On 25 June 2020, a virtual conference was organised by the European Commission in Brussels, in order to draw attention to the contribution by the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative to the fight against COVID-19 in African partner countries. Panellists at the conference emphasised that all 61 partner countries of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative, including Kenya and other countries in the Eastern & Central Africa region, are taking advantage of the structures, networks and activities initiated under the EU CBRN CoE Initiative in their response to the pandemic.
Olivier Luyckx, the Head of Unit for Security and Nuclear Safety at the Directorate-General for International Co-operation & Development (EuropeAid), mentioned that the EU CBRN CoE Initiative, currently in its tenth year of existence, has been able to quickly reorient ongoing activities, in order to enable partner countries both in Africa and in other regions to be in a better position to respond to COVID-19. Key examples of the new focus and way of working are the many online trainings which have been organised for health workers and others. At the same time, the CBRN CoE Initiative has facilitated meetings among partner countries in order to exchange information, best practices and lessons learned. Earlier in June, e.g., both the UAE and Austria shared their experiences in addressing COVID-19 in an online forum. In addition, CBRN on-site assistance (OSA) experts have provided support to national authorities.
The scientific director of the Pasteur institute in Dakar informed that with funding from the EU CBRN CoE Initiative, and in partnership with the Belgian organisation ‘Praesens’, the institute has started implementing the LABPLUS Africa project. The project aims to reinforce the response to COVID-19 in Africa by providing diagnostics, COVID-19 detection capacity and health services through mobile platforms. Also a training programme is being rolled out, working in tandem with local health systems.
Other speakers highlighted earlier achievements by the CBRN CoE Initiative, which have proven equally important in the current situation. This concerns in particular the institutional architecture which has been put in place in partner countries with support from the CBRN CoE Initiative. Partner countries have been asked to appoint CBRN national focal points (NFPs) and the NFPs in turn coordinate the work of national CBRN teams. The national teams comprise officials from different ministries and agencies which have a stake in CBRN issues. Many partner country governments have been able to make good use of the expertise of the NFPs and the national teams in their response to COVID-19.
At the same time, the conference was reminded that the EU CBRN CoE Initiative is also a network which involves the inputs and contributions from research institutions and a wide range of experts, including in the biological field. This technical dimension reflects the strong belief of the EU and its member states that the response to the COVID-19 crisis must be based on scientific expertise and good advice.
The EU CBRN Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative is the largest external civilian security programme of the EU. The Initiative aims at mitigating CBRN risks in partner countries, whether they are of a natural, accidental or criminal/terrorist origin.
More information about the Initiative can be found at: https://europa.eu/cbrn-risk-mitigation/index_en