WRITTEN BY Antonia Marie De Meo - Director of UNICRI
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICRI celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Centers of Excellence risk mitigation programme, generously funded by the European Union. This initiative brings together stakeholders from 62 countries at the international, regional, national, and local levels to cooperate in CBRN security governance and to promote a global culture of safety and security.
4th Preparatory Heads of Secretariats Meeting 9-10 November 2021, Turin, Italy
Since 2018, the Preparatory Meetings have become an important part of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence, which aims to support Partner Countries and regions in strengthening CBRN risk mitigation and an all-hazards security governance. The format of these meetings is illustrative of the Initiative as a whole: a bottom-up approach in which representatives from the 8 Regional Secretariats showcase their accomplishments and voice their ideas and vision for the way ahead. This year, the vision of Partner Countries was captured in the 2022 Interregional Roadmap that was prepared during the meeting.
During the event, the Kenyan Nuclear Regulatory Authority and UNICRI signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the official inauguration of the Regional Secretariat in Nairobi. The EU CBRN Centres of Excellence now has 8 Regional Secretariats. The other Regional Secretariats are based in: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Algiers, Manila, Rabat, Tashkent and Tbilisi.
Interregional Roadmap 2022
European Commission FPI Head of Unit, Ms. Natalie Pauwels: “The Interregional Roadmap is a strategic document that has been elaborated with the participation of all eight regional secretariats. It includes many important objectives to be achieved collectively, in order to maximise the effectiveness of the Centres of Excellence Initiative.”
UNICRI Director, Ms. Antonia De Meo: “UNICRI is proud to be part of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative since its start, more than 10 years ago, and to work together with key stakeholders and experts in 62 UN Member States every day.”
The EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative is implemented through a network, composed of different actors from the Partner Countries, the European Commission and UNICRI. Many of them were present during the meeting. Heads of Secretariats are designated by the Host Country of the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat. The Head of the Regional Secretariat guides and promotes the Initiative at the regional level and contributes to the smooth functioning of the Regional Secretariat. Regional Coordinators are United Nations Officials employed by UNICRI and deployed at the different Regional Secretariats. The Regional Coordinator coordinates the implementation of the CBRN CoE at the regional level, in close cooperation with National Focal Points and the Head of Secretariat. National Focal Points (NFPs) are appointed by each Partner Country. Once appointed, the NFP supports the creation of a National CBRN Team, which is composed of representatives from ministries, national agencies and institutions representing relevant communities involved in CBRN risk mitigation. On-site Technical Assistance (OSA) experts are made available by the European Commission in each region to support project implementers, strengthen cooperation with local authorities, and enhance the technical capacity as well as the visibility of the Initiative. UNICRI supports the implementation of the Initiative, in close cooperation with International Organizations, while the European Commission (EC), in close coordination with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and with technical support from the EC Joint Research Center, oversees overall management. In some EU Delegations, EU Regional Cooperation Officers are also deployed to support the implementation of the Initiative.
The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members
Solidarity ‘Missing in Action’
Secretary-General UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ addressing the General Assembly. We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has supersized glaring inequalities. The climate crisis is pummelling the planet. Upheaval from Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen and beyond has thwarted peace. A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing people and paralysing societies. Human rights are under fire. Science is under assault. And economic lifelines for the most vulnerable are coming too little and too late — if they come at all.
We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has supersized glaring inequalities. The climate crisis is pummelling the planet. Upheaval from Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen and beyond has thwarted peace. A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing people and paralysing societies. Human rights are under fire. Science is under assault. And economic lifelines for the most vulnerable are coming too little and too late — if they come at all.
Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
When people live in a fair, caring society, where everyone has equal access to social goods, they don’t have to spend their time worrying about how to cover their basic needs day to day – they can enjoy the art of living. And instead of feeling they are in constant competition with their neighbours, they can build bonds of social solidarity
WE ARE ALL VULNERABLE
And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people
The Qur’an 5:32
Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each of us. To build for man a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.
I am just a human being trying to make it in a world that is rapidly losing its understanding of being human.
