|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Risks Mitigation Initiative
Eight “Centres of Excellence” were being created around the world to help countries mitigate the risks related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) material, notably by promoting coherent national and regional policies that allowed them to better share information and best practices, four technical experts said today at a Headquarters press briefing.
Jonathan Lucas, Director of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), moderated the briefing, which included presentations by: Ioannis Vrailas, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations; Bruno Dupré, Policy Coordinator on CBRN issues, European Union Diplomatic Service; and Francesco Marelli, UNICRI CBRN Programme Manager. All had participated in the Conference on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risks Mitigation, held today at United Nations Headquarters. Organized by UNICRI and the European Commission Joint Research Centre, the conference briefed Member States, international and regional organizations and civil society on the Centres of Excellence initiative.
“This has been a very important conference,” said Mr. Vrailas. Like all global challenges, CBRN issues were of a transnational nature and required a comprehensive global response. There were eight centres in the making — in Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Uzbekistan and the Philippines, efforts that involved more than 60 countries. The centres would create a “culture of safety” around the CBRN issues by helping countries develop policies at the national, regional and global levels and improving their ability to respond to criminal, natural or accidental disasters.
Key to their success, he said, was their focus on mobilizing local communities—the police, military, judiciary and first responders—to exchange information and best practices. They relied primarily on local assets and a sustainable methodology for collecting, analyzing and deploying resources in response to specific needs. They also provided a way for countries to cooperate with regional organizations, such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Arab League and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Discussing progress, Mr. Marelli said the centres were designed to reinforce national capacities in the area of mitigation, amid rising concern that CBRN material could fall into criminal hands, or be spread through either natural or industrial catastrophes. A fragmented approach had left countries isolated, so the centres would serve as focal points in a growing network of partner countries that agreed to share risk.
He said that over the last two years, they had mapped out the gaps and identified best practices in the regions involved. In addition, the European Commission had approved 19 actions to address needs identified by partner countries. Some of them focused on civil governance, support to countries for enhancing interagency cooperation, and support for cooperation with international organizations.
Speaking next, Mr. Dupré said the goal was to unify communities—in any region—to address CBRN issues. The centres were working to make sure they understood the regional risks and threats, discussed them, exchanged ideas and developed both national and regional strategies, rather than operate under the interests of any given donor. The goal was to increase trust between key security enforcers, and vigilance on the financial, technological and academic fronts.
Taking questions, first on whether any centre was working to prevent weapons of mass destruction in Syria from spreading outside the country, Mr. Dupré said centres were not designed to respond to crises. Rather, they addressed structural issues—early warning and early assistance systems—to prevent crises. “We’re in the mode of trying to build confidence and trust among different communities, so they’ll know how to work together”, he said. The centres could be part of a crisis response as long as they could provide logistical help. But, their core goal was to increase vigilance, dialogue and cooperation.
To a question about resolution 1540 (2004), Mr. Dupré said the centres supported 1540 requirements by improving bio-security, nuclear security, waste management and emergency planning. Their work was broader than the mandate of resolution 1540.
[Resolution 1540 (2004) was adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which affirms that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security.]
Mr. Marelli added that, because resolution 1540 had been adopted under Chapter VII, countries carried obligations associated with that status. In contrast, Governments participated voluntarily in the Centres of Excellence. If they found the goal interesting, they were welcome to participate.
“This is a means,” Mr. Vrailas noted. “We’re not trying to replace the Security Council.”
Asked about the establishment of a centre in Syria, Mr. Dupré said discussions had been under way for around three years, but had been “frozen” amid the conflict until a time when a more stable environment could be created.
Taking another question, Mr. Dupré said Africa in particular was interested in waste management and measures to protect land and air. “If you only come with the idea that you’ll open the door by asking them if they’re complying with [resolution] 1540, you won’t get far,” he said. Finding ways to mitigate CBRN risks related to accidental and environmental issues was more productive.
On whether the centres would help countries cope with the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, Mr. Marelli said there were international instruments to deal with those weapons. The centres were working to cover other gaps.
Providing an example, Mr. Dupré said that if a pathogen was found in one country, a centre would help analyze it, ship it and ensure that communities understood the consequences of its discovery. They also would support the elaboration of early warning measures and other methodologies, so that “when things happen, we can respond on time”.
* *** *