German biosecurity programme

Project description

Programme title: Implementing the German biosecurity programme
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office
Countries: worldwide; in particular Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mali, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine
Lead executing agencies: Ministère de la Santé (Morocco, Tunisia); Federal Ministry of Health (Sudan)
Overall term: 2013 to 2019

German Biosecurity Programme. Local expert in personal protective gear during a simulation exercise on biological risk situations. © GIZ


The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrated how highly infectious diseases can endanger the health, security and stability of entire nations and societies. Diseases of this kind can also be spread as a result of accidents in research laboratories or through misuse of pathogens. Experts differentiate between the terms ‘biosecurity’ – which relates to the possible misuse of dangerous biological agents – and ‘biosafety’, which denotes protection against biological pathogens.

To counteract such biological risks and to contribute to the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) launched the German Partnership Programme for Excellence in Biological and Health Security in 2013. The programme is part of the German Government’s preventive security policy and contributes to the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention.


Biosecurity expertise and performance capacity are strengthened in the partner countries.

German Biosecurity Programme. Practical exercise in dealing with the media and the general public in the event of epidemics and biological attacks. © GIZ


The German Biosecurity Programme is jointly implemented by GIZ, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), the German Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, FLI) and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB).

GIZ assists the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) with programme management and public relations. For this purpose a central programme office was set up within the AA and is operated jointly with the RKI. The programme is also carrying out 16 projects in more than 12 partner countries and has developed a standard methodological approach for this work. All programme activities are classified as addressing one or more of six overarching goals:

  1. The capacity to prevent and respond to biological risks is improved.
  2. Highly pathogenic agents are detected and diagnosed more reliably.
  3. Networks are coordinating their work more and more effectively in the event of biological risks.
  4. International biosafety and biosecurity standards are increasingly applied.
  5. There is greater awareness of the principles, practices and instruments involved in the nonproliferation of biological weapons.
  6. Germany and its partner countries exchange information and experience with respect to biosecurity on a sustainable scientific basis.

In the priority countries Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, GIZ works closely with the Robert Koch Institute, focusing on activities in the following areas:

  • raising awareness of biological risks and measures in the field of biosecurity
  • networking stakeholders to prevent, detect and respond to biological hazards
  • strengthening the capacities of state institutions at the interface between health and security.

In addition, GIZ supports projects of other German institutes participating in the German Biosecurity Programme in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mali and Ukraine as well as projects run by international organisations.

German Biosecurity Programme. Training local health experts in using and maintaining a mobile laboratory. © GIZ


In Sudan, the programme assisted in establishing a national laboratory network. The network facilitates nationwide institutionalised exchange on biosecurity across the individual states and helps to fight highly pathogenic agents. More than 100 professionals attended workshops on laboratory networking. Furthermore, in cooperation with state health agencies, national biosecurity guidelines were drawn up. The guidelines contribute to putting international biosecurity standards in place and improving responsiveness to epidemics and other biological hazards in Sudan.

In Tunisia, the programme supported the development of an emergency plan for bioterrorist attacks and epidemics, which was tested and evaluated in a simulation exercise with 30 participants. The plan improves the country’s capacity to prevent and respond to biological hazards and fosters better networking of the responsible parties. Fourteen communication courses were held for around 140 Tunisian health professionals to train them in appropriate modes of communication when dealing with the media and the general public in the event of an epidemic or biological risk situation. A risk communication strategy to raise the efficiency of communication during health emergencies is currently in preparation.

In Morocco, GIZ collaborated with the Ministry of Health to organise a conference on risk communication, which was held in October 2015 and attended by 120 participants. As a follow-up to the conference, a national strategy for risk communication was devised with GIZ experts and is due to be adopted in 2017. The strategy provides for cross-institutional communication mechanisms designed to help reduce and contain negative impacts in biological emergencies and to ensure appropriate interaction with the population. Seven courses were held to train over 60 employees from the health ministry in communicating with the media and the general public in the event of epidemics and biological attacks.