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L. Bakanidze, Professor, Ph.D., RBP Georgian Biosafety Association (GeBSA) Round-Table Meeting on WMD and Dual-use Expertise April 17 - 18, 2013, Kiev.

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Presentation on theme: "L. Bakanidze, Professor, Ph.D., RBP Georgian Biosafety Association (GeBSA) Round-Table Meeting on WMD and Dual-use Expertise April 17 - 18, 2013, Kiev."— Presentation transcript:

1 L. Bakanidze, Professor, Ph.D., RBP Georgian Biosafety Association (GeBSA) Round-Table Meeting on WMD and Dual-use Expertise April 17 - 18, 2013, Kiev Redirection of Former Weapon Life Scientists in Georgia

2 Past Experience When part of the Former Soviet Union, Georgia shared all the legislation, including very strict regulations on biosafety and work with especially dangerous pathogens (EDPs), with other republics of the USSR. Today there is an increased risk of EDPs being misused To address this risk we need not only to secure EDPs in appropriate containment laboratories and facilities but also ensure personnel reliability.

3 The Former Soviet Union operated a large and unique network of facilities, called the "anti- plague system," whose main mission was to control deadly endemic diseases and to prevent the importation of exotic pathogens from other countries. Throughout the Soviet era, the Anti-Plague (AP) system appears to have worked effectively, preventing major epidemics from claiming the lives of Soviet citizens in regions where diseases such as anthrax, brucellosis, bubonic plague, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, and tularemia were endemic. In the 1960s, however, the AP system was directed to undertake tasks under the Soviet biological warfare (BW) program. The Soviet Anti – Plague System

4 During Soviet times weapon scientists well – paid respected had long vacations health surveillance program, etc. In Post - Soviet era former weapon scientists most had lost work low salaries (if any) brain drain (mainly to western countries) This situation increased the risk of these scientists knowledge and skills being acquired by terrorist groups and/or countries seeking to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

5 The collapse of the Soviet Union opened new opportunities for former Soviet scientists Aid from Western countries cannot be overestimated

6 US DoD DTRA Program Goals in Georgia Support human, environmental, and veterinary disease monitoring Ensure close cooperation among all relevant ministries and institutes and international organizations Promote potential for integration into a regional disease surveillance system Ensure biosecurity and biosafety of biological facilities.

7 US DoD DTRA /CTR Program Directions in Georgia Dismantling and elimination of former offensive biological weapons facilities and related infrastructure; Consolidation of especially dangerous pathogens and securing related technology and materials; Increasing international cooperation to strengthen the research capabilities of the scientific community; Augmenting existing human and animal surveillance systems to establish an integrated, secure, and sustainable disease surveillance system for EDPs

8 US DoD DTRA, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, and other organizations also supported the scientists engagements through workshops and tabletop exercises focused on WMD non-proliferation To review the implementation of national measures consistent with the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540), and WHO International Health Regulations (IHRs) to deter, prevent, or respond to bio incidents/ threats To link the international RESPONSE to a bioterrorism incident stemming from the convergence of criminal and terrorist networks, with PREVENTION via nonproliferation mechanisms such as BWC and UNSCR 1540 And also the review of the application of the UN Secretary General's Mechanism on Investigation of Alleged Use of Biological and Chemical Weapons

9 But… Aid from donors not always reached the target – there are too many people eager to get it Decisions made by Georgian government were not always following existing Georgian legislation Sometimes legislation was easily changed in line with desires of Georgian powers that be… Instead of professionals, EDPs were handled by specialists with no practical expertise.

10 Decree of President of Georgia Establishes Legal Entity of Public Property L. Sakvarelidze National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia (NCDC) and approves its Statute. Goals of NCDC are detection of agents causing epidemics and outbreaks, carrying out surveillance, establishing national collection of bacteria and viruses, participation in preparing normative and methodological documentation under its competencies, etc. NCDC (former Georgian Anti – Plague Station) was the only institution that carried out surveillance on especially dangerous infections (plague, anthrax, tularemia, viral infections, etc.) throughout the territory of Georgia and was eligible for handling and dealing with EDPs while Georgia was a Soviet Republic.

11 Georgian Legislation on Biosafety/Biosecurity Georgia, since it became independent, had elaborated legislation guaranteeing safe and secure environment, ban on biological and chemical weapons, particularly: Law of Georgia,, on Health Care - (10.12.1997); Georgian Sanitary Code - (08.05.2003); Law of Georgia on Public Health (27.06. 2007), etc. Decree of the Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia on Ratification of Sanitary Rules for Working with Pathogenic Agents (Pathogenic Microorganisms) (No. 317/N, 03.12.2005).

12 Law of Georgia on Public Health (No. 5069, June 27, 2007) Chapter 5 – Ensuring Biological Safety Ensuring Biological Safety; Restrictions on Owning, Using, Transfer, Transportation and Dismiss of Especially Dangerous Pathogens; Unified Lab System for Identifying, Surveillance and Respond on Causative Agents of Especially Dangerous Infections.

13 The mission of most of Nonproliferation Programs is to provide FSU former weapons scientists, particularly those with knowledge and skills related to WMDs and their delivery systems, opportunities to redirect their talents to peaceful activities, and support them to stay in their countries. During last two years many of experts in the field of EDPs– so- called former weapon scientists- were discharged, most of them were obliged to abandon their scientific research projects (which provided financial support for them and their families) and constituted the center of their professional lives…

14 As a result, we have: A disease control system that is out of order (detection and response on outbreaks and cases of diseases like chickenpox, leptospirosis, malaria, anthrax, intestinal infections, etc. were inefficient and the population was not informed); Frequent changes at the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs were followed by changes in politics and policy of the Ministry – the current surveillance system of surveillance has numerous reforms and it is still not well functioning and the biosafety/biosecurity regulations are not enforced; Other aspects of biosafety are neglected too (e.g. problems with medical waste management in some of TB facilities, etc.).

15 GeBSA recommendations: Increased involvement of donors in decision – making process along with Georgian Government in mutually interesting areas; Increased involvement of experts and experienced specialists in especially dangerous infections in different nonproliferation programs. Remember: If we dont give former weapon scientists a chance to work, live, support their families, we will face new threat – countries like Iran are not too far away from Georgia, and they could make very attractive offers to scientists, or the brain drain flow will increase…

16 Thank you! Strength is in Unity

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