Global Partnership Identifies New Priorities

March 2024 
By Kelsey Davenport

Italy has identified new priorities for a multilateral initiative aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including a focus on the nexus between climate change and chemical security and counterproliferation financing.

Italy aims to stress chemical safety and security during its year chairing the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Dethlingen pond near Munster, Germany, a graveyard for World War II chemical weapons that is the focus of a multi-million dollar cleanup effort, reflects the challenges that exist in this area. (Photo by Philipp Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images)As chair of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction for 2024, Italy is responsible for setting priorities for the 31-member initiative. The Global Partnership, which was established in 2002 by the Group of Eight industrialized countries, works to prevent the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons.

According to a January statement, Italy aims, during its presidency, to improve the “common understanding of well-known and emerging” WMD challenges among member states.

Specifically, Italy said it intends to “increase awareness on chemical safety and security” given the “huge impact of major adverse climate changes and natural disasters associated with the accidental release of chemical material.” Italy said the Global Partnership will focus on enhancing preparedness to respond to such events.

Italy also identified proliferation finance as a priority for 2024 and said it would look to build on domestic experience to “renew a strong commitment on counter-proliferation financing” and focus on countering states that use “a variety of illicit activity and sanction evasions schemes” to fund nuclear and missile programs.

Furthermore, the initiative will look at the impact of disinformation on policy responses in the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear domains, Italy said.

In addition to the new priorities, Italy said the Global Partnership will continue biosecurity work prioritized under Japan’s leadership in 2023, including efforts to “address emerging and ongoing biothreats by building capacities” in Africa, and will pay special attention to WMD risk reduction efforts in Ukraine. (See ACT, January/February 2024.)

One of the mechanisms that the Global Partnership uses to achieve its goals is a match-making process that pairs states with funds and expertise with recipients looking to implement projects that align with the initiative’s mission.

In 2023, Global Partnership members provided funding and expertise for 319 projects across 96 states, according to an activity report released by Japan.

In addition to promoting biosecurity projects in Africa and WMD risk reduction in Ukraine, Japan prioritized the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires states to implement measures to prevent WMD proliferation to nonstate actors.

According to the report, projects funded in Ukraine included a multiyear project to bolster public health and crisis response capabilities in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident. Other projects related to Ukraine focused on providing expertise and funding for nuclear security, including rebuilding security at the former Chernobyl nuclear plant and strengthening the security of radioactive sources.

In the biosecurity space, Japan reported “meaningful progress” in all areas of the Signature Initiative to Mitigate Biological Threats in Africa, including projects aimed at “strengthening international capacities to prevent, detect and respond to deliberate biological threats.”

Consistent with Resolution 1540, the Global Partnership’s members provided “extensive support” to states and regional organizations aimed at strengthening capacities to “prevent, detect, and respond to [WMD] terrorism.” For example, Mexico partnered with Chile and Brazil to conduct a trilateral peer review of national legal frameworks for implementing the resolution.

Global Partnership member states also supported projects to mitigate WMD threats beyond the specific priorities articulated by Japan.

The report noted several projects aimed at building capacity to implement UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea and to prevent the reemergence of chemical weapons in Syria.