The G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is a vital international security and nonproliferation tool for coordinating chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat reduction activities on a global scale. With 23 countries signed on to the agreement, it helps prevent proliferators, terrorists, or other nonstate actors from acquiring such weapons.
Because the current ten-year, $20 billion commitments expire in 2012, it is time to extend the global partnership so it can continue building upon the success of its efforts to combat the spread of WMD, their delivery systems, and related technology. Canada is proposing an extension for this year’s G-8, and the United States strongly supports that proposal.
Meeting Today’s Security Needs
Unlike many multilateral commitments, the partnership is backed by funding pledges that are translated into real activities whose progress can be assessed over time. In this way, it is a vital mechanism to help nations meet their global nonproliferation obligations.
The world has changed significantly since 1992 when new states created by the fall of the Soviet Union inherited the Soviet Union’s WMD infrastructure, which was vulnerable to exploitation by proliferators or domestic and foreign terrorists. This potentially dangerous situation had to be addressed, so initially the focus was put on destroying decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines and Russia’s chemical weapons.
Since then, it has become increasingly apparent that the threats we face are global in scale and that proliferation problems occur in a number of regions. Terrorist organizations still seek weapons and materials of mass destruction to further their political or ideological goals. When threats are global, efforts to address them must also be global.
President Obama has called for another ten-year extension with an expanded scope/mission and committed up to another $10 billion toward new projects, including expanding our efforts to improving nuclear security to countries not previously eligible for G-8 assistance.
The Way Forward
In 2007 the partners recognized that “their cooperation and future security are directly linked.” As such, they concluded the Global Partnership “must evolve to meet new, emerging threats worldwide.”
At the 2008 and 2009 summits, G-8 leaders agreed to expand membership in the partnership. Future work, it is now agreed, should be driven by threats, wherever they exist.
While the United States is strongly committed to completing projects already under way, we agree the expansion should happen in a number of ways. The first is geographically. The partnership should include any project funded to ensure such weapons or materials do not land in the wrong hands, regardless of where such activity takes place.
The partnership must also grow in size. To fully address the global threat, it must include new members and look to add potential regional leaders. Many nations could be considered in such an expansion, especially those that attended the recent Nuclear Security Summit.
Expansion will also allow partners to address new threats. There are a number of significant, new areas of concern that can and should be addressed before extending the agreement.
The first of these is nuclear and radiological security. The Obama administration recognizes the importance of securing all nuclear material, both civilian and military, regardless of where it exists. This was the driving force behind the recent Nuclear Security Summit, which kicked off a four-year global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material.
The Global Partnership is also focusing on coordinated efforts to reduce the global biological threat. One goal is improving disease detection and surveillance. Another goal is to help nations respond to an infectious disease outbreak that poses a serious threat to international security. A third objective is building sustainable capacity for securing dangerous pathogens and improving laboratory bio-safety.
It must also address concerns about former weapons scientists. Since the early 1990s there has been a particular need to ensure that weapons expertise and knowledge not be used to increase proliferation. The goal of increasing scientist engagement efforts is to prevent their knowledge from being diverted to proliferation and terrorist purposes anywhere in the world.
A key component to the success of all of these efforts is the ability, or capacity, of partner nations to implement them. Capacity-building work includes efforts to strengthen export controls and border security in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. It may also include proposing new export control laws, implementing regulations and licensing procedures, as well as providing greater support for export control enforcement. An essential piece of these initiatives is outreach to industry, necessary to securing private sector compliance for more successful implementation of export controls.
Global threats must be addressed on a global scale, and the United States wishes to work closely with its G-8 partners in this effort. The Cold War legacy that led to the proliferation risks for which the Global Partnership was originally created have been a major source of threat reduction activity since 1992. But, like the world itself, these threats have evolved and the United States stands ready to work even more closely with its partners, and to welcome new members of the Global Partnership so that we may continue addressing the serious challenges that confront all of us today.
Editor’s note. Adapted from a policy analysis brief entitled The Future Role of the G-8 Global Partnership: Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction by Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins, coordinator of Threat Reduction Programs at the US Department of State.