Chemical Security is a Global Responsibility



The Chemical and Explosives Terrorism Prevention Unit at INTERPOL introduces the Global Congress on Chemical Security and Emerging Threats.

With a steady increase in the diversion of chemical precursors for use in explosive devices and chemical weapons around the world, it is evident that one community cannot counter these threats alone. Instead, the most effective chemical security practices involve a wide range of partners from industry, policymakers, regulators, law enforcement, military, customs officials, civil society, and academia. Facilitating multi-sector engagement and dialogue is paramount to understanding evolving and emerging threats and to improving our collective response to identified needs. 

The Global Congress on Chemical Security and Emerging Threats (Global Congress) was conceived to promote this very goal of establishing a chemical security community of practice that transcends borders, sectors, and institutions. Launched in 2018, the Global Congress was established in response to a call by the Chemical Security Working Group of the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction to foster an international community of chemical security experts. 

The Global Congress is an international network of more than 1,600 experts who work together to address the threat of chemical and explosives terrorism. Now in its sixth year, the network continues to grow and expand, ensuring holistic and multi-sector dialogue as a collective response to the chemical and explosive threat worldwide. Since its launch, the Global Congress has gradually become INTERPOL’s largest counterterrorism initiative. By leveraging the Organization’s unique position, capacity, and capability to connect law enforcement globally, the Global Congress effectively brings together subject matter experts from all areas of the chemical security supply chain.

By providing a platform for multi-sector global cooperation and partnership, the Global Congress enables members to build relationships, exchange expertise, share important information on emerging threats and innovative best practices, and ultimately enhance capabilities. The diverse range of stakeholders facilitates a comprehensive approach to closing gaps that are being exploited by criminals and terrorists to acquire chemical and explosive precursors. 

Global Congress on Chemical Security and Emerging Threats, © INTERPOL

Cross-sectoral Partnerships

Best summarized by Catherine Colthart, INTERPOL’s Assistant Director for CBRNE and Vulnerable Targets: “Breaking down silos and strengthening our relationships across every area of the chemical supply chain is the only way we can secure dangerous chemicals from getting into the wrong hands. Chemical security is a global responsibility, and the focus of this network remains in supporting the partnerships that enable law enforcement and the international community to tackle this threat effectively.”

Cross-sectoral partnerships formed within the network have been conducive to several important success stories, and connections established through this forum have been instrumental in the sharing of important and time-sensitive information, which has in turn yielded stronger operational results. For example, partnerships established within the Global Congress have been instrumental in heightening the number of INTERPOL Purple and Orange notices published by member countries. 

Owing to these relationships, imminent threats to public safety and information on modus operandi can be processed and published in demonstrably short timeframes, thus leading the information to be disseminated to INTERPOL’s 196 member countries in a timely manner. In addition, several network members from private industry and law enforcement have identified shared goals and began collaborative relationships to address chemical security challenges. 

A private chemical company in the United States improved its policies and procedures for transporting chemical goods following the 2022 Plenary Meeting. This came as a direct result of sharing best practices and viewing INTERPOL’s awareness raising video, ‘The Watchmaker’, which highlighted potential vulnerabilities across the supply chain.

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it is important to ensure that key actors in the field of chemical security regularly meet and exchange information, to provide consistent input to global dialogue. This is achieved through regular participation at the Global Congress Plenary Meetings (GCP). The GCP Meeting is an integral convening point for the network, enabling members to discuss the latest trends and threats, as well as effective best practices being employed worldwide.

The 2023 Global Congress convened in Bangkok, Thailand, © INTERPOL

Building Bonds, Breaking Barriers: Five Years of Chemical Security Excellence 

In October 2023, the fourth GCP Meeting brought together more than 300 chemical security experts from over 80 countries in Bangkok, Thailand. As the Global Congress celebrated its fifth anniversary, the 2023 event constituted the largest event to date and saw a significant expansion of members from across untapped regions and sectors. The meeting provided a platform for new and existing network members to engage in collaborative and productive dialogue to improve chemical security globally. 

Experts from law enforcement, military, industry, international organizations, government and regulatory agencies, and academia convened to share information, case studies and best practices on issues related to risk management, public/private partnerships, and challenges in implementing effective chemical security. 

Under the theme of ‘Chemical Security in Action’, the plenary meeting also focused on emerging threats including the nefarious use of 3D printing, biological toxins, pharmaceutical-based agents, and artificial intelligence (AI). Presentations highlighted the potential risks of AI as well as how it may be used as a preventive measure to counter chemical and explosive threats. Moreover, the network examined case studies and success stories of how the latest innovations in technology and cybersecurity can be used to proactively detect and thwart cyber and physical threats. 

