African States meet in Addis Ababa to strengthen implementation of Biological Weapons Convention

June 8th, 2023

On 16 and 17 May, National Contact Points (NCPs) and representatives from 26 African States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) attended a two-day training course in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss ways to strengthen the implementation of the BWC, and share information, national experiences and best practices. The Regional Training Course was organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in response to requests from NCPs to support their critical role in fulfilling their State’s obligations under the Convention.

Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; Mr. Riccardo Mosca, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to the African Union; Mr. Sylvain Fanielle, Project Coordinator and Legal Officer, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs Geneva Branch.

Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu opened the event and welcomed the attending delegates, which included newly appointed NCPs and countries that have recently joined the Convention, namely Namibia (2022) and South Sudan (2023). She expressed her appreciation to African States for their strong commitment and contributions to global efforts towards eliminating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and for advancing the implementation of the BWC – which is crucial for strengthening biosafety and biosecurity capabilities.

The Deputy Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the African Union, Mr. Riccardo Mosca, agreed that partnerships and collaboration are particularly important for the effective implementation of the Convention on the African continent, and bringing remaining States onboard. In that connection, he highlighted the EU’s support and contributions to disarmament initiatives and activities, including the regional training course, to achieve those goals.

On day one of the training, participants heard about the roles and responsibilities of NCPs, and challenges countries may encounter when implementing the BWC.,. Additionally, they were updated about the broader state of play of the Convention, including the outcome of the Ninth BWC Review Conference and the programme of work States parties are undertaking in the inter-sessional period until the next Review Conference.

National Contact Points shared their experiences and best practices with preparing Confidence Building Measures under the Biological Weapons Convention

Day two centered around interactive exchanges amongst participants and how to prepare and submit Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) reports. NCPs from South Africa, Kenya, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire shared their experiences and challenges, including what to look out for when collecting relevant information and how to effectively manage inter-agency coordination to ensure timely submission. Their presentations sparked a lively discussion about possibilities for adopting or replicating best practices in other countries. Increasing awareness across national agencies as well as conducting gap analysis, assessing legal frameworks and drafting, developing national legislation and measures were seen as crucial components for effectively implementing the Convention. The National Implementation (NIM) Guide developed by UNODA was also welcomed by all participants as a relevant tool to assist States Parties.

Participants were also briefed on UNODA initiatives to support African States, including under the framework of projects funded by the European Union and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The training provided an opportunity for bilateral discussions, networking and in-person exchanges among UNODA staff and NCPs in preparation for upcoming activities, mapping additional needs and assistance opportunities.

The training concluded with a CBM table-top exercise, which provided practical insights into engaging with a variety of stakeholders and agencies, the roles of industry and civil society, and ensuring that information validation processes and oversight mechanisms are in place.

The training course for African NCPs is the first of a series of six regional training workshops for BWC NCPs tailored to specific regions, funded by the European Union.