Latin American and Caribbean States meet in Santo Domingo to strengthen the implementation of Biological Weapons Convention

November 8th, 2023

On 25 and 26 October 2023, National Contact Points (NCPs) and representatives from 19 from Latin America and the Caribbean States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) attended a two-day training course in Santo Domingo, to discuss ways to strengthen the implementation of the BWC and share information, knowledge and best practices.

UNODA, UNLIREC and OAS/CICTE: H.E Amb. Ramon Quinones, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Brigadier General Francisco Ovalle Pichardo, Army of the Dominican Republic, Ministry of Defence, Mr. Melvin Asin, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Dominican Republic: Dr. Jose Matos, Ministry of Public Health, and Ms. Silvana Pascucci, Associate Political Affairs Officer, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs Geneva Branch.

The Regional Training Course was organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX) and the Ministry of Defence (MIDE) of the Dominican Republic in response to requests from NCPs to support their critical role in fulfilling their State’s obligations under the Convention.

His Excellency, Mr. Ambassador Ramón Quiñones, Director of Security and Defense of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, opened the event by welcoming the delegates in attendance and underlining the Dominican Republic’s longstanding commitment to the BWC. He also highlighted the progress made to date in national implementation, including in updating legal frameworks, submitting CBMs (Confidence-Building Measures) and in strengthening biosafety and biosecurity so as to be better prepared to prevent and respond to emerging biothreats. The Ambassador noted the shared desire and commitment of all countries in the region to enhance biological and regional security. He commended the cooperation and technical assistance provided by UNODA and the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, Organization of American States (OAS/CICTE) towards the establishment and effective implementation of biosafety and biosecurity measures across the region and highlighted the relevance of the training course in strengthening the capacities of States Parties and NPCs.

The Head of Cooperation of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the Dominican Republic, Mr. Melvin Asin, highlighted the EU’s longstanding support for, and contributions to, disarmament initiatives and activities, including the regional training course. In this connection, he emphasized the urgent need to strengthen the national implementation of the BWC, as well as the crucial role that the NCP plays in this endeavor and the relevance of the workshop in achieving these goals.

Authorities from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Public Health participated in the opening ceremony, along with representatives of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) and (OAS/CICTE).

National Contact Points shared their national experiences and best practices under the Biological Weapons Convention.

On the first day of the training course, participants learned about the roles and responsibilities of NCPs and the challenges countries may encounter when implementing the BWC. They were informed as to the broader state of play of the Convention, including current developments and topics  under discussion in the Working Group on the strengthening of the BWC. Participants shared national experiences, most notably on institutional and legal frameworks, thereby contributing to an active exchange of knowledge with a view to better implementation of the BWC at the national level, the strengthening the NCP network, and  the amplification of progress in the region.

All participants welcomed the BWC National Implementation (NIM) Guide developed by UNODA as a relevant tool to strengthen existing capacities in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Day two centered around the preparation and submission of CBMs reports, including a tabletop exercise. NCPs from the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Ecuador shared their experiences and challenges with CBMs, including how to effectively manage inter-agency coordination to ensure timely submission. Their presentations sparked a lively discussion about replicating best practices in other countries.

Participants were briefed on the synergies between the BWC and the UNSCR 1540 (2004), with UNLIREC presenting its study on non-proliferation of biological weapons, emphasizing the challenges and opportunities for the region. OAS/CICTE provided an overview of the status of the implementation of biosecurity measures under the UNSCR 1540 (2004).

The training also provided an opportunity for bilateral discussions, networking and in-person exchanges among UNODA staff and NCPs, as well as for mapping regional needs and the exploration of potential assistance opportunities.

Brigadier General Francisco Ovalle Pichardo, Dominican Republic’s Army and National Contact Point for UNSCR 1540 (2004), attended the closing ceremony. He stressed that prevention is one of the most critical elements in ensuring regional peace and security in the face of latent threats in an increasingly complex world. Courses like these, he added, are essential to promote peace and build mutual confidence and more effective international cooperation. He also pointed out that interaction between institutions and focal points remains crucial and contributes to maintaining multilateral communication in real time.

The course for NCPs in Latin America and the Caribbean was the second of a series of six regional training workshops for BWC NCPs tailored to specific regions and funded by the European Union. The first course was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 16-17 May 2023, for NCPs from African States Parties to the BWC.