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overlapping stakes of security, defence and international responsibility in the field of convergent NBIC-type technologies (1) )
Details of the anticipated regulation
It is via a range of mechanisms- to create incentives, binding ones or
even repressive ones- that the various planks of the extremely vast field of converging NBIC-type technologies should be regulated/controlled/governed, with the "normative" level of intervention
to be situated at international level, at the level of the sovereign States or at regional level.
The challenges to security and defence brought about by NBIC-type technologies call for initiatives which are both global enough and specific enough to
allow the various types of operators, national and international, public and private, involved in the processes of developing NBICs to maintain their action capacities under all possible sets of
circumstances. Each of the agents involved in all or some of these activities must take the measure of the need to work to reinforce the overall coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of their
regulatory activities, of their operational programming, dispute settlement, risk assessment and management activities, by such means as:
* a better appreciation of the risk factors weighing on the performance of the financial, legal, scientific, technological and industrial
policies implemented by (according to cooperative or competitive modes, governed by the conflicting nature of their individual interests) the various strategic players at global or regional
level, the "technological States" and/or the "emerging" ones, and also the multinational companies and other international fund-providers which lead, abound and support the dynamics dedicated to
the development of N&N (and of NBIC) ;
* a re-examination of the treaties, conventions, regimes and other regulatory instruments in terms of laws
or standards dedicated to security and safety concerns, particularly those raised above, whilst above all not jeopardising them;
a systematic review of programmes underway, such as programmes being developed to assess the potential impact of
introducing NBIC-type technologies into the systems, equipment, goods and technologies they produce, again taking care not to jeopardise them ;
* an analysis of the international, multilateral and regional regulatory frameworks of a sectorial nature
(WTO, OECD, G8/G20, Economic Forum of Davos, etc.) which could have an impact on the regulatory processes more specifically dedicated, horizontally or sectorially, to the stakes of safety and
* and recourse to more effective forms of cooperation, coordination and exchanges of information, in order
to guarantee better management of the information needed for the tracing/marking of these risk factors in their proliferation throughout the entire length of the value chain, and also to ensure
the adequate prevention and management in the event of a crisis involving NBIC technologies.
It is quite clear that the anticipated reinforcement will be achieved first of all by the rapid plugging, at international, multilateral and regional
level, of the gaps in regimes, treaties, authorities, methods, definitions, lists, etc which exist today, by acting in such a way as to ensure that the characteristics of the NBIC-type
technologies (of their access, of their uses) are covered or that, in the event that this is not possible, additional specific measures, including vital conservatory measures, are
The same is also true of all acts, positions, definitions, instruments, lists etc established by the European Union as regards the issue of nuclear
safety and security, radiological, nuclear, biological and chemical security, and in terms of the transfer of goods and dual technologies, particularly in the framework of its strategy to fight
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
It can also be achieved by greater efforts to seek coherence in decisions adopted by the major international and multilateral regulatory institutes
whose job it is to take account of the impact on the world's society of global risks of a technological nature, and their more or less close correlations with other types of risks: geopolitical,
economic or environmental (with regard to this, see, amongst others, the work of the Global Risks Network). This implies the need to design, at the level of States and regional
institutions, appropriate organisations capable of reconciling each and every one of these imperatives throughout the entire value chain, from the prospective stage (exploratory and normative) to
public decisions on regulation.
Lastly, it can be achieved by observing major principles in favour of a responsible use of nanotechnologies, identified in Germany, the United Kingdom
and France, etc, and in the framework of international dialogue, particularly when it comes to risk assessment and management.
Even so, tackling regulatory activities surrounding NBICs from the point of view of risk alone is not in itself enough to establish the need for
regulation in a variety of its objectives, conditions and details.
We must look at the issue from three points of view :
* globally, identifying all the challenges (exposure) making up the possible interconnections of the risks and threats of a nanotechnological
nature to biosecurity, cybersecurity, etc, with other types of vulnerabilities;
* cybernetically, by carrying out a systematic analysis of the interactions between governing systems and
governed systems, a dimension which returns us to the concerns of co-ownership, accountability, impact, social acceptability and the phenomenon of resilience;
* and, lastly, dynamically, when trying to anticipate the dynamics by keeping an eye on the future and
reflecting on which paths are more favourable to the improvements which must be made to the current legal, institutional and political corpus so that the European Union and its Member States have
the weight they need in international debate on this issue.
