On 23-24 November 2021, UNICRI held the 2nd regional peer-to-peer workshop with the participation of the State authorities in charge of countering radiological and nuclear (RN) trafficking in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The workshop was conducted within the framework of the project CONTACT – Enhancing capacities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear material in the Middle East, funded by Global Affairs Canada. The organization of the event was facilitated by the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) National Focal Points together with the Focal Points of the project CONTACT: Dr. Riad Al-Tamimi for the Republic of Iraq; Colonel Saleh Al-Sheyyab and Dr. Samer Al Qur’an for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and Dr. Bilal Nsouli and Dr. Rana Baydoun for the Republic of Lebanon. The workshop represented an important opportunity for a close consultation between UNICRI and the experts from other international organizations, and the national teams of the countries involved, which gathered in Amman, Baghdad and Beirut.
Several international, regional and national organizations attended the workshop to provide their perspectives on regional and international cooperation in the field of RN security. Among the others: the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and experts from the republics of Moldova and Georgia.
Over the course of the two-day meeting, participants exchanged best practices and lessons learned with a focus on the three countries’ experience in implementing their national trainings on “Countering RN trafficking”. This included discussions on training design, development, and delivery as well as challenges encountered throughout the process. In addition, participants discussed opportunities of regional cooperation and exchange of information on RN trafficking incidents through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms.
“The regional workshop was a great opportunity to exchange information with our counterparts in Jordan and Lebanon with the aim of reinforcing existing bilateral agreements in the field of combating RN trafficking.”, said Dr. Riad Al-Tamimi CBRN National Focal Point from the Iraqi National Monitoring Authority for non-proliferation (INMA).
Colonel Saleh Al-Sheyyab CBRN National Focal point, from the National Center for Security and Crises Management (NCSCM) commented: “We are happy with the outcome of the regional workshop and with discussing the future roadmap with our counterparts. All presentations and interventions from countries and other international organizations where extremely valuable and provided insightful tools for enhancing the national efforts related to countering RN trafficking. We are looking forward to applying these to the Jordanian context”.
Dr. Rana Baydoun, Researcher and National Emergency Officer at the Environmental and Border Radiation Control Department at the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission (LAEC), also added that “The 2nd regional peer-to-peer workshop was a great opportunity to listen to the perspectives of our colleagues in Jordan and Iraq on how they implemented their national trainings on RN trafficking. It was also a good platform to discuss with experts and peers our future plan for training in the field of combating illicit trafficking in RN materials as well as the challenges associated with this endeavor.”
From his side, Mr. Francesco Marelli, Head of Programme, CBRN Risk Mitigation and Security Governance, added: “We congratulate our partner countries, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon for successfully developing national trainings that matched their needs in the field of RN trafficking. This workshop was a good opportunity to discuss in detail the specific experience of each country in designing their capacity building activity and overcoming any associated challenges. UNICRI stands ready to support its partners in the upcoming phases of the CONTACT project to establish a sustainable training process".
This peer-to-peer workshop is the second of a series of regional events to be conducted under the umbrella of the CONTACT project 3rd and final Work Package focused on regional cooperation. The remaining event, the final tabletop exercise, will contribute to the review of the existing gaps; the identification of the relevant solutions and the planning of future actions, The exercise will also lay the basis of a roadmap to enhance regional cooperation among the three countries.
CONTACT is the first project in the Middle East that focuses on intelligence operations to counter RN illicit trafficking. Previous international projects have focused on the provision and use of radiation detection equipment to identify illicit trafficking. However, the “human factor” is of equal importance, as demonstrated by the fact that most successful seizures of radiological and nuclear material is attributable to soundly planned and executed intelligence operations.
Within the framework of the project CONTACT, UNICRI is working with countries in the Middle East to share good practices and reinforce capabilities to effectively and carefully plan intelligence and law enforcement operations as well as the exchange of information at the national, regional and international level.