by Al-Sharif Nasser bin Nasser, Managing Director of the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS) and Head of the EU CBRN CoE Middle East Regional Secretariat, Amman
The Regional Radiation Detection Training Centre (RDTC) in Amman, Jordan, is the first facility of its kind in the Middle East. The Centre is a public-private partnership between the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS), the host of the Middle East Regional Secretariat of the EU Centres of Excel- lence initiative, and Jordan’s Energy and Minerals Regulatory Commission (EMRC), the country’s nuclear regulator. It was designed with the primary objective of providing the technical knowledge and practical skills necessary for stakeholders from across the region to counter the threat posed by radiological and nuclear materials.
The Centre’s importance in the region
The Centre is uniquely situated to fur- ther the region’s capability to identify and counter nuclear and radiological material outside of regulatory control, given the ongoing conflict in a number of countries in the border-dense re- gion, the loss of radiological material due to the conflict, and the presence of non-state actors (criminal and ter- rorist) who have depended on traffick- ing activities for financial or malicious purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 2018-2021 Nu- clear Security Plan has identified the nuclear security of materials outside of regulatory control as a stated priority interest of Member States. In particular, nuclear security detection and response architecture was cited as a requirement in order to “establish and sustain [States’] capabilities to detect criminal or intentional unauthorised acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control and respond to nuclear security events.” Aside from the deliberate instances of radiological and nuclear trafficking, the region has also been subject to the accidental trade in irradiated materials that pose public health risks, including but not limited to irradi- ated scrap metal and construction materials. It is in pursuit of these objectives, and in this regional context, that the Centre is operating.
Experts from Middle Eastern countries continue to be spon- sored for radiation detection training at various facilities across the US and Europe but have never received this level of practical training at a dedicated facility in the region. The only available alternative for hands-on training on this kind of equipment is at sites (ports, border crossings, etc.) where such equip- ment is already deployed. Jordan was among the first countries in the Middle East to install such portals and establish a comprehensive radiation detection architecture. It developed a marginal expertise that could subsequently be used to sup- port other countries in the region. The Radiation Detection Training Centre, as such, presents a novel opportunity for countries of the Middle East to sustain their nuclear security capacity building activities from a regional resource.
A model for future capacity building
From a system’s design perspective, there are a number of reasons why the Centre is a success story and a potential model for future capacity building endeavors:
1. Language and context
Research has proved that training offered in the trainees’ native language can be more effective than training in other languages, translated through simultaneous interpreta- tion. Likewise, countries of the same region face similar administrative, technical and environmental conditions and challenges which makes the design of training material, and the discussion with regional trainers, more closely aligned to the local context of the trainee. In acknowledgment of the role of cultural awareness in capacity building en-
deavors, and of the value of delivering training material in the local language, the curricula on offer at the Centre is developed and delivered by local instructors in the Arabic language.
2. Logistics and Economies of Scale
Travelling short distances to attend training with little to no visa requirements allows for shorter advance preparation time and shorter training time. In the case of the Centre, it is considerably easier and more efficient to have regional experts travel short distances to Amman for training, than travelling further to European or US destinations, where radiation detection train- ing is on offer but preparation would need to start months in advance. Likewise, it is more conceivable that a regional expert can come to Amman for a one-day training event following a two-hour flight, while the time and effort of having the same expert travel to a European or US destination makes the possi- bility of such a short event less likely.
3. Public-Private Partnerships
Partnerships of this sort can leverage the unique capabilities of public institutions and private enterprises. In the case of the Centre, the public-private partnership between EMRC and MESIS is unique because it leverages the technical capacities and expertise of a nuclear regulator dealing with radiation threats on daily basis and the expertise of a non-governmental, non-profit training provider that can offer innovative training services using Learning Sciences methods. To drive this point further, the Centre is currently in the process of receiving its ISO certification, possibly making it the only ISO certified training centre in the region (ISO-2993 for Learning Services Outside Formal Education).
4. Multiple international partners
Having more partners in the establishment of new training facilities maximises synergies, decreases costs, avoids duplica- tion, and increases the chances of sustainability. The Centre is funded through generous contributions by the European Union and the governments of the United States and Canada and will likely be used by each of them.
A unique model for training
In the ongoing quest of all stakeholders to consider sustainable approaches to training, the RDTC stands out as a unique model for the effective transition and embedding of training capabilities to partner countries. This disrupts the existing and traditional model
of training programmes, which are costly, inefficient, and do not use local and regional expertise.
Most importantly, such an approach also allows for the development of collaboration and dialogue on common threats in a region characterised by division and a chronic lack of cooperation. This could allow for the sharing and possible harmonisation of best practices in an apolitical context, as well as the development of long-term relationships on the expert-to-expert level.