Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 30 April 2019. There is a growing concern globally that samples from laboratories can be used as a form of weapon to cause mass destruction in a population. Although the risk is very small for the Caribbean, our borders are fragile, health systems are weak and the consequences would be damaging. To reduce the risk, the United Nations Security Council implemented Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540), an international law that addresses the risk that terrorists might gain access to or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons for mass destruction.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) together with Speakers of the National Assemblies and legislators from 11 Caribbean countries, CARICOM, UN organizations and members of the diplomatic community including Canada and the European Union gathered in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago on the 29-30th April 2019 to discuss the need for legislation to reduce the vulnerability of the Caribbean from the potential effects of biological agents used as weapons to cause harm to human, animal and plant populations.
The meeting was organized by Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) to promote the ratification and implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1540.
Biorisk Manager at CARPHA, Ms. Sacha Wallace-Sankarsingh encouraged legislators to take key steps to transform draft national laboratory policies into law and champion the development of national frameworks for pathogen biosafety and biosecurity using a multisectoral approach.
Ms. Wallace-Sankarsingh said “CARPHA has been advocating with countries throughout the region to develop national laboratory policies that not only supports international law but are appropriate and sustainable within national systems.” She noted that this is to ensure that laboratories operate within a standardized framework that ensures access to quality results for timely, accurate diagnosis and treatment of persons, appropriate response to diseases of public health importance as well as controlled use, access to and secure transfer of samples.
CARPHA continues to improve national capacities which target improving safety and security practices in the laboratory environment across sectors. Parliamentarians were reassured of CARPHA’s continued commitment with member states to strengthen regional health security for a healthy, safe and secure Caribbean.
Photo: Group Photo of Parliamentarians
Source: High Commission of Canada