Reflecting on an Extraordinary Year – A message from the 2020 U.S. President of the Global Partnership

We began our Presidency planning for our traditional in-person meetings, where we would connect with old friends and meet new colleagues.  We could not have imagined what the world would be like in only a few months.  By mid-March 2020, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic made it unquestionably clear that the U.S. Presidency of the GP would look very different.  Accepting this new reality, while remaining steadfast to the continuity and mission of the Global Partnership, we went back to the drawing board.  While it took a few months and was a bit of a learning curve, by May we pivoted to the use of virtual and asynchronous platforms to host meetings, share ideas, and continue the work of the Global Partnership.

With the partnership and commitment of all GP members, international organizations (IOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United States is proud to have convened the first ever “virtual Global Partnership.”  We found that the virtual meetings could work to the advantage of all GP members, by allowing more frequent, cost effective, and robust discussions on a wide array of topics.  Virtual meetings allowed us to expand the audience to those who might otherwise have been unable to attend, eliminating travel costs and venue limitations.  In total, over the course of our Presidency, Global Partnership members met in seven plenary sessions, 23 Sub-Working Group (SWG) intersessional meetings, and nine matchmaking sessions.  

Yet, we know that numbers alone are not a measure of success.  Global Partnership members made some remarkable achievements in 2020.  To name just a few, under the Biosecurity SWG (BSWG), it was agreed to establish a Signature Initiative to Strengthen Biosecurity in Africa, which has the potential to deliver sustainable threat reduction impact through well-coordinated activities of a number of countries working towards the same goals.  The Chemical SWG (CSWG) renewed the CSWG Action Plan and kept the importance of upholding international norms against the use of chemical weapons at the forefront.  The Nuclear and Radiological SWG (NRSWG) emphasized the need to increase the number of women in nuclear security and saw a remarkable 50% funding rate for NRSWG project proposals.  Lastly, the CBRN SWG (CBRNWG) re-imagined the working group to address strategic trade controls, border security, and proliferation finance.  Taken together, the scope of the four GP SWGs now reflects all UNSCR 1540-related national implementation-related provisions.  

During our Presidency, the United States focused on leading a dialogue on making the forum more useful for all participants, which has led to more discussions of nonproliferation policy issues.  We also focused on the issues associated with the erosion of the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and held a Plenary discussion on this subject.  We emphasized the importance of non-programmatic contributions and in-kind support to WMD threat reduction and nonproliferation projects.  In this vein, we updated the annual GP reporting annex to make room for non-programmatic contributions, to capture all the good work GP members do around the world.  We issued a survey to seek input from GP members on their goals and priorities, so the GP can be refined and continuously improved.  Lastly, we established a secure-access web portal that will allow GP members to share sensitive information, find valuable resources, and continue dialogues on issues that are important to the Global Partnership.  

We are proud of the work Global Partnership members have achieved in 2020 and are excited to maintain the momentum we achieved together.  We look forward to handing the baton to the UK for their 2021 Presidency and supporting them in every way possible.