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VERTIC hosts tabletop exercise on UN Secretary General Mechanism investigations of alleged biological weapons use

On 31 October – 1 November 2019, VERTIC ran a table-top exercise on investigations of alleged use of biological weapons under the UN Secretary General Mechanism (UNSGM). The exercise aimed at identifying practical challenges that a deployed UNSGM investigation team may face, and explore possible strategies to mitigate and overcome them. In particular, the exercise focused on cooperation, coordination and communication issues between the UNSGM investigation team and other national and international stakeholders, such as law enforcement and national security authorities, public health bodies, international humanitarian relief organisations, other UN agencies, and international expert communities.

The exercise was held at the Royal Society, London. It saw the participation of 30 high-level practitioners with current and previous policy and emergency response coordination responsibilities. The group included former international investigators, UN officials, and a range of government officials in charge of CBRN policy and emergency planning and response from the public health and law enforcement sides, as well as foreign affairs. Together, these participants offered a unique breadth of operational field experience.

The exercise was part of a broader project VERTIC is carrying out examining ways to support the readiness and capability of the UNSGM on the alleged use of biological weapons. Lessons identified during the exercise are being collected and will be presented in the project’s final report.