We can already argue realistically that, certain exceptions aside (protecting the species as a species, human cloning, various issues of synthetic
biology and advanced life engineering, the marketing of certain non-inert nanotechnological vectors and potential dynamics), it is neither conceivable to recommend recourse to the absolute
primacy of a Malthusian principle of precaution, nor reasonable to think of a coherent body of universal and binding rules. It is, on the other hand, vital to adopt a full range of piloting
methods: an "accelerator" (implying innovation in terms of funding, as in any cycle of economic growth); leadership capacity, to avoid the pitfalls; an emergency plan to ensure the capacity to
develop legitimate constraints. By making sure that these instruments are developed and implemented at the right level, within the correct frameworks and by the best possible
Preparing a new action plan for the period 2010-2013, the European
Commission is striving to consolidate the political, legal, organisational and programmatic basis of the strategic framework of the European Union for nanotechnologies in the extension of the
strategy adopted by the Union in 2004 and the accompanying action plan for the period 2005-2009 :
* the United States is working to set in place a new strategy in the field of science and technology to offer a new strategic framework for the
design, development, sharing and use of new technologies, particularly in the field of nanotechnologies ;
* several European States (Germany and the United Kingdom in particular) are undertaking to implement a
raft of measures mostly designed to bring about the responsible use of nanotechnologies. At the same time, France is launching a broad national public debate on nanotechnologies, having decided
on its national strategy in the field of research and innovation ;
* the United States and the European Commission are carrying out joint reflection on a potential
transatlantic cooperation dimension for the regulatory dynamic (see the recent document by Chatham House, "Securing the Promise of Nanotechnologies", September 2009, proposing, amongst
other things, the creation of scientific 'building blocks' for the assessment of risks, the setting up of budgets for 'risk assessment', the institutional international governance mechanisms
including the developing countries, without retaining the possibility of bringing in a new and binding legal regime) ;
* UNESCO's World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology has called for the
"development, extension, or even the revision of the established ethical principles which today govern science, in the light of new circumstances and new challenges arising from issues which have
only recently been recognised as relevant by the international community, or which have arisen from scientific and technological progress which appears to threaten or destabilise the ethical
principles or mechanisms (for example, nanoscience and the various nanotechnologies, particularly those related to other sectors of scientific and technological development,
particularly life sciences)" (our translation) ;
* the International Dialogue on Responsible Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies, also known as
the "Alexandria Process", for which the European Commission has received a general mandate from the European Council, has experienced significant success, leading it to hold its fourth session in
Russia in February 2010.
All of these initiatives come on the eve of the- highly probable- implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, and at a time when, simultaneously
* France and the United Kingdom are entering the operational base of the implementation of their new national security strategies, which call for
increased integration between the military, civilian-military and civilian elements, implementing an 'intelligent and flexible' concept of power (seeking to express the new concept of "smart
* the European Commission is adopting a raft of measures on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
safety, the result of broad consultation reflecting a consensus on the part of all stakeholders to protect the citizens of the EU from CBRN threats; the principal measure consists of an EU action
plan in this area (prevention, detection, preparation and reaction) ;
* the Council of the European Union is taking a number of decisions in the framework of CFSP relating,
amongst other things, to support for the activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the fields of chemical weaponry
and of biological security and safety in laboratories respectively, in the framework of the European Union's strategy to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to support EU
activities aiming to promote controls on exports of weapons in third countries and the principles and criteria of the EU's code of conduct on exporting weaponry.
A Europe-wide recommendation, amongst others
In Europe, the multiplicity of legal acts, communications, studies,
instruments, reports and other recommendations has not been enough to hide the methodological gaps regarding the problem of regulating the entire raft of activities within the field of NBIC-type
converging technologies in the fields of security and defence- as the European Union has not yet made a commitment in favour of a dynamic in this area which is both voluntary and genuinely
global, unlike the United States, for example. However, the European agenda on nanotechnologies will do much to favour the due account being taken of the overlapping stakes of security, defence
and international responsibility in the field of converging NBIC-type technologies, to the extent that the 2005-2009 action plan is likely to be renewed for the period 2010-2013, with some
Among all of the recommendations which feature in a report we wrote on this subject for the French Ministry of Defence, there is one which seems to us
to illustrate the nature of the initiatives which must be taken as soon as possible in order to ensure that the various communities of parties, within the European Union - interested in questions
raised by the need for the overlapping stakes of security, defence and international responsibility in the field of converging NBIC-type technologies to be taken into account - may collectively,
and within the framework which has been designed to this effect, embrace all of these factors and try to bring to them, by means of dialogue, cooperation, coordination or any other appropriate
means, common European responses, with a view to the strategic decisions which the Union will be called upon to take over the coming years.
It appears judicious that the European Commission should take the initiative to launch a preparatory action from 2010, which will be dedicated to the
converging technologies and to synthetic biology, this latter field still requiring substantial investigation at Community level, particularly with regard to the overlapping factors of security,
defence and international responsibility, beyond the issues of toxicity and eco-toxicity. An initiative of this kind could be based on the precedent of preparatory action on security research,
premise for subsequent important European decisions in this area.
We believe that preparatory action of this kind should have the objective of initiating, within the Union, and extending those already in place for the
benefit of nanoscience, nanotechnologies and new materials, a global dynamic which is capable of understanding, upstream and downstream, all of the challenges brought about by the emergence of
converging NBIC-type technologies and synthetic biology, and to agree upon strategic orientations for: - research and innovation in these fields; - the characterisation of the objectives at stake
(definition, measure, etc); - marketing; - analysis (identification, characterisation, assessment, tracing) and management of risks and threats - direct or indirect- these bring with them; -
regulation at national, European, multilateral and international levels, and possible re-examination of existing regimes; - and the policies of the Union (competition, international trade,
internal market, industrial policy, foreign policy, security policy, etc.).
There is no doubt that the prior publication of an appropriate communication by the European Commission, or even a White Paper, would do much to help
set in place an initiative of this kind. This would require the broadest possible involvement of the Directorates General of the European Commission, the European Defence Agency and Community
agencies with competency in security matters.
Dossier published by Agence Europe : EUROPE/Documents No. 2525 : The overlapping stakes of security, defence and international responsibility in the field of
convergent NBIC-type technologies
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