On 29 and 30 March 2022, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) organised a regional capacity-building workshop on the Convention for Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The event, which was made available with financial support by the Government of Japan, aimed at supporting ASEAN Member States in their efforts to strengthen assistance, response and preparedness capacities in case of the use or threat of use of biological weapons and to enhance the national implementation of the Convention.
The first workshop day focused on ‘strengthening national, sub-regional and international capacities to prepare for and respond to deliberate use of biological weapons’. Upon an introduction on the history and rationale of Article VII of the BWC, representatives from France and South Africa presented their proposals to operationalize the article’s provisions. This was followed by a session on transferable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for BWC States Parties in their preparedness efforts in case of a deliberate biological incident.
The workshop participants, comprised of representatives from key national ministries and agencies from six ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand), then participated in a tabletop exercise (TTX) designed and delivered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (JHCHS). The TTX was based on a multi-sectoral and gradual response to a bio incident with an unknown origin, where the participants played roles of respective national agencies involved in the response process.
The first day was concluded by a panel discussion on ‘gender equality in the disarmament context’ in which representatives of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the Permanent Mission of Panama in Geneva and a regional expert provided their insights.
The second day focused on ‘strengthening the capacity of BWC National Contact Points (NCPs) in the ASEAN region’, starting with a detailed presentation on national implementation of the Convention and its challenges. Thereafter followed an information session on the preparation and submission of BWC Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), which also comprised a presentation by the Philippines, sharing its experience with collecting and submitting such CBMs. The last session of the workshop was focused on the upcoming BWC Ninth Review Conference. Staff of the BWC ISU and representatives of the JHCHS and UNIDIR briefed about previous BWC Review Conferences, crucial issues for the forthcoming conference taking place from 28 November to 16 December 2022 and important preparatory steps for its success. They also updated on the impact of recent advances in science and technology on the BWC.
The workshop marked the final activity of a series of seven capacity building events organized and implemented by the BWC ISU since 2018 with the generous financial support provided by the Government of Japan. The workshop was followed by a one-day regional outreach workshop for ASEAN Member States on the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigations of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM), which was organized by UNODA’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch also with the financial support provided by the Government of Japan.