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Participants at the Contact workshop.

CONTACT Southeast Asia: Regional RN Detection and Response Table-Top Exercise and Final Event



The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has successfully completed the first phase of the groundbreaking CONTACT Southeast Asia project with a three-day workshop held in Boracay, Philippines, from 21 to 23 February 2024, that set the foundation for the next stage.

The project aimed to bolster the capabilities of law enforcement and intelligence officers in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), and the Philippines to combat radiological and nuclear (RN) trafficking through intelligence-led operations.

The workshop included a table-top exercise focusing on regional cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement and intelligence agencies from partner countries. It also comprised a full day of discussions covering various critical topics, including case study analysis, security threats and ways to mitigate them, as well as reflecting and planning.

Participants immersed themselves in a case study involving the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials. The scenario revolved around playing cards contaminated with iodine-125, revealing an organized criminal network operating in Southeast Asia with global implications.

Participants discussed traditional and emerging security threats in the region and explored initiatives undertaken by regional entities such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM) – represented by Lao PDR, ASEANTOM Chair for 2024 – and international partners like the United States Department of Energy (DoE).

The session allowed inter-agency teams from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and the Philippines to reflect on the project's impact and outcomes. It addressed the remaining capacity-building needs and collaborative actions required to foster regional cooperation mechanisms.

The event culminated with an innovative "fishbowl" process that was employed to foster inclusiveness and full participation in developing a strategic roadmap. Through mixed group discussions, participants identified three specific mechanisms and procedures to advance regional cooperation. Rapporteurs defended the identified measures, ensuring their incorporation into the final roadmap.

Partner countries unanimously agreed on three key priority actions to enhance regional cooperation:

  1. Developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a focus on sharing information concerning RN trafficking incidents.
  2. Establishing an Alumni Network comprised of practitioners who underwent the CONTACT train-the-trainers process.
  3. Organizing Annual Regional Workshops, training, and table-top exercises to share experiences, best practices, and information, building a community of counter RN trafficking experts.

To achieve these goals, partner countries emphasized the need for continuous collaboration with UNICRI and expressed their reliance on donor support. The outcomes of this workshop mark a significant step forward in fortifying regional cooperation against the threat of RN trafficking in Southeast Asia. UNICRI remains committed to supporting partner countries in their efforts to combat this critical issue.

In addition to UNICRI and six representatives from each of the project partner countries, the donor of the initiative Global Affairs Canada, and the US Department of Energy participated in the event.