Access to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) material is considered a key threat by the 2003 European Security Strategy. The challenge is global. Terrorism, proliferation, organized crime, pandemics and industrial catastrophes know no frontier. The response can only be collective and comprehensive. This was the clear message of the G8 Global Partnership adopted by Heads of State ten years ago in Kananaskis. The same message was sent by the United Nations two years later with the adoption of UNSC resolution 1540.
In 2010, the European Union decided to change the dynamics of its CBRN threat reduction programs. With the support of the United Nations, the EU developed through the Instrument for Stability a new security concept called “CBRN Centers of Excellence.” After two years, there are already eight regional Centers of Excellence in the making–Kenya, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, UAE, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Philippines–with more than 60 countries joining them and contributing all together to reinforce European, regional and international security. Let me again thank the United Nations, particularly UNICRI, without which this initiative will not exist, and congratulate all of you for being here today and for your lasting commitment to peace and stability.
The concept of Center of Excellence is a difficult one to grasp because it is an unusual one in the security arena. In a nutshell, it could be summarized by the following saying: “On security issues, your country is as strong as the weakest link of the region. Nobody can be sure not to be this weakest link, at some point.” Therefore, this initiative aims at creating a culture of safety and security on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear issues (CBRN) in regions of the world interested in bridging the gap between development and security, moving forwards on both accounts. The very objective is to develop a CBRN policy at national and regional levels to anticipate and respond to criminal activities (nuclear proliferation, bio-terrorism), as well as natural and accidental disasters (pandemics or incidents at a nuclear plant like Fukushima). This trend is not limited to third countries. The EU itself is developing internally a European CBRN Action Plan to facilitate such coordination among its 27 Member States.
Concretely, the Center of Excellence is a coordination mechanism that involves better cooperation among donors (EU, US, Japan, IAEA, UN organizations, INTERPOL) as well as better cooperation among countries in the region. Communities in charge of dealing with CBRN issues at the local level (police, military, law enforcers, first responders, judges and diplomats) are encouraged through the initiative to exchange information, best practices and periodic drills with the view to reinforce prevention, detection and adequate response to regional CBRN risks and threats. Good governance, training, legislative support and equipment will be provided by the EU to facilitate such a regional exchange and network.
There are many CBRN risk mitigation programs in the world: some with too little money to have an impact, some with important funding but very little local ownership. These programs share the same problem: sustainability. The issue is not so much the political instability in any specific region. No matter what, customs, police officers, law enforcers, CBRN experts, first responders, judges, military people need to work together on pandemics, industrial catastrophes, waste management, border control and such, whatever the political environment. They need to do it not with just some additional training or all-built-brand-new plant, but before everything else with a sustainable methodology. Let me quote here a few parameters of this methodology:
- Building on the existing strength and assets in the countries concerned;
- Collecting, analysing, identifying and deploying resources to respond to the needs identified by partner countries;
- Developing a cooperation process between network members to identify problems and to determine possible solutions from the information available to the network.
These results cannot be achieved just by promoting a methodology however. Political support and political ownership is also essential. That is also why we are here today. Thanks to regional organizations like the African Union, ASEAN, the Arab League, GCC, ECOWAS, thanks to the EU’s strategic partners and international organizations like the IAEA, the US, Japan and others present here today, thanks to civil society like ADI and Iréné who promote intercultural dialogue/mediation/leadership in difficult situations, this initiative is off to a good start. This is not to say that many challenges are not ahead but only that the process is right. Right for better coordination and cooperation, right for avoiding duplication of efforts and for developing convergent interests on security matters.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Centers of Excellence networks are in place, the secretariats are being installed, and the projects are starting. So, I’m very pleased that you are all here today to discuss not only the CBRN challenges we face, but also the opportunities this important initiative offers as it moves into the next stage of its development.