UGANDA—Uganda has agreed to pilot the operationalization of the Global Guidance Framework for the Responsible Use of Life Sciences, focusing on mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research.

This initiative resulted from a regional workshop in the WHO African region, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from January 24 to 25, 2023.

The workshop was opened by the Director General of Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and it included opening statements from officials of WHO headquarters, the WHO Country Office for Uganda, and the Africa CDC.

An essential strategic activity in the action plan to pilot the framework in Uganda was the sensitization of relevant national stakeholders on its operationalization.

To achieve this goal, a 3-day national stakeholders’ workshop took place in Kampala, Uganda, from November 21 to 23, 2023.

This workshop was coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister, with support from the WHO Country Office for Uganda, the Regional Office for Africa, and WHO headquarters.

The workshop aimed to present an overview of the framework and the pilot project. It sought to foster an in-depth understanding of the current situation, existing biosafety and biosecurity activities, and dual-use research at the national level.

Furthermore, the goals included identifying concrete applications of the framework to the Ugandan situation. To facilitate effective domestication and implementation of the framework, a roadmap was developed during the workshop.

The event brought together over 80 participants from diverse sectors, including human health, nonhuman animal health, plants and agriculture, the environment, defence, security organizations, and other developing and implementing partners.

Participants also represented the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the WHO Country Office for Uganda, the Regional Office for Africa, and the headquarters.

The 3-day workshop incorporated various sessions, such as presentations, panel discussions, working group discussions, and plenary sessions, to encourage active participation and interactions.

To set the pace, presentations covered essential topics, including an introduction to the framework on the responsible use of life sciences by WHO headquarters.

This emphasized the framework’s aim to inform the development of national frameworks, detailing how it was developed based on a global participatory approach.

Regional strategies and initiatives on biorisks and dual-use research were presented by the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

Other topics included an overview of biosafety and biosecurity capacity, laws, and regulations in Uganda.

The stakeholders engaged in collective working group discussions to tailor the framework to the local context.

While participants acknowledged that the framework addresses their concerns, several challenges limiting its implementation at the national level were identified.

These challenges included the absence of legislation for biosafety and biosecurity and limited resources and funding.

To address these challenges, the workshop emphasized aspects of collaboration, sustained cooperation, joint resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, and partnership strategies for cost-effective implementation.

Stakeholders identified the need to establish a secretariat, align the framework with existing systems, cultivate partnerships, and encourage cross-sector collaboration and networking.

The outcome of the workshop was a roadmap outlining key steps for the integrated, efficient, and cost-effective implementation of the framework in Uganda.

The crafted roadmap includes establishing a functional high-level multisectoral National Steering Committee and a Technical Working Group (TWG).

These bodies will play a crucial role in guiding Uganda’s journey to pilot the framework.

Other strategies involve strengthening multisectoral stakeholder engagement, enhancing international collaboration and information-sharing systems, and building capacity through training and mentorship programs aligned with framework elements.

The roadmap also includes advocacy for resources and funding opportunities, strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems, and promoting communication awareness on framework implementation through collaboration and partnerships among key stakeholders.

It marks a significant step in Uganda’s journey to implement the framework, with stakeholders demonstrating commitment to overcoming challenges through collaboration, capacity building, and strategic planning.

The roadmap sets a clear direction, ensuring Uganda’s cost-effective and efficient framework integration into its biosafety and biosecurity landscape.