UNSGM experts join training course on Decontamination Skills  

June 4th, 2024

From 21-24 May, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in collaboration with the Government of Portugal, organized a training course in Lisbon on Decontamination Skills for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM).

The objective of the course was to provide a group of qualified experts nominated by Member States to the UNSGM roster with a better understanding of decontamination practices in the context of a UNSGM investigation. Training elements included both theoretical lessons and exercises to practice the related skills, which were delivered by trainers from the Portuguese Army (Military Laboratory Unit for Biological and Chemical Defense – UMLDBQ).

A group of 19 experts on the UNSGM roster from 15 countries from all UN regions participated in the course. At the start of the course, UNODA provided an overview of the relevant sections of the UNSGM Guidelines & Procedures, as well as a review of some of the challenges that may be encountered with regard to decontamination in a UNSGM investigation. Then, participants received instruction from the Portuguese trainers on theoretical aspects, including contamination preventive measures, principles and concepts for biological and chemical decontamination, personnel decontamination versus samples and equipment decontamination, decontamination set-up and waste management, and decontamination as part of mission planning. On the second day, the participants were taken through a ‘Decon Safari’ in which they observed different practical aspects related with decontamination and learned about new developments in the field. The course concluded with several exercises in which participants were asked to put into practice the elements from the theoretical lessons and observations on the previous days. Participants were presented with four scenarios, for which they were asked to plan the decontamination aspects and then practice those aspects in the field.

Overall, this decontamination skill training course provided the invited experts with an improved understanding of the principles and guidelines related to decontamination in the UNSGM context, should they be deployed as part of an investigation team. As such, UNODA is very appreciative for the collaboration extended by the partners in Portugal in developing and implementing this course on decontamination skills tailored for the UNSGM context, as well as the financial support for the workshop that was generously provided by the Government of Canada.

For more information, please contact the UNODA team in support of the UNSGM at UNSGM@un.org.

©Júlio Gouveia-Carvalho