Technology & Trade

Sustaining Proliferation Prevention: Gaining Ground in the Global South

in Program

By Brian Finlay and O’Neil Hamilton – When the threat of proliferation is raised among developed
states, the discussion focuses on preventing the acquisition of nuclear,
biological, and chemical weapons to states and terrorist organizations. Many
developed world governments have concluded that the proliferation of these
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is the greatest threat to our collective
security. By contrast, however, the proliferation debate for audiences of the Global
South more often centers upon more immediate threats, such as the scourge of
small arms and light weapons. This divide offers policy constraints… and
innovative opportunities.

Representatives of the developing world repeatedly state
that small arms are the true weapons of mass destruction and they do so with
considerable merit. According to the Small Arms Survey, the largest human
burden of armed violence-approximately 245,000 deaths each year-occur in
non-conflict and non-war settings. Countries like El
Salvador, Jamaica,
and South Africa
suffer from extremely high homicide rates, often yielding more deaths each year
than witnessed in modern wars. And of course, the proliferation of small arms
is not the only burden on these cash strapped governments. The spread of
infectious diseases, drug trafficking, gang violence, economic
underdevelopment, and myriad other urgent threats compete for attention of
these governments. If we are to sustainably prevent the spread of WMD, bridging
this North/South security paradox will be imperative.

There is little question that the evolving forces of
globalization are pushing the capacity to contribute to the WMD supply chain
into more hands, in more countries, in more corners of the globe than at any
other time in history. Today, the ability to innovate, manufacture, transship
or otherwise contribute materially to proliferation can just as easily occur in
Belmopan as Berlin,
or in Luanda as in Los Angeles. Yet throughout the atomic age,
convincing most governments of the Global South to take a more proactive role
in WMD proliferation prevention has been-not unreasonably-a significant
challenge. Consider this:

  • According to a joint report by the UN Office on Drugs
    and Crime (UNODC) and the World
    Bank, the Caribbean
    Basin is
    home to one of the highest murder rates in the world at 30 per 100,000
    population annually;
  • The same report found that these
    high rates of violence across the region and in parts of Central America, have
    both direct effects on human welfare in the short-run as well as longer term
    implications for economic growth and social development; and
  • A major factor in the surge of
    gun-related criminality in the Caribbean
    Basin, beyond the ease of access to
    the US
    market, is the trafficking of narcotics and the corresponding difficulties
    governments face in adequately securing their borders.

In the face of these immediate threats to human security and
development, it is unsurprising that there is limited bandwidth in much of the
world to sustain wide ranging programmatic efforts to prevent proliferation.
This is especially true given the very real financial and human capacity constraints
of governments across the Global South. Here, the case of Dominica is telling. With a GDP of
$377 million and a population of just 74,000 people, appropriating scarce
resources to implement legal and regulatory frameworks to prevent WMD
proliferation-as opposed to attending to urgent security and development
needs-represent a false dichotomy for this small island nation. Indeed, even
while Caribbean governments comprehend the threat, and recognize the need to
meet their nonproliferation obligations, these issues remain distant priorities
for most across the Caribbean Basin-and
not unreasonably so. 

It would therefore come as a surprise to learn that
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States have aggressively pursued a wide
spectrum of nonproliferation activities and have committed to fully implement
global nonproliferation mandates. In the past year for instance, CARICOM
members have:

Participated in commodity
identification training (CIT) exercises which were staged in the Caribbean for
the very first time and served to raise awareness among  both enforcement and policy personnel in the
region, regarding WMD-related technologies;

Commenced a comprehensive
legislative initiative that will include a regional review of the national
legal bases for strategic trade controls, or “gap analysis” of existing
legislation, and will result in the formulation of model legislation, including
domestic export controls, which will be enacted by CARICOM members;

Deepened cooperation with regional
enforcement entities including the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council
(CCLEC) and regional industry stakeholders in the maritime domain, such as the Caribbean
Shipping Association (CSA). The CARICOM 1540 Implementation Program is
partnering with the CSA in implementing its Regional Integrated Management
System (RIMS), which will focus several of the region’s non-proliferation
objectives; and

The region  is also partnering with the Organization for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on a major initiative to ensure that
state parties within the Caribbean meet their
obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, thereby simultaneously fulfilling
key UNSCR 1540 mandates

Furthermore, governments across the region have moved to
fully comply with their WMD nonproliferation reporting requirements under UNSCR
1540. They have also developed an uncommon engagement with proliferation
issues, more broadly, by linking available international security assistance
with other high priority issues from counter-drug and small arms trafficking,
to preparedness and responsive capacities in the event of natural (and by
extension, man-made) disasters, to issues of disease surveillance and
environmental safety, and economic development more broadly.

