BWC review conference saw the launch of a new NGO

The Organisation for Global Biorisk Reduction (OGBR) is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) focused on the prevention, preparedness and response to risks to humans, animals or plants associated with biological materials, whether caused naturally, accidently or deliberately.

A lot of good work is being conducted across the world at this time to try and achieve the above goals, but none of it is coordinated or accredited. When a major outbreak of disease occurs, many different agencies will rush to respond, but it is not coordinated. For many years, those involved with reducing risks associated with pathogens and toxins, have called for the establishment of an equivalent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). So far, this has not been achieved.

The OGBR has been established with the intention of filling this void. As an NGO, it will have greater flexibility to develop as a support and coordinating body for those countries engaged with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and other international obligations such as UN Security Council Resolution 1540. It is our aim that, eventually, the OGBR would become part of the BTWC Implementation Support Unit, but there is a lot of work to do before then. The life sciences present a very different challenge from those posed by chemicals. We are not advocating country inspection regimes. Our aim is to:

• Coordinate and accredit all the good work currently being conducted globally in relation to biosafety, biosecurity, disease surveillance and response. This will increase the quality of work to an accredited standard (such as the excellent courses now offered by the International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA), and eliminate an unorganised 'scatter gun’ delivery of learning. This will also avoid duplication and any confusion caused by different standards of learning delivery.
• Provide an information hub for all members of the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention, where they can gain information and support relating to the principles of prevention, preparedness and response to any incident where biological materials are involved.
• Assist in the coordination of a response to a major outbreak of an infectious disease whether in humans, animal or plants. It is evident that this was a major issue during the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, during 2013 – 2015. Authorities in affected areas were overwhelmed with the arrival of NGO’s, media and cargo. There is no reason why this response cannot be pre-planned, before any outbreak, whether natural, accidental or deliberate, occurs.

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