On 26 and 27 January 2023, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) held a two-day workshop in Rabat to consult with Moroccan authorities in charge of preventing and combating the threats stemming from potential chemical weapons attacks conducted by violent non-state actors. The workshop was conducted within the framework of the project “ATLAS – Preventing non-state actors from planning and carrying out chemical weapons attacks through intelligence-led operations”.
Over the course of the two days, UNICRI’s experts met with representatives from more than 30 state authorities with different mandates pertaining to preventing, countering and responding to chemical risks and discussed issues such as legal and regulatory frameworks; inter-agency coordination mechanisms; available assets (existing training, human resources, expertise and equipment); international cooperation; and future actions.
The workshop consisted of plenary sessions with relevant agencies and departments as well as bilateral meetings to address pressing issues and specific needs. While UNICRI’s intervention focused on the project and its different phases of implementation, national authorities delved into the legal and operational frameworks, highlighting in particular their current roles and mandates vis-à-vis chemical security. Bilateral meetings constituted the opportunity to assess the threat posed by chemical weapons attacks (including through the analysis of different hypothetical scenarios) and to discuss potential topics to be included in the training curriculum on intelligence-led operations. On the second day Moroccan authorities also ran a scenario-based exercise on inter-agency cooperation and response in the event of intelligence information related to the imminent threat of a chemical attack being received.
Representatives from the following authorities attended the event: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; the General Directorate of Civil Protection; the National Authority for Financial Intelligence; the Ministry of Interior; the Armed Forces; the Customs and Excise Administration; the General Directorate for National Security; the Ministry of Justice; the Military Tribunal; the Royal Prosecutor‘s Office; the Ministry of Industry and Trade; the General Directorate for Territorial Surveillance; and the Royal Gendarmerie.
The consultations were particularly fruitful and contributed to the identification of common goals and actions to strengthen national, international and regional cooperation, share knowledge, and enhance capacities to prevent chemical weapons attacks. The participants expressed appreciation for the structure and topics of the workshop and welcomed UNICRI’s support in providing capacity-building in a niche area – that of undercover operations and intelligence sharing – which will contribute to further maximizing existing capabilities at the national level.
As a next step, UNICRI will finalize the training curricula on intelligence-led operations to thwart chemical weapons attacks which are specifically developed for security, law enforcement and intelligence officers and start arrangements for the train-the-trainer session that is expected to be delivered in the third quarter of 2023.
About ATLAS: Preventing non-state actors from planning and carrying out chemical weapons attacks through intelligence-led operations.
Atlas is a pilot project which aims to prevent non-state actors from planning and carrying out chemical weapons attacks by developing and implementing training programmes in North Africa. Designed within the framework of the European Union (EU) Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative, the ATLAS project is implemented by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and with the financial support of the United States (U.S.) Department of State (DoS).