Commentary

The Global Partnership goes Global

in Program

By Elizabeth Turpen – Earlier this month leaders of the G-8 decided to expand the operations of the Global Partnership to address proliferation challenges worldwide. Launched at the 2002 G-8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (WMD) pledged to commit $20 billion over ten years to support nonproliferation work in Russia and later Ukraine. To date 22 member nations and the European Union have been involved in projects including nuclear submarine dismantlement, chemical weapons destruction, fissile material security and the like. Although this expansion of the geographic scope is a welcome shift in the Global Partnership’s agenda, going global requires substantial adjustment of the existing toolkit and a clear-eyed assessment of lessons learned to ensure effective, sustainable results.

The Global Partnership’s activities to date largely have focused on dismantling, destroying or containing Cold War legacies. With certain exceptions, the lion’s share of requirements outside of the former Soviet Union (FSU) will not be addressing legacy WMD threats, but rather assisting states in establishing a baseline standard of good governance, including in particular the rule of law. This provides the foundation upon which specific measures to address potential proliferation threats – from policing and interdiction to criminalization of proliferation activities to enforcement of export controls – can be effectively implemented. The G-8 summit documents specifically refer to implementation of IAEA safeguards and the Additional Protocol, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism as priority activity areas. All of these require effective governance as a prerequisite to adequately controlling the activities of individuals and potential transiting of dangerous materials within or across a state’s borders.

The radically different context and toolkit for nonproliferation assistance outside of the FSU also underscores the importance of heeding key lessons learned as they pertain to the Global Partnership’s new agenda. First, due to a lack of coordination or agreement on the greatest threats, the efforts to date reflect the donor state’s individual priorities and/or perceptions of the risk. Second, the Global Partnership states continue to struggle with providing “whole of government” responses to the array of proliferation challenges associated with weak states. Third, without attainment of mutual agreement on the need, the assistance will not be sufficiently valued by the recipient state to sustain the measures put in place. Host country buy-in is crucial and requires mainstreaming select tools of traditional development assistance into the nonproliferation assistance agenda.

The activities of the Global Partnership represent a patchwork of largely disjointed efforts focused on an array of proliferation challenges. Neither within the US government nor within the Global Partnership has there been a serious effort to ensure that the highest priority concerns are getting addressed first and achieve coherence among the different activities. Stovepipes within and lack of transparency between governments gave rise to redundancies and gaps in the assistance being provided. Governments are stymied in their efforts to achieve holistic responses and efficiently leverage the different tools of assistance at their disposal, both individually as well as in concert. This problem is only magnified by the number of states providing assistance. In light of the nature of assistance required in other regions, the existing problems with coordination and coherence will only be exacerbated by the challenges associated with providing effectual assistance worldwide.

Moreover, without achieving mutual agreement regarding the underlying threat or risk, the assistance rendered is not sufficiently valued by the recipient state to sustain the measures put in place. The development community has known this for decades, but the nonproliferation community has failed to fully inculcate the development community’s knowledge of the need for local ownership into its approach. As a large proportion of the world perceives WMD proliferation as a preoccupation of and threat to the West exclusively, Global Partnership countries cannot be assured that their assistance will be sufficiently valued to enjoy the continued support of the recipient states. In light of other pressing political and economic priorities in much of the world, cajoling pro-active attention to a nonproliferation agenda will require a serious commitment to sustained engagement that will address mutual concerns.

The application of these lessons to a different context suggests that a productive approach lies in achieving whole of government responses. The Global Partnership would do well to focus first on the host country’s capacity building priorities that must precede effective implementation of nonproliferation measures. Packaging assistance to meet both donor and recipient states’ objectives also can serve to create a virtuous circle. However, this requires more effectively integrating traditional development assistance with the technical assistance requisite to achieve nonproliferation goals.

A whole of government approach that bridges the development-security divide can facilitate achievement of host country buy-in for the assistance rendered. Simultaneously, only by addressing governance gaps first will nonproliferation assistance be beneficial and sustainable in the long-run. The Global Partnership’s effectiveness in providing assistance globally will rest on its ability to rethink its approach to nonproliferation and rely on a more expansive toolkit to achieve its goals.

photo credit: Eric Draper, White House Photos


Dr. Elizabeth Turpen is a  Senior Associate with the Cooperative Nonproliferation Program at the Stimson Center.

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