Speech at Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

2009 meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to The Hague, the world capital of peace and justice. The Netherlands is proud to be hosting this year’s plenary meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. I would like to thank the co-chairs for their strong leadership in moving the Global Initiative forward. Mr Safonov, Dr Kang: we look forward to working with you over the next few days to ensure that this year’s outcome is a successful one. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism have joined together to organise this event: I would like to thank Erik Akerboom for his generous support throughout the process.

(the threat of terrorism, and of nuclear terrorism in particular)

We know that terrorists can attack anyone, anywhere at any time. After 9/11, the world has seen gruesome terrorist attacks in London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai and many other places. The casualties are mostly ordinary, unsuspecting citizens, going about their daily business. This shows to tell us that terrorists have no regard whatsoever for the values that we hold dear and seek to uphold or for the law that is a fundamental pillar of our society. These horrendous acts deserve northing less than a full and unconditional condemnation from all nations around the world. The fact that so many of you are gathered here today clearly reflects such a condemnation.

We know that there are terrorist organisations that aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Over time terrorist groups have shown that they are able to develop new tactics, new explosives and new ways of using them. We should not close our eyes to the security risk that they also might find innovative ways to explore ways of using weapons of mass destruction or components of these weapons for heinous activities. Changing technology and the theft and smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the past.

In fact, the chances that nuclear materials will be misused by malicious elements are higher today than at any previous point in history. Last May, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, expressed his concerns to the Guardian newspaper. He said: ‘We are worried because we still have 200 cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear material a year reported to us.’ And he also spoke about the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan, a country that possesses nuclear weapons. These are no small concerns. Because the consequences of the misuse of nuclear material are beyond our imagination. A nightmare we may never wake up from. Nuclear terrorism is a threat with such grave consequences that we must all do everything in our power to make sure the people of the world never have to face such an attack. We must be prepared for the worst. We must do our utmost to ensure the security of our citizens.

(ensuring the security of our citizens: nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation)

There are several sides to ensuring the nuclear security of the world’s citizens. Nuclear disarmament, of course, would be most effective. I have repeatedly pleaded for disarmament and the abolishment of nuclear weapons, underlining that this is a long term objective. At the last NATO summit it was agreed to review the strategic concept of the Alliance, which also implies taking a fresh look at the role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s strategy. We are ready to work this out together with our NATO-allies.

The discussion on nuclear disarmament has received a new impulse through the speech President Obama made last April in Prague. His call for a nuclear free world, together with the clear responses from Moscow, have already created a new dynamic in the field of disarmament negotiations in Washington, in Moscow and in the relevant international fora. Today we are sitting at the table with the main partners who together possess 95 % of all nuclear weapons. As a result, a new START treaty between the US and the Russian Federation may be within reach. Such an agreement would have an enormous impact on further reductions - and therefore also on the threat of nuclear terrorism. The same holds true for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would stop further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Such a treaty will make substantial progress possible with regard to nuclear disarmament and greater safety concerning the threat of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. The Netherlands will give absolute priority to the negotiations on such a treaty, which finally seem be taking off now. We stand ready to facilitate this process in every way we can. Disarmament is core when we want to make progress. Under the current political climate I am optimistic, but we will have to work hard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In recent times, nuclear energy has become more and more important. The “nuclear renaissance” is not just a trend, it is a fact of life. For several reasons more and more countries want to use, develop or import nuclear energy. Diversification of the energy mix, reduction of CO2 emissions and a general increasing demand for energy are all valid reasons to invest into nuclear energy. The Dutch government regards nuclear energy as one of the available instruments to combat climate change and reinforce energy security. A decision on the future of nuclear energy in the Netherlands is presently being prepared. Many developing countries see nuclear energy as an important way to deal with their fast growing energy needs. Worldwide, 45 new nuclear power plants are under construction. Of course, we have to make sure that non-proliferation standards and safeguards like the Additional Protocol are respected. Great powers and possibilities come with great responsibilities.

Because in today’s world, the dangers of nuclear proliferation are more visible than ever before. The recent test by North Korea shows that despite all diplomatic efforts the country continues to play the role of a potential threat and a possible proliferator of nuclear weapons. North Korea has also been an active proliferator of missile technology. Pyongyang leaves the international community little choice but to put more pressure on the regime through new sanctions. I have said before that their reckless behavior must not go unanswered – the international community will not be intimidated by such an irresponsible show of force.

It is clear that the proliferation crises make it essential that we strengthen the non-proliferation system; institutions like the International Atomic Energy Agency have an important role to play in this regard. The Netherlands will join the Agency’s Board of Governors in the autumn, and I look forward to a solid international effort to this effect.

