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Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction - December 2020 Update

2020 has been a uniquely difficult year on many fronts, including the battle against the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Global headlines have been dominated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected every country and virtually every person on the planet and exposed, as UN Secretary General Guterres has warned, “weaknesses and lack of preparedness [that] provide a window onto how a bioterrorist attack might unfold – and may increase its risks”. A chemical weapon was used to poison Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a massive chemical explosion devastated the Lebanese port of Beirut. The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index revealed that progress on protecting nuclear materials against theft and nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage has slowed significantly over the past two years, an alarming trend at a time when the pandemic has created additional hurdles to sustaining nuclear security.

In response to these and other evolving WMD threats, the 31-members of the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction continued their concerted and coordinated efforts to prevent terrorists and states of proliferation concern from acquiring and using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. This edition of our quarterly newsletter highlights some of the Global Partnership (GP)’s main accomplishments and contributions in the period September-December 2020.

Reflecting on an Extraordinary Year – A message from the 2020 U.S. President of the Global Partnership

We began our Presidency planning for traditional in-person meetings, where we would connect with old friends and meet new colleagues. We could not have imagined what the world would be like in only a few months. By mid-March 2020, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic made it unquestionably clear that the U.S. Presidency of the GP would look very different. Accepting this new reality, while remaining steadfast to the continuity and mission of the Global Partnership, we went back to the drawing board.  While it took a few months and was a bit of a learning curve, by May we pivoted to the use of virtual and asynchronous platforms to host meetings, share ideas, and continue the work of the Global Partnership … read more about the work and accomplishments of the GP in 2020.

A Message from the United Kingdom as Incoming GP President (2021)

In the two decades since its establishment at the 2002 Kananaskis Summit, the G7-led Global Partnership has been the primary international mechanism for coordinating WMD threat reduction programmes. The GP continues to address the serious challenges, regionally and globally, from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The G7 group rotates its chair annually. In 2021, the UK will chair the G7 and the Global Partnership... read more about UK plans and priorities for 2021.

Feature Articles: Chemical Weapons

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) INTERPOL
  • With support from and in collaboration with the Global Partnership, INTERPOL’s Chemical and Explosive Terrorism (CMX) Prevention Unit is working to prevent terrorists and criminals from acquiring, diverting, smuggling and using chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals and explosive precursor chemicals. In this feature article, INTERPOL outlines two important initiatives: Watchmaker (a global platform to identify and track individuals involved in chemical and explosives crimes) and the Global Congress on Chemical Security and Emerging Threats.
Did you know
  • The GP’s Chemical Security Strategic Vision prioritises Strengthening and Supporting the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), including through support for the OPCW’s new Centre for Chemistry and Technology. GP members are proud to have committed €32.8M for this flagship initiative, totalling more than 99% of the total project budget! In response to a funding challenge issued by Canada in September 2020, important additional financial contributions were made by:
  • The GP’s Nuclear and Radiological Security sub-Working Group (NRSWG) continued to deliver concrete results to improve nuclear and radiological security globally. The Group convened five topical webinars and four thematic matchmaking sessions, which led to funding consideration for 16 out of the 33 proposals submitted (the highest percentage to date). The NRSWG also took on the timely topic of women in nuclear security and addressed the pressing issues of how the community is adapting to promote resilience in the face of the pandemic.  
Community Updates:
The Global Partnership community supports the development of tools and other resources related to CBRN threat mitigation. Recent additions include: 
  • As part of an OIE-FAO-INTERPOL Project to Build Resilience against Agro-Terrorism and Agro-Crime, OIE convened a workshop on "Exploring Innovative Approaches to Improving Sustainable Management of Animal Health Emergencies" and prepared Guidelines for simulation exercises for veterinary services (with support from Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program). 
  • A Non-Proliferation Cheminformatics Compliance Tool (NCCT) developed by the Stimson Center which aims to address the challenges faced by front-line customs, border security and export controls officers to allow them to more easily identify and interdict precursor chemicals found in national and international control lists (with support from Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program).
  • As part of a virtual exhibition entitled No Women, No Peace, the German Federal Foreign Office highlights efforts made to strengthen the role of women in global biosecurity. 
  • The GP is committed to strengthening global mechanisms to respond to the deliberate use of disease, including through support for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Mechanism (UNSGM) for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs has produced a Fact Sheet on the UNSGM, which highlights the scope of the Mechanism and the efforts of GP partners to strengthen it.
  • The SuspectED Smartphone App, a reporting tool developed by Australia's Flinders University and funded by the Government of Canada, which allows in-field responders and investigators working in the human and animal health sectors to identify and report on triggers and indicators of emerging and deliberate biological events.
  • INTERPOL's Litmus video for first responders, which emphasizes the importance of educating relevant stakeholders on identifying early warning indicators of chemical attacks, and how best to respond.
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