Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
G-8 Nonproliferation Effort Renewed
WASHINGTON -- The leaders of the world's top industrial powers on Friday renewed the mandate of a program intended to prevent terrorists or rogue nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (see GSN, March 9.).
The Group of Eight nations' Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction will be maintained beyond its original 2012 expiration date thanks in part to the effort's "concrete achievements and measurable results," according to the declaration issued at the close of the G-8 leadership summit in Deauville, France.
"Our assessment of the partnership recognizes the significant progress the 23 partners have achieved on the full range of WMD nonproliferation activities worldwide," according to the 25-page statement's lone paragraph on the nonproliferation program.
"The assessment also provides directions for the future. As such, we agree to extend the partnership beyond 2012" to address the areas of emphasis laid out in the declaration from the group's 2010 summit in Muskoka, Canada, the document says.
Those four areas are securing nuclear and radiological materials; biosecurity; engagement of weapons scientist to prevent diversion of expertise; and implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540, according to the brief entry. That edict, which was recently renewed for another decade, aims to prevent nonstate actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials.
Those topics "pretty much cover the type of work that will be done in the future on threat reduction and nonproliferation issues" through the G-8 program, according to Bonnie Jenkins, coordinator of threat reduction programs for the State Department.
"This is everything. This really covers all the types of activities we would do in the future on a global scale" as opposed to projects solely inside Russia and the former Soviet Union, she told Global Security Newswire on Tuesday during a phone interview.
The G-8 leaders also remain committed to completing "priority projects" in Russia, the declaration adds. Jenkins said that would include wrapping up destruction of the nation's chemical weapons arsenal (see related GSN story, today).
Last week's statement says the group will work to expand membership in the partnership, though it does not specify which countries might be included. The document also does not detail how long the new mandate will last or what the international consortium's financial commitment will be going forward.
"Partners will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis," according to the declaration.
Jenkins said the outstanding issues, including an enlarged program membership, would be resolved over the coming year.
The Global Partnership was established during the 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada, of G-8 states Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The countries pledged over the next decade to collect $20 billion to secure or eliminate unconventional weapons threats, with an initial focus on Russia and former Soviet Union satellite states such as Ukraine. The United States promised $10 billion and Russia said it would provide $2 billion. The remaining G-8 countries offered $7.5 billion, while another $1.42 billion would ultimately come from other nations and the European Union.
Jenkins on Tuesday said close to $19 billion has been allocated for the effort to date on projects inside the one-time Soviet Union, including contributions that have helped fund the disassembly of decommissioned Russian nuclear-powered submarines and scientist engagement programs at the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow.
However, she noted, that dollar figure does not include operations the United States and other countries have conducted outside of the G-8 program and therefore is "really not an adequate accounting of how much effort and how many projects and how much has been done, really, since the early 1990s" when threat reduction programs first began.
The international program was widely expected to be extended beyond its original 10-year time frame when G-8 members met last year in Canada. However, that conference adjourned without a renewal, which observers at the time blamed at least partly on the global economic downturn.
Since then, the Group of Eight completed an assessment of the Global Partnership as requested by the leaders at the 2010 summit, according to Jennie Chen, spokeswoman at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
That analysis, which wrapped up earlier this month, detailed the activities the program could undertake in the future, Jenkins said.
The assessment recommended the extension of the program beyond 2012 "in order to address long-term WMD proliferation and terrorism challenges worldwide and as a means to make the world safer," Chen told GSN on Friday by e-mail.
"We will continue to work with our G-8 partners to implement Global Partnership programming in the four priority areas identified at Muskoka and will also work to determine future funding for global WMD threat reduction programming in due course," she added, without offering details.
Members of the nonproliferation community welcomed news of the program's renewal.
"The continuation of the Global Partnership maintains a critical link in the global effort to secure nuclear and other dangerous weapons materials around the globe. By focusing its attention on several critical issues and including new members, it can become even more effective in addressing the WMD challenges of the 21st century," Kenneth Luongo, co-chairman of the Fissile Materials Working Group, said in a statement.
"But, in order to act rapidly and flexibly to improve security in all corners of the world, it will require continue top level political support and funding," said Luongo, who also serves as president of Partnership for Global Security.
It is "unsurprising" that the G-8 members avoided assigning a dollar figure to their revitalized commitment, according to Brian Finlay, a senior associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington.
"This is a pragmatic reflection of the fact that several of the partners, having failed to meet their pledges in Kananaskis in 2002, have learned their lesson. They do not intend to be tarred again with their recalcitrance at meeting their global nonproliferation assistance commitments," he told GSN on Friday by e-mail.
Finlay did not name specific scofflaw nations, though there has been suspicion that France and Italy have been lax on their pledges (see GSN, Aug. 16, 2010).
The decision to renew the effort without financial commitments is also indicative of the partners' continued economic woes, "as well as the confusion over exactly how much of an investment is really necessary to meet the global nonproliferation challenge," according to Finlay.
"In the palace of truth, while we all may recognize the growing complexities of that threat, to date, there has been no effort to undertake a global accounting of what needs to be done and how much that will cost," he stated. "Viewed in that light, assigning an arbitrary figure, like $20 billion, is a fiction reflecting the need for political motivation more than on-the-ground need."
Jenkins, for her part, said she was not worried about the outstanding issues over the renewal's time line, funding or possible future partners.
"We still have a year before the end of this partnership, so things will continue to be discussed between now and next year" when the United States chairs the Group of Eight, she told GSN.
"There's more a feeling this year, rather than last time, [that] we're going to make this commitment, we're going to continue to fund it and not having [an end] date may not necessarily be a bad thing," the diplomat said.
The matter of funding will also be resolved as partners come to grips with the program's new global focus, according to Jenkins.
"The focus now is countries want to know what is it that we're going to be doing" rather than when the Global Partnership was first stood up and focused exclusively on Russia and the former Soviet Union, she said.
Meanwhile, discussions about expanding the program's membership likely will resume over the next calendar year, now that the effort's extension has been resolved, Jenkins told GSN.
She said possible new partners could include nations that attended the Obama administration 2010 Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington and those with existing threat reduction and nonproliferation programs, such as China, Brazil and Spain.
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