by Roberto Maria Sciarra
Foreword by the author
Roberto Maria Sciarra is a JCU Alumni that has been appointed by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) as a “Next Generation” expert on non-proliferation and disarmament. The IISS has offered him the possibility to participate as one of the members for the 5th EU Conference on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, where he actively contributed to two specific sessions. The following reports will shortly be available on the IISS website alongside the whole meetings and workshops of the Conference.
Session 3: The threat of non-state actors- responding to CBRN events
After the highly organized terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, the international community can no longer underestimate the threat of acquisition of CBRN materials by non-state actors. This has been one of the opening remarks of the simultaneous session titled “The threat of non-state actors- responding to CBRN events” at the 5th EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference held in Brussels. The focus of the panel was aimed towards the analysis of the current state of knowledge regarding policymaking and legal steps against CBRN terrorism, the current gaps in such framework, and the possible way forward.
An important topic emerged in the session, which served also as a catalyst for the whole debate, was understanding that the concept of CBRN covers a broad spectrum of weapons with different dynamics and contexts. Policymakers have indeed devoted most of their efforts in high impact CBRN events such as the acquisition and explosion of a nuclear weapon in a city centre while underestimating problems such as insider threats, the lack of security culture in civilian laboratories, and the role of emerging technologies and cyber threats in relation to chemical, biological and nuclear facilities.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 has been recognized as a watershed initiative for the fight against non-state CBRN threats. The UNSCR 1540, unanimously adopted in 2004, came as a result of 2003 discovery of an increasingly growing nuclear black market, urging all states to adopt legal and regulatory measures regarding the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their components. Nonetheless, the panellists have also highlighted that, despite the current efforts by the 1540 Committee, some countries do not consider the resolution and the broader issue of CBRN threats as a priority in their agenda, which has led them to not actively engaging with the Committee in solving the issue. The current policy and legal gaps have also come to reinforce the absence of an international agreement that urges states to cooperate on CBRN matters. Emerging technologies such as 3D printing and cyber-attacks now require the utmost attention in the international arena in order to evolve the already existing mechanisms for the prevention of CBRN threats.
The future pathway for the prevention of CBRN is presented with numerous obstacles and challenges that the international system will need to address as early as possible, the panellists have concluded. Security culture will not be established just by passing domestic, regional and international laws but will need to be metabolized within society with concrete actions. As mentioned by the High Representative Mogherini at the beginning of the conference, the role of multilateral diplomacy will again prove fundamental in the development of comprehensive measures that will effectively tackle the challenges posed CBRN threats and non-state actors.
Session 10: Nuclear Security- what next after the NSS process?
The four Nuclear Security Summits have been fundamental in the achievement of tangible results for the prevention of nuclear terrorism and securitization of nuclear materials. Nonetheless, the conclusion of Barack Obama’s presidential mandate has also determined the end of the NSS process. The challenges and opportunities awaiting the Nuclear Security regime were at the core of the session titled “Nuclear Security- what next after the NSS process”, where the panellist have tried to identify the current state of the affairs and a roadmap for the implementation of new measures within the nuclear regime.
The panel opened with the introduction of the possible threats the NSS process has tried to cope with: the theft of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and weapons-grade plutonium for the creation of an improvised nuclear device (IND) by non-state actors, the use of emerging technologies and cyber threats to disrupt nuclear facilities, and the creation, acquisition, and eventual explosion of a nuclear weapon in a city centre. Indeed, despite the efforts of the Obama administration with the NSS process, the IAEA illicit nuclear market database shows that the supply and demand of nuclear materials in the black market is still very much alive, increasing the possibility of acquisition by terrorists. There are still some thorny issues that the NSS has failed to address. It is reported that 4/5 of the materials used for nuclear systems are in non-civilian programs, which creates a problem both for the creation of specific security guidelines by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and comprehensive public knowledge about stated security of such materials.
To counter these threats various countries have thought to introduce a new player capable to strengthen nuclear security domestically: centres of excellence. The Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNP) in India is one example of how such institutions can be fundamental for the reinforcement of nuclear security measures. The GCNP has in fact a twofold mission: to research and assist to the development of safe and secure nuclear systems and to organize trainings and seminars with the aim of raising awareness and increase resilience capabilities.
The EU has also been a fundamental actor during the NSS process and could be envisioned as a potential leader for the future of the regime due to its crucial contributions in monitoring and combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. Among many initiatives, the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group (ITWG) is an example of the EU’s primary involvement in providing specific technical assistance to those national and international authorities that seek assistance from nuclear threats.
Despite all the current efforts, the end of NSS process might result in a loss of the momentum generated over the last six years. It will be an important challenge for the international system to channel this momentum to other fora and initiatives. While the international summits will continue in the form of an event hosted by the IAEA in December 2016, wider participation will likely become a challenge for effective solutions and responses to the growing menace of nuclear terrorism.