When people live in a fair, caring society, where everyone has equal access to social goods, they don’t have to spend their time worrying about how to cover their basic needs day to day – they can enjoy the art of living. And instead of feeling they are in constant competition with their neighbours, they can build bonds of social solidarity.
Dimitri Dimitracacos is a photographer of Greek origins. He developed an interest in photography in his childhood and soon started working for Condé Nast and several famous photographers. At the same time, he started developing some personal projects allowing him to define his style, in particular in black and white on film. Around 2000, he started a career as a free-lance photographer with assignments from many different magazines. His passion for photography has extended over the time to other fields like street-photography and portrait and these are exactly the fields he has chosen to examine in depth for some time now. In 2019 he was the author of UNICRI’s campaign “I am no longer myself” on violence against women.
WRITTEN BY Noel Klima, Juliana Martins Vasconcelos Senra and Jasmine De Backer
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and SDG 16: Inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation towards impact.
Introduction In 2015 all Member States of the United Nations (UN) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a voluntary set of objectives – also known as “Global Goals” or “2030 Agenda”. Therefore, it is not surprising that many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) worldwide choose to do so as well. HEIs comprise traditional universities, colleges, and other education institutions delivering high education, including applied sciences or polytechnique universities. They are all knowledge institutions that serve society through independent research, education, and societal service provision, making HEIs valuable partners in the collaborations aiming to promote the SDGs.
WRITTEN BY Sterling Sawaya, Taner Kuru, Thomas A. Campbell
Artificial intelligence (AI) offers great potential for scientific advancement, particularly in areas with high complexity and many variables. Although biology can be challenging to comprehend, scientists can develop accurate AI models that help resolve biological interactions more effectively than conventional methods. Implementing AI in biological sciences promises benefits for all human beings by improving our understanding of how molecules interact or how genetic variation influences traits.
Recent advancements in AI technologies leading to new commercial applications with potentially adverse social implications: the way forward.
Over the last five years, 117 initiatives worldwide have published Artificial Intelligence (AI) ethics principles. Despite a skewed geographical scope (91 of these initiatives come from Europe and North America), the proliferation of such initiatives on AI ethics principles is paving the way for building global consensus on AI governance. Notably, the 38 OECD Member States have adopted the OECD AI Recommendation, the G20 has endorsed these principles, and the Global Partnership on AI is operationalising them. UNESCO is furthermore developing a Recommendation on the Ethics of AI that 193 countries may adopt in 2021.
Introduction The historical lore that will be crafted around the COVID-19 pandemic will be a tale of social inequalities. However, while the existence of social inequalities is well documented and have characterized societies for centuries, the COVID-19 pandemic, like many other societal catastrophes before, has made visible, tangible, and measurable how these social inequalities have real and consequential impacts on the lives of marginalized people. There is perhaps no demographic group that has felt the slings and arrows of societal injustice more acutely than people with disabilities throughout the pandemic. At every phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have disproportionately experienced its cruelty. And, yet, like all seminal moments in history, our slow but collective reemergence from the pandemic provides a pristine opportunity to learn. The pandemic brought some of our most gaping societal fault-lines into stark relief, and we need to use this time of increased clarity to better understand the multitudinal ways that people with disabilities are denied many of the basic freedoms that others enjoy and how these denials have immeasurable – even fatal – impacts on their lives.
The current state of world affairs is extremely alarming. The geopolitical tensions, global power struggles, conflicts in cyberspace, the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber-attacks, the rise of far-right nationalist and extremist groups, the climate challenges, food and water security and the migration crisis are among many pressing factors impacting the world order, democracies and the global security. As emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum technology, as well as new weapons technologies such hypersonic weapons and directed energy weapons, continue to mature, they could hold significant implications for societies around the world.
A study of healthcare cyberattacks in over 30 countries shows the scale of the rising threat.
Ransomware attacks dominate the broadening scope of threats to healthcare providers.
More action is needed from actors in the sector, cybersecurity firms and governments to ensure access to healthcare.
