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Title:

Southeast Asia Strategic Multilateral Biosecurity Dialogue with participation from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States

Date posted:
October 16, 2019
Publication type:
Meeting report
Publisher:
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
Availability:
Full article available on publisher’s site
See also:
Introduction:

From April 29 to May 1, 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control co-hosted a meeting of the Southeast Asia Strategic Multilateral Biosecurity Dialogue in Phuket, Thailand. This dialogue began in 2014 as a bilateral Track II dialogue between Singapore and the United States and expanded the following year to include Indonesia and Malaysia. The Philippines and Thailand were added as observers in 2017, and they became full participants starting with this year’s meeting. The purpose of this dialogue is to examine biological risks facing the United States and the Southeast Asia region—including natural, accidental, and deliberate. This dialogue aims to facilitate cross-border and regional engagement and collaboration and identify novel solutions and share best practices in combatting priority threats.

The 2019 dialogue meeting in Phuket brought together participants from each of the 6 countries, including current and former senior government officials from an array of agencies and organizations and subject matter experts from non-governmental organizations, academia, and the media. Participants represented diverse fields, including national security and foreign affairs, public health and healthcare, homeland defense/home affairs, WMD nonproliferation, animal health and agriculture, and journalism. The dialogue is conducted at an informal Track II level, as opposed to formal government-to-government engagement, which enables the discussions to be frank and open, leading to a stronger understanding of each country’s capabilities and limitations.

The 2019 meeting consisted of multiple dialogue sessions focused on group discussions as well as more structured presentations on a broad range of biosecurity topics that built on previous dialogue meetings and provided opportunities to address new programs and capabilities and emerging threats. Each session provided participating countries with an opportunity to present on relevant national-level experience, programs, and priorities, followed by active dialogue involving all participants. Additionally, invited guests representing the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme, the WHO Health Security Interface Secretariat, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit (BWC ISU), the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, and the US Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Command provided detailed briefings on priority biosecurity topics, programs, and perspectives from their offices, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia, to supplement the dialogue discussions. Dialogue topics included national biosecurity priorities, the effects of a changing geopolitical environment on biosecurity, emerging infectious disease (EID) threats, deliberate and high-consequence biological threats, the role of military and defense assets and programs in biosecurity, EID research and vaccine policy, and communication and misinformation challenges during public health emergencies. Additionally, dialogue participants actively engaged in a modified version of the Clade X pandemic tabletop exercise, a simulation developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The final session of the dialogue was dedicated to a roundtable discussion of future steps and priorities for the dialogue itself, with the goal of identifying collaborative activities to disseminate the dialogue findings and influence national and regional policy.

Funding and support for the dialogue was provided through the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMDs (PASCC) at the United States Air Force Academy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), US Department of Defense.

 

 

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