Leading biological laboratories for the United Nations
Bern, 05.11.2015 - The UN has invited member states to designate analytical laboratories that are able to support an investigation of alleged use of chemical or biological weapons in accordance with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism (UNSGM). An international workshop from 9 to 11 November 2015, organised by Spiez Laboratory, will discuss the necessary steps to establish a global and functional network of analytical laboratories for biological weapons. To gain full acceptance, such a network must meet similarly stringent requirements as are existing for analytical laboratories for chemical weapons.
At the request of a UN member the UN Secretary-General is authorised to carry out investigations of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons, as was the case in 2013 when poison gas was used in Syria. The United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism draws upon a list of experts and specialised laboratories that are nominated by the member states.
For their fact-finding mission in Syria the UN relied on the laboratory network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). These designated OPCW laboratories – including Spiez Laboratory – are internationally accredited and are subjected to stringent quality controls every year. Since the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force in 1997, these laboratories have validated their analytical procedures and have meticulously laid down how analytical results must be reported for identification. Due to such a strict and undisputed quality control system, the results of the UN fact-finding mission in Syria were accepted both politically and scientifically without any objections.
Contrary to the stringent quality standards that apply to chemical warfare agents, there are no equivalent quality controls for the biological sector. In the event of a UN fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged use of biological weapons, laboratory results might therefore be pulled into question or even rejected. Spiez Laboratory is therefore conducting the first of a series of international workshops, that will focus on quality assurance and reporting requirements for laboratories. The goal is to establish a system that ensures full political and scientific acceptance of laboratory results, also in the biological field, of future UN fact-finding missions.
The workshop is organized by the Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP (Spiez Laboratory), in cooperation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA and the Staff of the Armed Forces - International Relations.
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