WHO African Region Holds 1st Workshop on Global Framework for Responsible Life Sciences

From 24 to 25 January 2023, the WHO Science Division, in collaboration
with the WHO Regional Office for Africa and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), organized the first regional workshop to operationalize the framework in the WHO African region. A total of 38 multidisciplinary
and multisectoral experts attended the workshop, bringing together representatives from eight countries (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia), The Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO); the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH)); the former or current Chairs of the Africa CDC Sub-Regional Technical Working Group on Biosafety and Biosecurity from North, East, West and
Southern Africa, Africa CDC and the WHO Secretariat.

The objectives of the two-day technical workshop were to present the framework and other related existing regional initiatives; to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience of countries on the challenges and needs in mitigating biorisks and governing
dual-use research; to strengthen collaboration among multiple and multidisciplinary stakeholders within the WHO African region; to test specific elements of the framework, including the six-step approach and the checklist for the national governments,
and identify the needs for additional toolkits or regional guidance; and to recommend concrete actions for the roll-out of a national implementation of the framework.

The two-day technical meeting provided an excellent opportunity to put the framework into action at regional and national contexts. The workshop was organized around a set of different sessions to facilitate a participatory and interactive working method.

The session on the introduction of the framework and the overviews of the regional and national perspectives was scheduled at the beginning of the workshop to introduce the topic and the issues at stake and to provide some common understanding on key

The panel sessions allowed participants from countries to share knowledge and experiences on the challenges and needs for mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research and partners to provide perspectives on biorisks and dual-use research from a
One Health approach in the WHO African region.

Participants worked in groups and provided feedback on the six-step approach and the checklist for national governments of the framework; on their needs for additional toolkits and regional guidance; and on their needs and priorities for anticipating,
preventing, mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research.

The plenary sessions allowed the various groups of work to report back the outcomes of their discussion. The meeting of partners provided an opportunity to strategically discuss the mobilization of technical and financial resources needed to implement
the framework.

The meeting participants gained increased awareness of the topic of responsible use of life sciences and dual-use research; identified specific needs and challenges of AFR countries; and adopted a set of recommendations for rolling out the implementation
of the framework at country and regional levels.

Next steps will include, but not limited to, the selection of a pilot country to implement the framework; the mapping of existing elements and gaps to start implementing the framework at country level; a situation analysis to determine the level of awareness
on biosafety, biosecurity and dual-use research at the national level; the development of advocacy materials to support country sensitization and awareness-raising activities; and the continuation of engagement with participants through the setting
up a virtual quarterly meeting, the creation of a WhatsApp group, and regular email communications on key events or updates.

A detailed report of this workshop will be published. The Emerging Technologies, Research Prioritisation and Support (EPS) unit will continue to consult with relevant individuals, groups and the WHO regions, on the implementation of the framework in the coming months.

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