On 28th of May 2020, within the framework of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Centres of Excellence (EU CBRN CoE) Initiative, the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for Central Asia, based in Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, and chaired by the Chairman of the State Committee of Industrial Safety of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Mr. Bakhtiyor Gulyamov, held an interactive meeting for the National Focal Points of Central Asia. The event was dedicated to the discussion of the current activities of the the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for Central Asia, aimed at supporting partner countries in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as familiarizing participants with the assistance program for the Central Asian region, approved by the European Commission as part of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative.
The new assistance program for Central Asian partner countries, totaling to 2 million euros, is aimed at strengthening measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic through the provision of consumables and equipment in accordance with the requests of the National Focal Points of the partner countries from the region. The provision of the requested goods will be consistent with the general response measures to COVID-19 undertaken by governments in the respective countries of the region. In addition, the Central Asian region will benefit from a comprehensive capacity-building program designed specifically to enhance the capacity of partner countries in the region to deal with biohazards such as COVID-19. This will be possible by extending the EU CBRN CoE Project 53 (http://coe-project53.istc.int/) by adding trainings and other capacity-building events, including those related to the lessons learned and challenges posed by COVID-19. A lessons-learned interregional post-COVID-19 conference will also be organized in cooperation with the Biosafety Association for Central Asia and the Caucasus (BACAC) for the countries of Central Asia and South East and Eastern Europe in late 2020 or early 2021.
During the meeting, its participants, the National Focal Points of the partner countries of the region: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Head of the Regional Secretariat, the Regional Coordinator of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), on-site assistance (OSA) expert, as well as representatives of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), the EU Delegation in Pakistan and the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission – also discussed the results of the previous and the current EU CBRN CoE activities in Central Asia, on the measures to respond to the pandemic and efforts to contain the outbreak.
Since 2010, 5 projects in the Central Asian countries have focused on the bio risk, in addition to several others that have integrated it in the CBRN all-hazard approach. Project 53 (http://coe-project53.istc.int/), which is being implemented in the region is positively impacting the capacities against COVID-19. In total, 88 master-trainers received specialized trainings on bio-safety and bio-security in six partner countries of Central Asia and in Kazakhstan. Moreover, the national institutions such as the “M. Aikimbayev’s National Scientific Center For Especially Dangerous Infections” under the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan received laboratory equipment, which is currently being used for the detection of coronavirus within the population. According to the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic the training materials of Project 53 are being applied for training healthcare workers of the hospitals that are used for COVID-19 treatment. The Republic of Uzbekistan expects the delivery of the two mobile laboratories within the Project 53, which will be used by the institutions at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 crisis.
Also, the EU CBRN CoE Field Exercise Jeyran (attended by approx. 250 participants from 15 countries) held on 13-15 November 2019 in Uzbekistan, increased capabilities in dealing with bio- and chemical attacks and helped enhance collaboration between law enforcement and other agencies on emergency preparedness and response. This event boosted confidence of professionals when tackling the COVID-19 crisis.
Several National Focal Points in Central Asia are in the frontline in dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis. The Regional Secretariat has been a communication point for the latest recommendations from the WHO and other international guidance.
A Cooperation Agreement between the CoE Regional Secretariat and the “M. Aikimbayev’s National Scientific Center for Especially Dangerous Infections” of Kazakhstan was concluded on 12 March 2020, which is being operationalized for the exchange of practices and information, including those related to coronavirus outbreak.
So far, Central Asia is the first and only region to receive such a broad support within the framework of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative.
The meeting concluded with a discussion and identification of a number of steps that the Regional Secretariat for Central Asia and Project 53 of the EU CBRN CoE will take in the near future.
The EU CBRN CoE Initiative is funded by the European Union and implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC). The initiative is developed with the technical support of relevant international and regional organizations, the EU Member States, and other stakeholders, through coherent and effective cooperation at the national, regional and international level. The initiative involves over 60 countries in eight regions of the world.