The world is increasingly connected, and global catastrophic biological risks are magnified by global travel, terrorist and state interest in WMD, urbanization, and rapid advances in technology. There has been little exploration of the global community’s capacity to prepare for and respond to deliberate release of infectious disease agents.
On February 14, 2019 in Munich, on the eve of the 2019 Munich Security Conference, NTI and partners from Georgetown University and the Center for Global Development, convened a tabletop exercise with senior leaders from around the world aimed at identifying gaps and making recommendations to improve the global system for responding to deliberate, high consequence biological events. NTI CEO Ernest J. Moniz and NTI Co-Chair Sam Nunn participated alongside former national leaders, United Nations officials, diplomats, senior public health and humanitarian responders, and security experts. The event was keynoted by Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and coordinated with Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. Brundland and Sy co-chair the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board charged with monitoring global readiness for health emergencies.
The tabletop simulation highlighted the unique challenges faced by the complex web of international stakeholders, leaders, and response communities when coordinating action against a deliberate biological attack—especially when the consequences are spreading quickly around the globe. To add to the challenge, this particular scenario highlighted the catastrophic potential of a genetically modified agent resistant to available medical treatment. The event sought to identify urgent improvements needed to better coordinate, respond to, and investigate deliberate biological events and explored specific recommendations that will be briefed during senior-level events during 2019.
The effort was made possible through generous support from Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and the .
“Today we are envisaging a specific scenario which has never been tested out. And it will raise vital questions with implications for national and global policies on public health, security, information-sharing and civil and state protection.” --Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Co-Chair, Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, Former Prime Minister of Norway, Former Director-General of the World Health Organization
“Today I am sure we will hear strong words, like “apocalyptic’ and ‘existential’. It’s true: they are not out of place. Because whether or not the biological incidents of the future are the perverted works of human hands, they have the capacity to bring about untold human suffering.” --Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Co-Chair, Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, Former Director of Partnerships and Resource Development, UN International Children's Emergency Fund