Technical Experts and International Diplomats Convened to Advance the “Joint Assessment Mechanism”

NTI | bio convened two working groups of international biosecurity experts to discuss policy and institutional considerations, and technical operations for the Joint Assessment Mechanism (JAM) to identify the source of high-consequence biological outbreaks of unknown origin. These discussions were motivated by the recognition that there is a gap within the UN system in capabilities to perform this critical function. The October 19th and November 3rd discussions focused on how the JAM, best established within the United Nations Secretary-General’s office, could cooperate with partner organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Secretary Generals’ Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM)–serving as an interface between these two mechanisms.

The group of experts also discussed potential functions of the JAM during periods between “activation,” when there is no outbreak of unknown origin to investigate. There was broad consensus that the JAM will need to adopt a “steady state” function during these times and that it would need sufficient technical operating capacities for both modes of operation. In response, the experts proposed that researchers within the JAM synthesize and report on biosurveillance and biosecurity data generated by partner organizations. They discussed the need for data sharing agreements and mechanisms to build trust among partners, noting that it would be important to strike a balance between drafting robust agreements and maintaining flexibility to engage necessary resources during a rapidly emerging situation.

To further the policy and technical conversations around establishing the JAM, H.E. Ambassador Alexander Marschik of Austria hosted NTI | bio and permanent representatives, deputy permanent representatives, and expert staff from 16 nations for a working lunch on November 7th. Discussions focused on the possibility of placing the JAM within the UN Secretary General’s Office and navigating partnerships with other UN organizations, as well as ideas for building widespread political support across UN member states to establish the JAM.

Read more about the JAM here.

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