The very first edition of NCT South America took place from the 13th to the 14th of February 2018 at the W Hotel in Bogotá, Colombia and welcomed more than 80 regional and international delegates from the region. The amazing event brought together local Colombian and regional decision-makers, first responders, industry and experts relevant to countering Chemical Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and explosive (CBRNe) threats, de-mining as well as Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED). The broad program covered a range of topics relevant to CBRNe defense and security: from detection, decontamination to capability-outlines. The two fruitful networking receptions were some of the highlights of the event, since they allowed for one-on-one networking with relevant experts from the CBRNe Community in the region, bridging industry solutions with an increase in current capabilities. Overall, the event gave participants an opportunity to contribute to security in the region, in the context of the increased awareness of South America to the CBRNe threat, and the enthusiasm in developing defense capabilities. NCT South America 2018 was the ideal first step towards establishing NCT as the leading CBRNe event in the region, as it has once again continued to support all CBRNe stakeholders to make this world a safer and more secure place.
Networking, Opening Plenary and Session One addressing Global Counter-IED Threats
The event started off with the Ice-Breaking Networking Reception on the evening of the 12th of February, at the W Hotel Bar in Bogotá, allowing a pleasant introductory evening for our delegates, organizers and industry representatives to get to know each other in the ideal setting before the conference the next day.
The conference was inaugurated by Ms. Anna Paternnosto, CBRNe Society’s Vice-President of Governmental Affairs, thanking our event partner and chairman Mr. José Zea Aguero, President of Centro de Informacion Quimica (CINQUI) from Perú, and expressing gratitude for the support of the Policía Nacional de Colombia, as well as sponsors and participants for making this event the success it was. NCT South America 2018’s chairman opened the conference stream, giving the floor to Lt. Col. Marco Antonio Artica Tome, Northwestern Commander of Honduras Fire Brigade. It was followed by Lt. Col. Alexandre Marcos Carvalho de Vasconcelos’s account and input, as Commander of the 1st CBRN Battalion of the Brazilian Army, presenting the Battalion’s experiences of CBRN defense in the context of the High Visibility Events (HVEs) in Brazil, from the FIFA World Cup in 2014 to the Rio Olympic games in 2016, and Mr. Alberto Sanchez from Bruker Detection concluded the addressing approaches and solutions to HVEs. Finally, the second conference session after the opening welcomed Mr. George J. McKerrow, Director of Training at MAC 7, describing and analyzing the continuously evolving global IED threat worldwide. He also provided some specific examples in Colombia, which was a highlight, -including IEDs used by illegally armed groups in the latest attacks on Police posts and stations in January and February of this year. It addressed an ongoing theme throughout the event: non-state actors in countering CBRNe and IED threats.
Afternoon First day: Forensics, Detection and CBRNe Capability building
The afternoon of the first day focused on the forensics and detection challenges relating to new trends in CBRNe threats, C-IED and drug detection. Maj. Cuadros Veloza kick started the session as the Head of the International Center for Strategic Studies against Drug Trafficking of the National Police of Colombia, whilst input from the Attorney General’s Office Colombia, noted recent difficulty in detecting synthetic drugs and its use in Forensic evidence. Finally, Mr. Pérez Triana, from the Colombia National Police’s School of Criminal Investigation highlighted challenges for Technicians in Explosives in the Forensic and Experts in Colombia; by presenting an invaluable contribution outlining the difficulties in providing forensic support specifically in the case of IEDs.
The final session of the first day summarized current CBRNe defense capabilities where the strategic approach of the National Fire Department of Colombia was complemented by Chief Intendent Rico Meneses’ presentation, as Coordinator of the CBRN Unit and Explosives Technician of the Colombian National Police. Mr. Adolfo Cristanini, CEO and President of Cristanini, concluded the day with an outline of state-of-the-art decontamination systems including an interesting case study of a Maserati decontamination vehicle. Finally, a highlight of NCT South America 2018 for all participants, was the NCT Drinks Reception in the Exhibition Area. It allowed for delegates to mingle over a glass of Chilean wine in the exhibition area, exploring the state-of-the-art technologies offered by our sponsors and exhibitors whilst discussing the themes addressed in the conference stream during the day.
Second day: Civil and Military Response to CBRNe Threats, Emerging Infectious Disease and Demining
We kick started the conference sessions of the second day by investigating Civil and Military response to CBRNe Threats. This was key to having a diverse input for the capabilities and challenges in the region from Mr. Jairo Larrarte, Director of Emergency Response from the El Dorado Airport, the Colombian National Police and finally a perspective from the Peruvian Navy, as Commander Garcia Teodor outlined the response mechanism as Sub-Director of Land Transport. The session was followed by an interesting panel discussion from the public mediated by our Chairman Mr. Aguero, further assessing challenges in response mechanisms and equipment.
Following the morning breakfast networking reception, NCT South America 2018 welcomed Dr. Eduardo Quezada, from the National Center for Epidemiology, Disease Prevention and Control, Ministry of Health in Peru. Furthermore, Col. Claudia Patricia Méndez Bejarano, an official of the Directorate of Health (DISAN), at the National Army of Colombia outlined some differences in the ‘Bio’ response giving perspectives from both the Civil and Military sides. In the afternoon, anti-personnel mine decontamination in the context of peace and war was thoroughly discussed by Lt. Col. Fiallo Vasquez, Commander of the Engineers Battalion, Army of Ecuador, offering perspectives from a military standpoint from the Military side. Mr. Christoph Harnisch, on the other hand, Head of the Delegation in Colombia, ICRC, offered a humanitarian coordinator perspective, and finally, Col. (ret.) Pataquiva García, Advisor to the Directorate for Integral Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DAICMA) Colombia highlighted some challenges in the political context, from the Presidential initiative. The discussion brought together perspectives on demining in light of peace agreements in Colombia, and the lessons that can be learnt from the Ecuador and Peru agreements, where coordination between relevant institutions is key, an element continuously addressed throughout the sessions.
Closing: Future of CBRNe in South America
Finally, NCT South America 2018 addressed topics related to how the region should move forward from the difficulties encountered by the Colombian Army. An example noted was the development of CBRNe capabilities of Militias and the need to adapt to these eventual threats, specifically in the context of C-IED, whereas the Attorney General’s Office of Colombia, outlined difficulties in illegal mining. The Colombian National Fire Brigade further noted the National norms that need to be implemented in terms of HazMat protection.
In all, the need to further develop CBRNe capabilities, through inter-institutional as well as international cooperation was apparent. From a regional perspective or a broader Latino-European perspective. Furthermore, it was clear that the threat of CBRNe in the region is a reality for Colombia and other nation states including Brazil, and Argentina among the others need to prepare for. NCT South America 2018 provided a perfect opportunity to expand the CBRNe network in the region, bringing together high-level speakers, delegates and industry representatives to make this world a safer and more secure place. We would like to thank all the participants contributing to making it the best CBRNe and C-IED event in South America! We hope to see you again for another amazing NCT South America in 2019!
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