On 7 December 2017, Italy, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) organized a Side Event at the Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties (BWC MSP) entitled “Aligning international needs assessments and national action plans in Africa in the wake of the West Africa Ebola crisis.”
The Side Event showcased the results of a Regional Conference – held in Rabat, Morocco, on 25-26 October 2017 – co-sponsored by the EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centers of Excellence (CoE) Initiative and the Italian Presidency of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and supported by UNICRI – which identified biosafety and biosecurity priorities in 11 African Countries affected by the West-Africa Ebola crisis.
The Side Event was attended by more than 50 participants, including delegates from Cameroon, Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Interpol, Malawi, Morocco, the Philippines, the United Sates of America and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Side Event began with opening remarks by Ms. Palma D’Ambrosio, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the Conference on Disarmament, and Mr. Tristan Simonart, representing the EU. Both Ms. Palma D’Ambrosio and Mr. Simonart emphasized the value of the Regional Conference, describing it as a successful tool and innovative model for aligning the priorities of international partners with the expressed needs of countries requiring support.
Following the opening remarks, Dr. Anne-Sophie Lequarre, of the European Commission Joint Research Centre, provided an overview of the Regional Conference, including details on the methodology used to identify national needs and regional trends based on a comparative analysis of multiple needs assessments, including the EU CBRN CoE National Action Plan, the 1540 National Implementation Action Plan, the WHO IHR (2005) Joint External Evaluation (JEE) and the National Extended BTWC Implementation Assistance Programmes.
Mr. Francesco Marelli, Head of UNICRI’s CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance Program, then chaired a panel discussion, inviting Mr. William Kofi Baffoe-Mensah, CBRN CoE National Focal Point of Ghana; Professor Maria Rita Gismondo, L. Sacco University Hospital; and Dr. R. Alexander Hamilton, Senior Analyst at UNICRI, to share their experiences. Each speaker described the Conference as both innovative and successful, pointing to several regional project ideas that emerged from the comparative analysis and inter-organizational discussions in Rabat.
Finally, Mr. Trevor Smith, Global Affairs Canada, underlined the importance of the Regional Conference as a model for strengthening coordination and supporting targeted investments through the Global Partnership.
The Conference was an important opportunity to support regional and international coordination, enabling a common perspective on capacity needs in the wake of the Ebola crisis. Exchanging experiences, sharing information on risks and capabilities, and identifying concrete needs are fundamental conditions to prevent biological threats and to ensure timely and effective emergency response.