It’s hard to imagine anything more cynical than holding a hospital to ransom, but that is exactly what’s happening with growing frequency. The healthcare sector is a popular target for cybercriminals. Unscrupulous attackers want data they can sell or use for blackmail, but their actions are putting lives at risk. A cyberattack on healthcare is more than an attack on computers. It is an attack on vulnerable people and the people who are involved in their care; this is well illustrated by the breadth of healthcare organizations, from hospitals to mental health facilities to pharmaceutical companies and diagnostic centres, targeted between June 2020 and September 2021.
The increasing digitalization of critical infrastructure sectors and the associated industrial systems, particularly the digitalization of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) facilities, is changing the nature of cyber-risks. In today’s societies, entire ecosystems of key sector have become increasingly digital, decentralized and complex, multiplying opportunities and increasing the level and typology of threats.
The example of Project 67 of the European Union Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative
Over the last few decades, awareness about environmental issues has increased significantly among the general population. Including, the understanding by the public of the importance of appropriate waste management, exemplified by the 3 R’s concept: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. However, not everyone is aware of the fact that addressing waste management issues is also essential for the mitigation of risks related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) materials. And, vice versa: strengthening CBRNE risk-mitigating frameworks and infrastructures enhances general waste management systems.
First of all, let’s unpick the meaning of CBRN security, before considering what could be improved. In the field of security ‘CBRN’ is the abbreviation commonly used to describe the malicious use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials or weapons with the intention to cause significant harm or disruption, as well as technogenic incidents and incidents caused by the delayed on set of hazardous CBRN materials from by-products and wastes. The hazard posed by these materials varies:
The tragic murder of Sarah Everard – a 33-year-old marketing executive – in South London on the evening of 3rd March 2021 brought the issue of male violence against women to the forefront of the British national consciousness. As reported in Issue 16 of Freedom From Fear Magazine, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in violence against women, especially in a domestic setting. This has been seen in countries across the world, including the UK: when looking specifically at the period affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Office for National Statistics reported that “the police recorded 259,324 offences (excluding fraud) flagged as domestic abuse-related in the period March to June 2020. This represents a 7% increase from 242,413 in the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from 218,968 in 2018.”
Interview with Dr Rana Baydoun - Researcher at the Environmental and Border Radiation Control Department of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission (LAEC)
Throughout the past decades, gender-based stereotypes have persisted in the Middle East, posing numerous challenges to women’s career prospects and access to many work fields. A career in the field of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) security has traditionally been associated with masculinity within the region, offering limited opportunities for women to join and demonstrate their capabilities as security analysts, researchers and officers partaking in the field missions. Moreover, during the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated gender inequalities in many aspects and presented women with a novel set of challenges that continue to have a severe toll on their physical and mental wellbeing.
In December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in the area. By March 2020, the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was classified as a pandemic, exponentially increasing the measures that governments took to limit the negative impact on the population, including lockdowns, curfews, and travel restrictions. All around the world, factors such as home isolation, health concerns about the virus and its socio-political and economic implications generated anxiety and fear. Social media and messaging apps became a source of collective discussion and response to the coronavirus outbreak. Surveys of social media users in different countries have shown an increase in the use of social platforms during the period of physical distancing at home.
WRITTEN BY Francesco Marelli and R. Alexander Hamilton
In the previous article we saw how terrorists and extremists are maliciously using social media to spread disinformation about COVID-19. The present article presents how non-state actors are also seeking to physically sabotage vaccination efforts, deliberately transmit the virus and profit from the sale of counterfeit vaccines, therapeutics and equipment.
Investigation of a crime scene contaminated with chemical, biological or radiological materials poses several challenges to law enforcement authorities in relation to their safe approach and ability to collect and analyze critical evidence, which is vital for a successful prosecution.
