Capstone Exercise: UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Biological and Chemical Weapons (UNSGM)

 

This extensive exercise required over two years of preparation in order to allow qualified experts on the UNSGM roster to experience a fictitious, full-scale investigation mission as part of the training scheme coordinated by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Capstone Exercise represents a part of Germany’s efforts to contribute to biological disarmament and non-proliferation.

During the exercise, a team of 19 qualified experts from 16 countries was sent to Alfacountry with the mandate to investigate an outbreak of a highly infectious pathogen regarding the allegation that a biological attack had taken place. The experts, supported and consulted by various UN entities and designated laboratories, conducted interviews, took environmental and medical samples and collected other facts to write a report regarding their findings. Further aspects of the fictitious mission included passing border control, negotiation with the host country and the management of the equipment as well as the samples that had to be prepared for shipping.

In total, almost 70 people attended the exercise, including the RKI organisation team, UN representatives (UNODA, UNDSS, and WHO), other observers, and role players. The exercise was evaluated by a team of dedicated observers under the coordination of the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). A consolidated evaluation report with recommendations will be published and distributed for interested stakeholders.

First insights to the Capstone Exercise could already be shared during an RKI-organized table top exercise that took place at the G7 Global Partnership Conference on Current Biosecurity Challenges.  During the coming months, the RKI, in cooperation with UNODA and other stakeholders, will identify lessons learned to improve training opportunities for qualified experts in the future.

 

From 19 – 28 September 2022, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) conducted a so-called Capstone Exercise within the framework of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism for the Investigation of Alleged Use of Biological and Chemical Weapons (UNSGM).

Left: Experts collect samples as part of their mission (© Bernd Bruckmoser); Right: Members of the mission team conduct an interview with a patient (© RKI)
Experts collect samples as part of their mission (© Bernd Bruckmoser)
Members of the mission team conduct an interview with a patient (© RKI)