The importance of public/private partnerships was at the heart of the dialogue, with presentations highlighting several success stories from bolstering these partnerships and how this has been achieved through the Global Congress Network. Law enforcement officials and industry pioneers provided insights into technological advancements including tools, platforms, and practices used to detect and ensure the secure transport of dangerous goods and materials and how these procedures can support the prevention of diversion of hazardous materials. 

The meeting agenda was highly driven by the established call for abstracts process for the GCP Meetings, which enables the most pertinent topics to be brought to the forefront of the dialogue and gives the network a robust voice in developing the meeting agenda. This process continues to generate engaging, relevant topics that directly impact global chemical security while showcasing sector-specific capabilities, perspectives, tools, and research that cater to the evolving chemical security landscape. 


Global Dialogue Driving Global Solutions 

While the proven success of the GCP Meetings continues to increase, they remain only the centerpiece of a far-reaching mechanism. The overall success of the Global Congress is defined through the partnerships, information sharing, and continuous dialogue that happens outside the confines of the GCP Meetings. Additional activities and products are developed under the Global Congress umbrella. These aim to operationalize the network by leveraging sector-specific expertise and peer-to-peer exchange as well as promote an ongoing, dynamic dialogue through engagement in the additional activities organized under the Global Congress umbrella. 

A range of virtual and smaller in-person activities support the Global Congress network year-round, enabling consistent information sharing and peer-to-peer exchange. These activities naturally feed into the preparation of the annual GCPs by enabling further dialogue, promoting better understanding of regional developments in the threat landscape, and developing key themes in preparation for the wider, global discussion. 

Global Congress webinars provide network members with an opportunity to further explore chemical security issues, emerging threats, and recent events through deep dives into topics of interest to the network. The webinars are highly attended by network members eager to hear from experts discussing case studies, sector-specific mitigating strategies, and best practices that could improve chemical security worldwide. In April 2024, the Global Congress will launch their first webinar focused on gender inclusivity, aimed at raising awareness and gaining a greater understanding of gender-specific challenges that women face within the field of chemical security.

More than 1/4 participants at the 2023 Global Congress were women, © INTERPOL

Global Congress Network

Through Global Congress engagements, the Global Congress network is the foundation of an ongoing matchmaking process with the wider chemical security community. Members of the Global Congress network who identify knowledge and capacity gaps can request technical assistance and seek support from relevant skillsets across the Network. This process creates new systems that support peer-to-peer learning and capacity building. 

Building public-private partnerships and developing opportunities for collaboration across sectors are the core objectives of the Global Congress and is the measure for successfully operationalizing the network. It is only by tapping into the capabilities of the network that tangible operational and strategic-level outcomes can be achieved. While the Global Congress is greatly positioned to promote and foster partnerships as well as the secure exchange of knowledge and information among key stakeholders, the network continues to invest in further developing its capabilities and having an active role in driving positive change for global chemical security.

In support of these goals, the Global Congress Advisory Bodies – the Steering Committee and Industry Advisory Group – were established to provide strategic advice to the network and ensure that multi-sectoral and multi-national perspectives are reflected in Global Congress programming activities. Members help to identify emerging threats and trends across the different sectors and key areas. They also identify opportunities for collaboration among countries and agencies to counter threats to chemical security, including the means of achieving those objectives.

Established in 2022, the Steering Committee helps guide discussions on identifying opportunities for engaging in cross-sectoral collaborations to better counter security threats. The committee acts as a multi-sectoral, multi-national advisory body for the congress priorities and activities. The Industry Advisory Group (IAG) was established in 2020 to address the needs and challenges faced by the chemical industry sector and ensure stronger representation at Global Congress initiatives. Comprised of a select number of leading industry subject-matter experts, the IAG provides insights and advice on threats, trends, and opportunities for the private sector, as well as for the wider Global Congress network.

With the support of the IAG, the Global Congress is currently developing projects and targeted products that cater to the respective needs of the wider network. These products are intended to be used as resources for the wider Global Congress Network, in response to the needs and capability gaps of its members. 

The Global Congress has effectively etched its place in the global chemical security landscape. As we work towards becoming the world’s leading platform on chemical security, the Global Congress will continue to leverage the strengths of its membership and effectively address global needs and counter threats from the strategic level to the frontline. As we know, countering these threats cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Chemical security is indeed a global responsibility, and it depends on the active engagement and commitment of all countries, sectors, and stakeholders. 

The Global Chemical Congress is jointly led by INTERPOL, Global Affairs Canada, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and implemented in cooperation with the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. To join the Global Congress Network or for any other queries related to the initiative, please contact [email protected].

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