The independent resource on global security

11. Reducing risks by controlling possession and use of civil materials



The threat posed by mass-impact terrorism demands a multidimensional response that links diverse but synergistic contributions from state and non-state actors. Part of this response aims to ensure the peaceful use of civilian materials, equipment, knowledge and technology.

Arms control aims to manage the risk that attacks could be mounted by the armed forces of states; arms control agreements refer to state behaviour when defining what is prohibited or limited. Arms controls apply to items specially designed and developed for military use or to ‘dual-use’ items (items designed for civilian purposes that are controlled because of their military potential).

However, some items that have no military application—and therefore fall outside the scope of arms control—also need to be controlled. These items are purely civilian in their origin and technical specifications but could nevertheless be misused for harmful ends.

Many such items are in locations outside state ownership and control, particularly in the private sector. Any system developed to control them should not undermine economic activities by escalating business costs or distort markets by centralizing ownership and control in government hands. Furthermore, even though the security need is acute, governance solutions cannot be based on emergency powers, nor should they take extensive control away from civil society and put it into the hands of government. Given these challenges there is a growing consensus that business and government will increasingly have to work together as partners in building security. This partnership will have to develop gradually as awareness is raised, in different business sectors, of the corporate responsibility for security.

Under this partnership regulators need to create a more integrated set of rules to counter the threat of mass-impact terrorism and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the diversion of technologies provided for civilian purposes to unauthorized military use. Regulators will then need to be proactive in raising awareness about corporate security responsibilities across the business community at national, regional and global levels.

Voluntary, certified security standards for industry should become a part of total quality management within companies. Regulators and companies need to work together to create this set of standards. Existing processes taking place in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) could be the starting point for the development of a comprehensive family of security standards.

Dr Ian Anthony (UK) is SIPRI Research Coordinator and Leader of the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.