Stakeholders gather in Uganda on responsible use of life sciences

From October 2023, key actions have been taken including national stakeholder engagement workshops. Specifically, a workshop of stakeholders to operationalize the framework, which was held from 21 to 23 November 2023, promoted awareness and collaborative development of a draft roadmap to implement the framework in the Ugandan context. Gathered over 80 stakeholders from various sectors to deliver.

Subsequently, a technical stakeholders' workshop convened on 6-7 March 2024 further strengthened awareness and strategic planning. Over 30 technical experts identified and defined key roles of stakeholders and refined the draft roadmap for effective operationalization of the framework.

A high-level stakeholders' sensitization meeting was held on 15 March 2024, which marked an important milestone and demonstrated Uganda's dedication. Attended by more than 50 high-level stakeholders, including government officials, heads of institutions and WHO representatives, the meeting aimed to advocate and secure ownership, national buy-in, commitment and support for the implementation of the framework.

The opening remarks led by Dr. Monica Musenero, Honorable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation of Uganda, marked Uganda's commitment to operationalize the framework. Dr. Musenero stressed the need for strong biosafety, biosecurity and dual-use research governance in line with Uganda's aspirations for sustainable development and global health security.

Dr. Daniel Kyabayinze, Director of Public Health at the Ugandan Ministry of Health, reiterated this commitment, and emphasized the role of the Framework in promoting ethical research practices amid health challenges such as COVID-19. Representing WHO, Dr Andrew Niwagaba Bakanaga highlighted the transformative potential of the framework in enhancing research governance and promoting ethics and integrity. These comments underlined Uganda's dedication to collectively advancing the use of responsible life sciences through collaboration and innovation.

A number of presentations were made to provide context to the meeting, including an overview of Uganda's biosecurity, biosecurity and dual-use research governance capacity, laws and regulations; The rationale for adopting and operationalizing the framework; Introduction to Pilot Projects; overview of the outline; And updated roadmap. Each presentation was followed by lively exchanges, discussions and concrete ways forward.

As a result of the meeting, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation made a strong commitment to take overall leadership to advance the domestication and operationalization of the framework in Uganda and appointed the Government Chief Scientist in collaboration with the Uganda National Science and Technology Council (UNCST) to ensure technical leadership in the process of domesticating and operationalizing the framework in Uganda under the general coordination of the Office of the Prime Minister.

The following next steps were agreed:

  1. Government Cabinet meeting to sensitize relevant ministries involved in the framework to adopt ministerial statements and commitments and initiate discussions on mobilizing domestic funding;

  1. Meeting with UNCST to harmonize project implementation;

  1. Specification of roles and responsibilities and timelines in the final roadmap for governance and operationalization of the framework in Uganda to maintain accountability and measure collective successes;

  1. Continued bilateral meetings with other key stakeholder groups to secure their participation and commitment, as well as to pursue awareness-raising activities; And

  1. Documentation and dissemination of Uganda's experience and lessons learned on the operationalization of the global guidance framework for the responsible use of life sciences

In summary, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation outlined concrete actions to advance the implementation of the framework, emphasizing inter-ministerial collaboration and stakeholder commitment. These initiatives reflect Uganda's proactive approach to responsible life science use, effective governance of dual-use research, and global health advancement.

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