The mitigation of biological risks in Africa, in the wake of the West Africa Ebola crisis (2014-2016), has been the focus of the two-day African Regional Conference, co-chaired by the 2017 Italian Presidency of the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Centres of Excellence (EU CBRN CoE) Initiative in collaboration with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).
The Regional Conference was attended by over 60 participants coming from eleven countries from the African continent - Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo - and members of the Global Partnership - European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and United States of America – as well as experts from international organizations engaged in biosecurity - World Health Organization, INTERPOL and the Implementation Support Unit of the Biological Weapons Convention.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Redouane Houssaini, Director for the United Nations and International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco highlighted the need to establish participatory frameworks at regional level with a view to strengthening capacities for CBRN risk mitigation with common approaches. Along these lines, he underlined the importance of the Rabat-based CBRN Risk Mitigation CoE Regional Secretariat, which represents a platform for the exchange of best practices among the countries of West Africa.
Ms. Barbara Bregato, Italian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, stated that, after the Ebola outbreak, it is crucial to invest in prevention and to ensure a proper follow-up to the CBRN national action plans designed for risk mitigation. African countries need to have in place the required capabilities, should another epidemic occur again. In this respect, Global Partnership members aim at proceeding as coordinated as possible. The Conference has been convened precisely in order to establish a common framework of priorities and discuss together new capacity building initiatives.
Mr. Alessio Cappellani, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to the Kingdom of Morocco, underlined that CBRN incidents of a natural, accidental or intentional origin present one of the biggest threats for collective health. The destabilising consequences of the Ebola crisis with respect to socio-economic stability of affected countries, as well as protection of populations, dramatically demonstrated this level of threat.
The Conference undertook a comparative review of biological needs assessments and national action plans, which have been prepared in the context of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative, the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) under the WHO International Health Regulations, the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) and the Biological Weapons Convention.Participants agreed on a set of coherent and comprehensive priorities to strengthen countries’ preparedness against possible future epidemic outbreaks, which will be presented at the next Global Partnership meeting, to be held in Rome on 15-17 November 2017. The set of priorities will contribute to the creation of positive synergies between the policy orientations of Global Partnership members and the needs of African countries.