From 19-28 September 2022, a Capstone Exercise for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM) was organized in Berlin. The ten-day field exercise was hosted by the Robert Koch Institute, in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. The exercise aimed at simulating a possible UNSGM investigation of alleged use of a biological weapon to: (1) to give experts on the UNSGM roster an opportunity to test their skills should they be deployed as part of a UNSGM mission; (2) to identify topics that could be added to the training program for experts on the roster; and (3) to test the coordination between qualified experts and other stakeholders that may be involved in a UNSGM investigation.
A group of 19 qualified experts on the UNSGM roster from 16 countries participated in the exercise. Representatives from UNODA, UN Department of Safety and Security, and two laboratories on the UNSGM roster were also invited to carry out their possible roles in an investigation. A small group of expert consultants on the UNSGM roster observed the exercise, in addition to a dedicated evaluation team organized by Sweden and other international observers.
The exercise began at a fictitious UN Headquarters, where the selected Head of Mission briefed the team on the mission planning and the team selected their equipment. Then, the participants were sent on their mission to the fictitious territory of Alfacountry, where they conducted various aspects of a mission such as, inter alia, border crossing, additional negotiation with the host country, interviewing, sampling, decontamination and sample transport. After completing their investigation, the participants returned to the fictitious UN Headquarters to finalize the mission report.
The exercise proved to be a valuable opportunity for the participating experts to test their skills and ability to work together as part of a UN team in challenging circumstances. It also provided insights into topics that could be added to and strengthened in the training program for experts on the UNSGM roster.
In addition to the support provided by the Robert Koch Institute and the German Federal Foreign Office, financial support for the workshop was generously provided by the Government of Canada and the European Union. Additional support for the exercise evaluation team was provided by Sweden (FOI).
For more information on the UNSGM workshop, please contact the UNODA team in support of the UNSGM at UNSGM@un.org.