This is a milestone in the fight against pandemics and the spread of chemical warfare agents: on Thursday (9 November), Germany handed over a state of the art mobile laboratory to Tunisia. If there is a danger from highly infectious pathogens, the Tunisian authorities will now be able to rapidly analyse the risk and respond in the proper manner.
Increased security only through cooperation
Biological risks do not stop at national borders. If biological warfare agents are used, or highly infectious pathogens cause a global pandemic, the dangers can only be tackled via cross-border cooperation. That is why Germany is providing over 18 million euros to help partners such as Tunisia to minimise biological security risks.
In order to ensure comprehensive biosecurity, however, cooperation needs to be both cross-border and cross-sectoral. “Decision-makers and experts from various fields must work together seamlessly to minimise risks and, if necessary, provide an effective response,” said German Ambassador Andreas Reinicke at the laboratory handover.
Lieutenant General Dr Michael Tempel, Surgeon General of the Federal Armed Forces, emphasised that this approach was already being put into practice in the German-Tunisian partnership, telling the audience at the handover: “The focal point of activities in Tunisia is to train experts from the military, the police force and healthcare institutions. They are trained in how to diagnose highly infectious pathogens quickly and correctly and how to prevent their spread.” Using their newly acquired knowledge, these experts then act as multipliers in their respective institutions.
Comprehensive engagement for biosecurity
The German project partners, too, espouse this intersectoral approach. The Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology is working with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Tunisia. In turn, their project is part of a larger-scale engagement within the framework of the German Government’s Enable and Enhance Initiative.
Within the framework of this initiative, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Defence coordinate closely and initiate projects with partners worldwide. The aim is always to enable selected partners to take even more responsibility in response to regional threats.
In addition, Tunisia is a priority partner country for the German Biosecurity Programme. This programme was launched by the Federal Foreign Office in 2013 and is currently active in 12 countries. It is part of the German Government’s preventive security efforts, and one of Germany’s contributions to the G7 countries’ Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The programme activities help to reduce biological risks and the related danger of proliferation.