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Participants to the Ttx

Tabletop exercise conducted to test preparedness and response capabilities across Central Asia, Mongolia and Pakistan

Central Asia witnessed a remarkable test of its preparedness and response capabilities through a meticulously planned tabletop exercise on 21 and 22 May 2024. The exercise was a significant milestone within the framework of Project 87 on "Preparedness and Response for Mass Gatherings and other Health Threats in Central Asia." This is a collaborative effort under the European Union’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative. The exercise spanned six countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The Exercise 2024 was a vivid enactment of a mass gathering scenario, meticulously designed to challenge the preparedness frameworks of each participating nation. It unfolded over two days, featuring a dynamic scenario that introduced various public health challenges related to water, food safety, and chemical exposure. These challenges were presented through a series of timed injects, simulating real-time developments that required immediate and coordinated responses. As the scenario evolved, the participants engaged in facilitated discussions, conducting threat and risk assessments and presenting situation reports. These discussions were critical in testing the operational plans, command-and-control structures, and communication protocols established through the project.

The primary goal of Project 87, funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC), is to bolster health preparedness and response across Central Asia. Since its inception in July 2021, the project has provided comprehensive training to over 100 experts from each participating country. These trainings covered crucial areas such as food safety, water safety at mass gatherings, chemical threat mitigation, and effective command, control, and communication strategies. They also equipped these countries to conduct training and incident response, fostering a robust network of preparedness and response capabilities.

The major objective of Exercise 2024 was to evaluate the effectiveness of national emergency response systems and the expert input provided by P87-trained individuals and to test international communication across borders and with external bodies. The exercise sought to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement, thereby enhancing national plans for future mass gatherings.

The successful completion of Exercise 2024 marked a significant achievement for Project 87 and its partner countries. It showcased the enhanced readiness of Central Asia to handle public health threats at mass gatherings, reinforced by the collaborative efforts and extensive training provided over the past few years. The exercise not only tested the existing systems but also paved the way for continuous improvement in health preparedness and response strategies across the region.

Background information:

Since 2020, UNICRI has been monitoring the malicious use of social media and analysing existing technology options to detect and debunk false information to understand the advantages and possible challenges of each option in the short and long term. The Institute recently published its findings as part of the Handbook to debunk CBRN disinformation, a practical guide designed for individuals or agencies working in CBRN risk mitigation at different levels, and is now providing partner countries with related capacity-building activities.

The EU CBRN CoE Initiative is a global Initiative funded and implemented by the European Union as part of its goal to promote peace, stability and conflict prevention.

The Initiative aims to mitigate risks and strengthen all-hazards security governance in EU partner countries following a voluntary and demand-driven approach. The EU support is provided to implement a wide range of CBRN risk mitigation activities including needs and risk assessments, national and regional action plans, capacity building activities, legal framework reviews, tabletop and real-time (including cross-border) field exercises, inter-regional exchange of best practices and lessons learnt.

Funded and implemented through the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – Global Europe, the Initiative is led by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), in close coordination with the European External Action Service (EEAS). The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) provides technical support to Partner Countries, while the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) ensures a coherent and effective national, regional and international cooperation. Other relevant International and Regional Organisations and experts also contribute to the Initiative, which represents the EU’s largest civilian external security programme. The initiative involves 64 countries in eight regions across the world.