New Approaches to Global Security: Engagement Aims to Reduce Threats

By Diana Berardocco, DTRA Public Affairs

Dr. Dana Perkins, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, presents the U.S. approach to biological risk management and UNSCR 1540 implementation at the Africa Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity held in Nairobi, February 2-4, 2010

Dr. Dana Perkins, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, presents the U.S. approach to biological risk management and UNSCR 1540 implementation at the Africa Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity held in Nairobi, February 2-4, 2010

April 8, 2010

When President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009, he reaffirmed his vision of advancing the common security and prosperity of all people through an era of global engagement.  He said “…it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 — more than at any point in human history — the interests of nations and peoples are shared…. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.”

Nowhere has the need for cooperation been emphasized more than in confronting the threat to international security posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery. Remarks by President Obama in numerous forums, statements by the G8 member states, and the Joint Statement issued on April 1, 2009 by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev represent increased awareness among world leaders of the value of collaboration and adhering to shared non-proliferation responsibilities.

Exploring these concepts, the Congressionally-mandated 2009 National Academy of Sciences report “Global Security Engagement: A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction” states that a key to future security will be the ability to engage new partners globally and to build a broad network committed to enhancing global security through engagement.  The Defense Threat Reduction Agency has undertaken the Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperation (NLGC) initiative to assess how to implement the recommendations from the report.

Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperation Initiative

The new model builds upon the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program established in 1992 by Senator Richard Lugar and then-Senator Sam Nunn, and implemented by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The highly-lauded program sought to eliminate the former Soviet Union’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials and delivery systems.  A key element of the program has been its direct engagement with former Soviet states in an atmosphere of transparency and collaboration. The development of that approach is considered to be one of the Nunn-Lugar program’s significant achievements.

The new approach seeks to expand and strengthen the CTR program. Reaching beyond the former Soviet Union, the goal is to build networks of expertise with a broad range of countries and partners capable of addressing security challenges, particularly those relating to biosafety and biosecurity. The initiative also promotes inter-agency, country-specific, and regional partnerships and supports the implementation of international treaties and security instruments such as the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 aimed at reducing threats.

UNSCR 1540

The link between the Nunn-Lugar concept and UNSCR 1540 is strong. Adopted in 2004 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, UNSCR 1540 requires all UN member states to refrain from providing support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery. The resolution obligates member states to establish and to enforce domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. It also encourages international cooperation and has a mechanism that allows states to request assistance.

“UNSCR 1540 and Nunn-Lugar [Global Cooperation Initiative] are classic crossover issues encompassing multiple elements of global security,” said Tom Wuchte, U.S. 1540 Coordinator, U.S. Department of State, explaining the relevance of the initiative’s support for the 1540 resolution.

Africa Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity

The global security crossover issues were evident during the Africa Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity hosted by Kenya and held in Nairobi, February 2-4, 2010. The workshop brought together approximately 120 participants from U.S. government, military and international organizations, including representatives of 19 African countries. “Our discussions focused on biosafety and biosecurity as essential to promoting public health in Africa as well as cross-cutting, vital elements of nonproliferation important to UNSCR 1540 implementation,” said Wuchte, who spearheaded the planning and coordination.

For the Department of Defense (DoD), the workshop presented an important venue to initiate conversations and dialogue with African nations, particularly Kenya and Uganda, on regional biosecurity and biosafety concerns. “We found the regional focus of the workshop to be aligned with what the NLGC initiative wants to accomplish,” added Army Colonel Peter Duklis, former chair of the DTRA integrated product team for the NLGC initiative. “Both security instruments have the same results in mind.  By helping these countries with laboratory security, we can help prevent biological materials from getting in the hands of those with ill intent.”

The 21st century national security environment calls for strategies that understand risk and how to keep risks from developing into threats.  Rapid advances in the biological sciences not only bring enormous contributions to combating infectious diseases but also raise concern over the destructive potential of its misuse by others.  In Africa, better laboratory design and security can help prevent accidents resulting in outbreaks. It could also prevent the release of dangerous pathogens which could otherwise fall into the hands of those who would produce biological weapons.

Since the expertise and technology to produce biological weapons has become more accessible, a more WMD-capable world represents a serious threat to the United States and the international community. “The National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations broaden our approach to countering the threat of WMD,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Jay Hall, DTRA desk officer for Africa and workshop participant. “Today’s security environment requires a more efficient employment of our resources. A whole of government approach working with key partners will help us to ensure that pathogens and other emerging infectious diseases are kept out of the hands of individuals or organizations with nefarious purposes,” he said, explaining the tie-in to the Nunn-Lugar bioengagement effort.

Workshop presenters focused on national pathogen security measures, building national and regional integrated infectious disease surveillance and response systems, and effective and efficient laboratory practices, as required by the 1540 resolution.

African participation at the workshop was high because there is recognition that WMD components in the hands of non-state actors or terrorists can undermine fragile economies such as theirs, Wuchte explained.

Presenters from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discussed the U.S. approach to biological risk management, U.S. government assistance, and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity implementation plans. They emphasized that all stakeholders should actively promote a culture of increased accountability and compliance with biosafety and biosecurity regulations, guidelines, standards and policies.

Capacity-building and plans for implementing resolution 1540 were other important items on the workshop agenda.  Representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Mali and Gabon shared with workshop attendees the status of 1540 implementation within their national environments.  African country representatives learned that capacity-building programs necessary to prevent the proliferation of bioweapons also supported their public health needs, Wuchte noted. Among the most valuable activities were site visits to laboratories

conducting research and diagnostic work on infectious human diseases at the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. The participants, many of whom were laboratory directors, were able to witness hands-on demonstrations of biosafety and biosecurity in an environment comparable to their own.

Wuchte pointed out that some African countries are without basic laws to prevent the transfer of biological materials across their own borders. To facilitate dialogue on technical assistance, African delegates had one-on-one consultations with assistance providers from the international community on 1540 implementation issues ranging from legal assistance, to installing equipment to secure a laboratory environment, to writing national UNSCR 1540 implementation plans.

Interagency and international collaboration were important tools in accomplishing workshop goals.  “We [U.S. government] want to partner with African countries so together we can develop an effective bioengagement strategy.” Wuchte said. Echoing this sentiment, Duklis said that DTRA hopes to leverage the bio-engagement activities in which U.S. government agencies and non-governmental organizations are currently involved in Africa.

Hall observed that reconciling national priorities with 1540 resolution requirements often presents a challenge to these countries.  More pressing issues such as the management and elimination of small arms and light weapons and the trafficking of illegal drugs compete with addressing the WMD threat.  “If we can find the nexus where all of these issues come together, and work collaboratively to identify cross-functional capabilities, then we can further our cause as well as those of our partners,” Hall said.

Cooperation, engagement, partnership – core principles at the heart of the Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperation Initiative – are lynchpin mechanisms for a 21st century global security environment that has the goal of helping others to prepare to prevent or respond to emerging proliferation threats. Supporting international security instruments such as UNSCR 1540 furthers that cause.

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