This all would suggest that there is ample room for optimism
in bridging the North/South divide on proliferation. We can learn from a
successful engagement in the Caribbean; and indeed, evidence suggests similar
progress in Central America, across governments of the OSCE, in East Africa and elsewhere. Building upon this success, a
few lessons should be learned as we move forward:

Leveraged responses are a
learned behavior
. Our experience indicates that although leveraged security
and development goals and resources is a logical and ultimately organic
process, it is not necessarily a process that is naturally occurring.
Institutions across the Global South as well as the Developed North have been
inadvertently constructed so as to hinder joint responses. Success therefore
will depend upon our willingness to force changes to our traditional approaches
to these threats by developing real programming that meaningfully operationalizes
the rhetoric of “whole of government.”

Early success is personality
: Working across the policy silos of government is a time
consuming and challenging endeavor. Without committed individuals willing to
advance change, institutional inertia often prevails. Success more broadly
depends upon our ability to encourage the emergence of these advocates, and our
efforts to identify these individuals are well spent. Advocates should be
cultivated who can serve as a single point of contact for the donor community,
as well as a provocateur within governments of the Global South. These
individuals, be they within national governments, sub-regional organizations,
or within the UN Secretariat itself, not only serve to encourage the latter to
better understand their international obligations, but also assist governments
and multilateral entities  to tangibly
link their domestic  and development
goals with the global nonproliferation agenda.

Interdisciplinary approaches
work better, cost less
: We now have tangible evidence that we can build
sustainable nonproliferation by emphasizing the softer and often longer term
approaches to nonproliferation that not only address the near term threat, but
also its root causes. Nonproliferation assistance can address a wide cross-section
of global challenges from the spread of infectious diseases, to
underdevelopment, to a broad spectrum of human security threats. And in an era
of financial austerity, both the donor community and the recipient partners
have a joint interest in stretching dwindling financial assistance.

The Global South is not the
only recalcitrant actor
: Although we routinely point to corrupt,
disorganized, and maladroit governments as a central challenge to successful
donor engagement, it is equally clear that stove-piped and often inflexible
practices, and a failure of imagination, remain central challenges for much of
the developed North. Dictating approaches to developing a common threat
assessment have and will continue to be counterproductive. Rather, our efforts
would be better directed toward developing innovative connections that will
inculcate common and durable approaches to mutual and also disparate
challenges. In short, government officials that develop flexible, joint
programming should be rewarded, not obstructed.

There is no one-size-fits all
: The successful nonproliferation engagement across the states of
the former Soviet Union since the end of the
Cold War is an impressive, but ultimately inadequate, model for future
activities. Because the nature of the proliferation threat varies from region
to region, and the needs of the recipient partner differ, future programming
will be varied and labor intensive. But by leading with a needs assessment that
seeks to validate and respond to defined in-country needs, rather than under
the auspices of WMD nonproliferation, we can more effectively build trust and
long-term buy-in to preventing the proliferation of nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons of mass destruction.

The benefits of a regional
: Engaging with states in the Global South in a regional context of
their choosing has proven advantageous in the Caribbean Basin
through CARICOM, but also under the auspices of the Central American
Integration System (SICA). There are also signs that in the Middle
East, the Gulf Cooperation Council has a role to play and Eastern
African regional organizations undoubtedly can make positive contributions. A
regional approach is logical because of the transnational nature of regional
development and security concerns, as well as global WMD nonproliferation
objectives. Making progress in all three of these areas unquestionably entails
cooperation between neighboring countries. A regional approach can also help
ensure consistency so that efforts are not duplicated, that already scarce
resources do not go to waste, and one country’s advances are not immediately
undercut by a gap in its neighbor’s implementation.  The regional context also provides an
opportunity for states to discuss and establish, among other things, cost-sharing
plans, exchange model legislation and collaborate on enforcement mechanisms.



Photo Credit: South Sudan Police Recruits at Training Academy,
July 2010 (UN Photo ID 453292 by Paul Banks).


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