demonstrate its commitment to abide by nonproliferation rules.
At a recent international conference on nonproliferation and disarmament, a colleague asked, somewhat irreverently (but not irrelevantly), “Now that Obama has been re-elected, will he finally earn his Nobel Prize?” It’s a fair question.
Hopes were high within the international disarmament community after President Obama’s 2009 Prague speech when he pledged to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world. But those who cheered the loudest then are among the most disappointed now, frustrated over the slow progress toward this goal.
To be fair, there were a few other challenges on his plate: an economy and financial system in disarray; two messy, unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the United States’ international authority at a record low; an increasingly polarized and politicized domestic scene; other pressing priorities (universal health care being not the least); and more.