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EU CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative


Location: Brussels, Belgium 


Who: EU regional Centres of Excellence, focusing on strengthening regional capacity to mitigate CBRN risks.

The EU CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative was launched in 2010 to strengthen the international capacity of countries outside the EU to mitigate chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) risks. It is implemented and funded by the European Commission in cooperation with the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. These risks can be intentional, accidental or natural. The Centres of Excellence (CoE) state that CBRN incidents can involve all or some of the following characteristics:

  1. Potential for mass casualties
  2. Potential for loss of life
  3. Potential for long term effects
  4. Creation of an extremely hazardous environment
  5. Can be extensive and cross-border

Intentional incidents involve those carried out in war or with intent to cause political terror as well as dumping and releasing such materials to avoid regulatory requirements. The EU recognises that the number of bomb attacks with CBRN materials is relatively low, partly due to the difficulty of obtaining and using such materials. The CoE recognise that the lack of coordination and preparedness at national levels and fragmentation within a region can have disastrous consequences.  The CoE framework aims to “provide for cooperation and coordination between all levels of government and international partners.” It is estimated that the Initiative cost EURO 95 million for the 2007 – 2013 period.

The CoEs work with countries to help them to develop CBRN action plans, policies and project proposals. They increase local ownership, local expertise and long-term sustainability in order to strengthen regional security, through a “dynamic network” that continues to evolve. The Initiative has eight regions, each of which is headed up by a secretariat. Every country involved in the initiative has a National Focal Point to represent it, and a National Action Plan is developed in order to come up with an “integrated and effective CBRN policy that is in line with internationally agreed standards.” The CoE work with countries where there are gaps in the Action Plan, developing tailored regional projects. The Initiative is relatively extensive, involving 52 partner countries and 25 further potential partner countries. Partner countries include Morocco, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Ukraine. The CoE have trained more than 2,200 people, and have carried out 337 project events since its launch in 2010.

The projects carried out by the CoE enable countries to implement measures to prevent, prepare for, and respond to CBRN risks and attacks. Such projects include training first responders, addressing gaps in legislative frameworks, tackling the illicit trade of CBRN materials, and planning post incident recovery measures.

An example of the projects being carried out by the CoE include the current Export Control Outreach for Duel-Use Items, a project with aims to “enhance the effectiveness of export control systems of duel-use items in the partner countries taking into account the regional dimension.” This project is working with Jordan and Kazakhstan to reduce to risk of proliferation, including by strengthening national and regional capacity in the field of duel-use export controls. The project began in January 2014, and is scheduled to last 48 months with a budget of EURO 3,626,410.

Another project, the EU Outreach Programme 2015-2017 on Export Control of Dual-Use Goods, involves 20 countries, and aims to contribute to the “creation, consolidation or updating of effective export control systems for dual-use items in partner countries.” Countries involved in this project, which has a budget of EURO 1,999,300, include Lebanon, Pakistan, and Ukraine.

This profile is part of AOAV’s investigation into counter-IED (C-IED) actors around the globe. To see the list of all C-IED actors recorded by AOAV, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE). To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here.