NESA Center Alumni Publication
Dr. Arslan Chikhaoui – Chairman of NSV Studies and Consultancy Center, Member of the Expert Advisory Council of the World Economic Forum and the “Track 2” Task Force of the United Nations System (UNCSR-1540), and NESA Center for Strategic Studies Alumni.
10 October 2023
Algeria was elected by the 67th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 30 September 2023 as a member of the Agency’s Board of Governors for the period 2023–2025 after receiving the support of the African Group of Permanent Delegates to International Organizations in Vienna. Algeria’s election to this organisation is part of the new dynamic that Algerian foreign policy has been experiencing since the year 2021.
This election added to Algeria’s previous achievements, in particular, its election as a member of the Human Rights Council and as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the years 2024 and 2025. It is fully committed to representing Africa in coordination with the other members representing the continent, defending its interests, and benefiting from the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in line with the objectives of sustainable development.
According to the IAEA, resolutions regarding nuclear and radiation safety, nuclear security, and improving the efficiency of the Agency’s safeguards have been adopted by the 67th annual IAEA General Conference. Among other resolutions, a commitment was made to strengthen the IAEA’s technical cooperation activities, as well as those related to nuclear science, technology, and applications.
Algeria, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in favor of weapons of mass destruction free zones in the MENA and Sahel region as well as in the Mediterranean, marks its unwavering commitment both in favor of non-nuclear proliferation and the fight against CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) terrorism, in North Africa and the Sahel region, and its development of a purely civilian and peaceful nuclear program. It is therefore committed to promoting a regional and continental WMD Free Zone.
Furthermore, as a State belonging to the MENA and Sahel geopolitical, Algeria is engaged in the fight against the financing, acquisition, and dissemination of WMD. This position is linked to a number of historical policies; Algeria has suffered and continues to suffer from the effects of the French nuclear tests of 1962–1963 in the Sahara (In-Ecker and In Salah in particular) and antipersonnel mines disseminated by the colonial administration since 1956 along the military defense lines Challe and Morice bordering Algeria with its immediate neighborhood.
Furthermore, although not covered by the WMD conventions, Algerians suffered attacks with chemical weapons (napalm) during the War of Independence (1954–1962). Also, during the 1990s, Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO) attempted to use biological agents to contaminate dams and water towers in the center of the country.
It is clear that not only is the non-proliferation of WMD at the regional, sub-regional, and, by extension, on a continental level, in Algeria’s interest but that through its actions, it supports such an approach.
It is useful to recall that Algeria is party to the Convention on Biological Weapons and Toxins (BTWC) signed in 1975, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) signed in 1995, and to the Convention on Chemical Weapons signed in 1995, as well as to implement the recommendations of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for the fight against the financing of these malicious actions.
Awareness of malicious threats from non-state actors connected to CBRN weapons began in the early 1990s. According to public sources, the first attempted attack in Algeria in 1994 aimed to contaminate drinking water reservoirs using botulinum toxin. In addition, several reports from international organizations and think tanks indicate that Al Qaeda affiliates have made multiple attempts to manipulate radioactive materials, poison, gas, and biological agents and that they have harmful capabilities. Algerian authorities have had to remain vigilant in facing CBRN terrorism precisely because Algeria has been confronted with these many insidious scourges.
However, Algeria is engaged in the process of national controls, both of fissile materials in the nuclear field and biological and chemical materials in application of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. Although there is already mandatory health quality control provided by specialized national and international agencies regulating the import and export of food and pharmaceutical products, the strengthening of preventive, scientific, and judicial capacities to combat radiological, chemical, and biological dual use.
With its strategy of diversifying its economy and promoting industrial development, Algeria will undoubtedly have to complete its legislation and regulations to combat the acquisition by VEOs of radiological, biological, and chemical weapons. The multiple decisions suggest that Algeria is looking into this situation to strengthen capacities in this area with the establishment of laws and regulations concerning the implementation of import, export, detention, purchase, and transport of pathogens and toxins.
It is clear that Algeria will continue to promote and support WMD non-proliferation at the African regional and continental level. It has already signed and ratified the Treaty of Pelindaba (South Africa), establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone on the African continent, and has participated since 2009 in the creation of the African committee on the nuclear energy compliance and verification mechanism.
With regard to CBRN threats, it appears from the various official declarations in international fora that Algeria intends to strengthen the development of international and regional cooperation on the following :
- Establishing legislation and regulations to prevent and combat nuclear, biological, and chemical risks and accidents in accordance with CBRN defense standards;
- Strengthening capabilities in response to a potential CBRN malicious attack;
- Raising awareness of the importance of the 3S principle (Safety, Security, Safeguard).
Undoubtedly, Algeria is aware that the region and, by extension, the African continent presents a complex and turbulent political environment for the control of CBRN weapons. However, there is productive common ground for exchange and cooperation. It is, therefore, according to many observers, that Algeria supports the regional dialogue potential of the proposed Helsinki Conference and, as a State of the MENA, Sahel, and Mediterranean region, it participates in promoting a regional security and safety zone.
Science diplomacy, as a legacy of the four Nuclear Security Summits (NSS) initiated by President Obama, remains key in raising awareness of WMD threats and the importance of the 3S principle as well as non-proliferation.
Furthermore, one of Algeria’s major challenges is to continue tirelessly to demand the identification and decontamination of radioactive material burial sites, which took place after the start of nuclear tests by colonial France in the Algerian Sahara. The dispute over French nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara in Reggane (Adrar region) and In Iker (Tamanrasset region), which took place in 1960 and 1966, remains a focal point. France, which carried out, between 1960 and 1966, a total of 17 nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara codenamed “Gerboise Blue,” the first bomb which exploded in Reggane (Adrar) had a power of 70,000 tonnes of TNT and is the cause of an ecological and human disaster. Declassified documents in 2013 reveal significant radioactive fallout extending from West Africa to Southern Europe with health effects such as cancers, congenital diseases, miscarriages, sterility, etc. To this, the impact on the environment must also be added, which slows down or even inhibits the economic development of the Saharan zones.
In short, Algeria’s recent election to the IAEA Board of Governors will help to consolidate its position and make nuclear non-proliferation for military use and the control of fissile materials a major challenge in line with its pacification policy of zones of conflict of varying intensity and continue to export stability, particularly, on the African continent.
The views presented in this article are those of the speaker or author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.