From 11 to 13 October 2023, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in partnership with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the government of Togo, held a regional workshop on the universalization and effective implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in Western Africa.
The three-day gathering in Lomé, Togo brought together approximately 65 participants from fourteen West African States Parties to the BWC (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo). The workshop was also attended by representatives from Germany, Portugal and the United States, as well as representatives from the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in Togo, the United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 Support Unit, the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), together with subject matter experts from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the African Center for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS).
Throughout the event, State delegations worked closely with UNODA staff to identify needs and priorities and discuss synergies with existing avenues for technical assistance and capacity-building support.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Sylvain Fanielle, Project Coordinator and Legal Officer, UNODA Geneva Branch, noted that the Lomé workshop – the fourth regional event conducted by UNODA in Africa – provided participants with “a unique opportunity to interact with one another, share experiences and discuss successes and challenges specific to the sub-region.” Over the course of the three days, participants were provided with a comprehensive overview of the BWC, the rights and obligations of States Parties, and the role of National Contact Points (NCPs) and other institutional arrangements to facilitate the Treaty’s implementation. They also explored the need for comprehensive national implementing legislation, and the role of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) in improving transparency and building trust amongst States Parties.
In addition, participants discussed topics ranging from the complementary obligations under United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 to the activities under the Biosafety and Biosecurity Initiative steered by Africa CDC. Importantly, young biosecurity experts from the region shared their experiences and suggestions to actively involve young people in furthering the goals of the BWC, including biosafety and biosecurity. A standout feature of the workshop was a field visit to the National Institute of Hygiene of Togo.
The workshop was organized in the context of a four-year project on “Supporting the Universalization and Effective Implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention in Africa” funded by the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
Additional information on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is available here.