Chemical and Biological Safety – a new direction

Threats of a chemical or biological nature are becoming more diversified. UN member states have created a number of institutions and arrangements, with various mandates, that deal with one or another aspect of chemical and biological safety and security. Many activities are also being carried out at the regional level. Each of them deals with separate (but partially over-lapping) aspects of chemical and biological safety and security, but most of them do not consider chemical and/or biological safety and security to be the core element of their respective mandates. This makes it difficult for them to connect various aspects of the same problem, leading to uneven attention (and funding) for various similar or closely related activities. The current trend is, understandably, to invest money into counter-terrorism, including biological and chemical counter-terrorism. But this leads to discrimination against other aspects of biological or chemical safety and security, including some that are quite relevant to the counter-terrorism context.

Chemical and biological safety and security started to attract attention later than nuclear safety, not least because no such body as the IAEA, in a position of clear leadership, exists in the chemical and biological areas. It would be a major step forward to create a programme that facilitates coordination and interaction among concerned institutions. Traditionally, chemical and biological safety and security have often been considered together – moreover, the current trend, widely recognized by academic research and professionals as “convergence,” is leading towards dissolution of many traditional boundaries between chemical and biological processes. It would make sense to put them under one roof.

Given the increasing concern, the ESS Programme has been reaching out to other organizations to build partnerships on the issue. This includes the International Center on Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS) in Warsaw, Poland, with whom Green Cross worked to help promote global best practices and capacity-building to keep chemical weapons from re-emerging in the future and to prevent terrorist theft, diversion, and accidents with toxic chemicals. The ESS Programme co-organized a half-day event on chemical safety and security with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC on 27 July 2015.