On 3-4 August, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs convened the Global South in Biosecurity Diplomacy workshop in Vevey, Switzerland. Twenty young scientists from the global south were selected in a competitive process. The workshop, that included expert speakers and facilitators, aimed at fostering Global South networks and cooperation in the fields of biosafety and biosecurity, increasing awareness about the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and exposing young scientists to multilateral disarmament negotiations.
The workshop was held on the margins of the BWC Meeting of Experts on science and technology. It represented the first event of its kind organised under the auspices of European Union Council Decision 2019/97 in support of the BWC. This initiative built on the recognition that advances in science and technology impacting on the BWC regime have moved at an unprecedented pace in recent years.
The workshop advanced the objectives set in the Secretary-General Disarmament Agenda “Securing our common future, an Agenda for disarmament”, notably:
- engaging youth in disarmament discussions and establishing a platform for youth engagement;
- strengthening awareness about responsible science and innovation;
- involving young female scientists in BWC science and technology discussions;
- promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a particular emphasis on SDG 3 on good health and well-being, SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, and SDG 16 on peace, justice, and strong institutions.
The young scientists selected for the workshop were drawn from 14 countries in the Global South: Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Uganda. During their time in Switzerland, they followed the proceedings of the BWC Meeting of Experts on Science and Technology. They also engaged with their respective Permanent Missions in Geneva, attended relevant side events, discussed responsible and ethical science with seasoned experts and diplomats, and gained an understanding of the inner workings of diplomatic disarmament discussion.
The workshop included an active learning module to foster a practical and hands-on understanding of the articles of the BWC. The participants also took part in a guided simulation exercise on how to conduct “science diplomacy” in response to an infectious disease outbreak. Participants presented their own research during the workshop and shared their knowledge and insights. As concrete follow-up to the workshop, the participants launched an initiative to establish a BWC youth group platform to actively engage in promoting the Convention and raising awareness about the evolution and science and technology and the concepts of biosafety and biosecurity.
This is the first in a series of separate workshops. The next “Global South Workshop on Science Diplomacy” will be held in the summer of 2020 in Switzerland. More information on the workshop can be found here.