10 November 2011 The world needs to enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to the threat of terrorism using chemical or biological weapons, with currently no single agency with overall responsibility for that task, according to a United Nations report unveiled today.
UN and other international entities that provide technical assistance to States in the prevention of and preparedness for chemical and biological terrorism should more effectively share information to ensure that the support given is tailored to countries’ needs, the report prepared by the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) says.
“Measures to develop and enhance preparedness against chemical and biological weapons use by terrorists should be pursued in a broader CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] context,” according to a summary of the report, entitled Interagency Coordination in the Event of a Terrorist Attack Using Chemical or Biological Weapons or Materials.
Preparedness must address the entire spectrum of chemical and biological risk factors, from naturally occurring diseases to chemical or biological accidents to deliberate releases, including by criminals and terrorists.
The report points out that organizations providing or facilitating legal assistance on the adoption and national application of instruments against chemical and biological terrorism should enhance their coordination and information-sharing. CTITF could facilitate the institutionalization of a platform for regular exchanges between those organizations.
The report recommends regional approaches to technical assistance programmes for preparedness and prevention for greater effectiveness and sustainability.
It also proposes that the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system be formally adopted as the mechanism for coordinating relief efforts in situations involving the use of chemical or biological weapons. It calls for better coordination at the international level in training and exercises to prepare response.
With regard to early warning and detection of chemical or biological releases, the study concludes that because the existing systems for disease surveillance and early warning of outbreaks are being further enhanced, coordination between the different systems for human, animal and plant disease surveillance and systems in place to protect the food chain should be improved.
The working relationship between the international police organization, INTERPOL, organizations that have mandates to investigate alleged uses of chemical or biological weapons and those with the mandate to respond should be further enhanced.
The study calls for greater attention to the recovery phase after a chemical or biological agent release by terrorists through the development of concepts for technical assistance and advice on decontamination, medical treatment and recovery.
It stresses that better preparations and coordination are needed to managing public information in crisis situations in the event of chemical or biological terrorism attacks, and recommends the creation of an information sharing and coordination mechanism in the form of a crisis communications group.
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