(ensuring the security of our citizens: combating nuclear terrorism through GICNT and IAEA)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Guaranteeing nuclear security in general, and combating nuclear terrorism in particular thus remain fundamental concerns. In meeting that challenge, it is clear that we need international cooperation. We will achieve nothing if we do not work together. And that, of course, is precisely why the Global Initiative was established, three years ago. Within its framework, we can bring together experience and expertise; integrate collective capabilities and resources; and provide the opportunity for nations to share information and expertise.

For the Netherlands, the Global Initiative is crucial: our country is densely populated; we have many infrastructure hubs, such as Schiphol airport and the port of Rotterdam. We have a nuclear industry and we are actively engaged in international – and sometimes military – operations, which gives us a certain level of exposure. For these reasons, the Dutch government believes we should be alert and prepared. That is why we have allocated almost 100 million euros from our national budget to combating catastrophic terrorism. We see the Global Initiative as an extremely helpful platform to enhance our own preparedness.

We have set ourselves a daunting task. We must continue to improve the physical protection of nuclear material – and the security of nuclear facilities – and ensure that no one can simply run off with highly dangerous material that does not belong to them. We also need to monitor the illicit trafficking of nuclear material and radioactive substances so that terrorists cannot get their hands on them. And we must prepare for and mitigate the potential consequences of acts of nuclear terrorism. That means gearing up for the worst case scenario so that if the day should come, we will not be wholly unprepared. And we must make sure that law enforcement authorities pursue terrorists who seek to acquire or use nuclear materials – we cannot allow them a safe haven. Finally, we must strengthen our national laws so that terrorists can be prosecuted effectively. All this, the Global Initiative has set out to do through cooperation and capacity building. The Netherlands remains firmly committed to these goals.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The importance of the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the field of nuclear safety and security is undisputed. I am very pleased to welcome the Director of the Agency’s Office of Nuclear Security, Anita Nilsson, to our meeting today. The Global Initiative has liaised closely with the IAEA over the past three years and has found an extremely knowledgeable partner in your office.

Much like its member states, the Atomic Agency has worked hard in recent years to keep up with changing realities. After 9/11, it started drawing up plans of activities to improve nuclear security and to protect the world from nuclear terrorism. Just recently, on the 5th of June, the IAEA presented a new outline for its Nuclear Security Plan, covering the next four years. Of course, the international community needs to build support for that Plan. It is essential that adequate funding be made available for these projects, which will benefit all countries, especially the most vulnerable ones.

It is my great pleasure to announce that the Dutch government will continue its support to the Nuclear Security Fund. We have decided to contribute 250,000 euros to the new Nuclear Security Plan in its first year, in order to improve nuclear security and combat nuclear terrorism. Our contribution is thus aligned fully with the objectives of the Global Initiative. I am confident that the Initiative will also benefit from this contribution to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Plan. We also should look for possibilities to strengthen the NSF through private – public partnership. If only small part of the new nuclear powerplants would go to the NSF the work of the Atomic Agency could be strengthened enormously. We should discuss the possibilities for such on approach. Part of that is that we engage civil society and the business community more often in our discussions on non-prolilferation.

Before I hand over to the co-chairs, I would like to say few words about today’s and tomorrow’s program. This plenary meeting has a slightly different format. Together with the co-chairs we have tried to strengthen the plenary in two ways: first, by seeking greater involvement of civil society and in particular the relevant business sector. And second, by making our co-operation more concrete and practical. After today’s plenary session, we will break into four different working groups tomorrow. This should allow us to really focus on the practical aspects of our cooperation and share experiences and best practices. There will be working groups on exercises, on public-private partnerships, on the Global Initiative’s Information Portal and on equipment and technology. These groups are all designed to be as interactive and practical as possible.

The Rotterdam Customs Office and the Netherlands Forensic Institute, for example, have developed a realistic scenario that involves a dirty bomb. Their workshop will focus on investigative techniques that can help track down perpetrators. And it will underline the importance of nuclear forensic awareness. The Netherlands has a strong track record in lending forensic assistance to other countries; our forensic experts have worked extensively in Lebanon, for example. We offer such assistance because we want to contribute to the international legal order, and this is one way of providing tangible support. But a positive side effect has been the valuable experience that Dutch forensic experts have gained in real-life emergency situations. They will be happy to share their experiences with you – and are just as keen to learn from yours. I invite you all to join these working groups tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The British scholar and novelist C.S. Lewis once said that experience is the most brutal teacher. When it comes to combating nuclear terrorism, we do not want to learn by experience. So we will have to teach each other how to succeed. The willingness to work together and learn from each other, as witness this event today, is an extremely valuable start.

Thank you.