CBRN-E crimes are closely linked to environmental crime and their number is constantly growing. Their investigation is a major challenge, and many countries urgently need to improve their systems. An important role for law enforcement agencies is to identify them and provide relevant evidence in court proceedings to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. On-site investigation in the CBRN context must therefore meet high quality standards to maintain the safety of investigators and preserve the evidence. This requires skilled and educated experts. This article describes the basic attributes of a crime scene investigation under CBRN conditions and recommends a global framework of procedures for investigators, including the use of new technologies. It represents a basis for a future Biological and Chemical Crime Scene Management Guidance Manual for Law Enforcement planned to be developed by an international team of experts under the umbrella of UNICRI.
An interview with Dr Bilal Nsouli, CBRN National Coordinator
Ten years ago, before Dr. Bilal Nsouli assumed his post as the first official Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) National Coordinator for Lebanon and National Focal Point for the European Union (EU) CBRN Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative, little existed in terms of CBRN risk mitigation policy in the country. In his own words, “this was the first time we started CBRN response, before this no one knew what CBRN meant.”
Interview with Colonel Archil Pavlenishvili, Head of the Operations Division of the Counter-intelligence Department at the State Security Service.
In a wide-ranging interview with UNICRI, Colonel Archil Pavlenishvili, Head of the Operations Division of the Counter-intelligence Department at the State Security Service of Georgia, talks about the importance of intelligence operations to thwart radiological and nuclear (RN) trafficking attempts, the risks connected with RN material falling into the wrong hands, and the challenges faced during his career.
Under the patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, a 4-day inter-agency Chemical, Biological, Radiologica and Nuclear (CBRN) field exercise “ARZ 2021” took place on 6-9 December 2021 in Beirut, Lebanon. ARZ 2021, which focuses on countering CBRN terrorism, has been carried out under the leadership of the CBRN National Coordinator and the European Union Centres of Excellence (EU CBRN CoE) National Focal Point of Lebanon. The event was organized by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in collaboration with the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), Fondazione SAFE and the on-site assistance expert of the EU CBRN CoE.
This article presents the conclusions of the interviews conducted with the Heads of Secretariats of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative. Which are the critical regional capacities needed for an effective risk crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic? The answers of the interviewed Heads of Secretariats focus on three core concepts known as the “3Cs”: Coordination, Collaboration and Communication. The 3Cs are considered a pre-condition for an effective response to any CBRN major incident. These three components can be applied for an efficient response to a pandemic such as COVID-19. Coordination is envisaged at the technical level and focuses on the knowledge of response mechanisms, preparedness with Standard Operative Procedures (“SoPs”) and plans of action. These tools should be developed, tested and updated regularly. Cooperation is intended as interagency cooperation, with the involvement of multiple actors. It must allow to share resources and expertise at national and regional levels. In some regions, the “work in silos” approach adopted by civil agencies has been identified as an obstacle to allow adequate coordination at the national and regional levels. Also, the division between the civil and the military has been pointed as an additional challenge. Communication is intended as setting clear lines of early communication in order to effectively launch a coordinated response. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has severely compromised the effective communication of public agencies with the population and challenged the trust in the governments.
Interview with: Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization Emergencies Programme and Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
What can COVID-19 tell us about the nature of biorisks (whether natural, accidental, or deliberate in origin)? Natural, accidental or deliberate biological events all fall on the same spectrum of biological risks. Regardless of the source (natural, technological, societal, accidental or deliberate), they all challenge the health systems in similar ways. In this regard, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to us that strengthening the international community’s preparedness and response to such events is critical even before their origin is completely determined. Therefore, risk-based decision making, risk assessment/mitigation measures, emergency preparedness, response actions and community recovery activities need to be implemented along, ceteris paribus, relatively similar models, regardless of the cause.
Executive Director, Non-proliferation, Disarmament & Space Division at Global Affairs”; Former Director of Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program .
As the Director of the Weapons Threat Reduction Program at Global Affairs Canada since 2018, Ms. Angelica Liao-Moroz has a nuanced understanding of the complexities of national security efforts in an increasingly interconnected global environment. In this interview with F3, Ms. Liao-Moroz shares some of her experience on a wide-range of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) related issues, from sustainable capacity-building programs to emerging threats.