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Italy/ESA/PSI WMD counter proliferation online workshop

 June 22, 2021 - June 24, 2021



Counter proliferation is defined as methods designed to interdict the transfer of Weapons of Mass Destruction  (WMD) or the materials and knowhow to make Weapons of Mass Destruction [1], according to the statement of interdiction principles established by the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Counter-proliferation focuses on intelligence, law enforcement, and potentially military action to prevent WMD acquisition and involves multiparty and international cooperation to enforce the control on dual use and emerging technology export and to provide information exchange to prevent illicit traffics of nuclear materials.

Designing measures to effectively mitigate proliferation threats is increasingly important to respond to the establishment of transnational proliferation networks, with an increased involvement of non-state actors in covert nuclear related trade activities. This requires a deep understanding of :

  • procedures applied by counter proliferation actors to exchange information within their cooperation agreements
  • practices on compliance of producers of goods and technologies and on the international supply chain, according to the so called export controls or strategic trade management, applicable in particular to the maritime transport sector which by the nature of its business has a global footprint and, in some situations, extraterritorial implications.

A combination of developments over the last years is creating significant opportunities for satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) to become an increasingly important and complementary tool to support counter proliferation investigations.

Earth Observation-derived information combined with positioning data are operationally adopted for maritime surveillance and monitoring.

ESA is promoting research and technical developments addressing a wide range of new capabilities, including innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based approaches, enhanced processing and platform capabilities enabling enriched intelligence analysis.

Those innovative developments are coupled with the growing availability of diverse EO acquisition systems such as satellite constellations which can be combined with positioning satellite data ensuring a wide range of datasets and more consistent updates.

However, systematic use of these capabilities is limited among counter proliferation intelligence practices.

This workshop represents the opportunity to gather experts in different fields to join forces with the objectives of exchanging on counter-proliferation operational practices and identifying how to make use of EO satellite resources to support related investigations and law enforcement actions.



The workshop is jointly organised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the European Space Agency and  Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Italy is a significant member of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and has an acknowledged record in supporting efforts to not only combat proliferation in its own right but to also use its good offices to reinforce complimentary international efforts and in particular, the PSI.

Similarly, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) PSI Office has likewise a considerable global counter proliferation footprint and in recent years has fostered the reinforcement of PSI’s arrangements and an evolving appreciation of the WMD proliferation threat.

The virtual workshop will be the first of two distinct activity phases.  It will seek to establish a baseline of knowledge and awareness which will facilitate an on the ground workshop, which will be held at the ESA Centre for Earth Observation – ESRIN.

The primary objective of the first phase of this two-part initiative is to highlight the roles of the key stakeholders in supporting global WMD counter proliferation. The European Space Agency will outline a way forward to implement new solutions for a wider uptake of EO into counter-proliferation investigations.


Proposed approach

The workshop will focus on a number of key themes, including:

  • the evolving proliferation risks and challenges – with an emphasis on the impact of emerging technologies and novel ways of exploiting the global logistic chain;
  • review of the continuing problem of dual use technologies and the need to find novel control methodologies above and beyond the traditional export control regulations;
  • the use of earth observation and complementary datasets to both enhance counter proliferation surveillance activities and exploit new forms of information fusion and analysis and finally
  • conduct a small Table Top Exercise in order to gain some informed insight into how earth observation satellites capabilities can support counter proliferation and indeed, inform new technical research and development.


Read through the agenda.

Please register here.


The registration will close on Monday 21 June at 12:00. Following that, you will receive the WebEx link to join the event.
For any last minute registrations or request for information, please contact


[1] Federation of Atomic Scientists (FAS), ‘Nonproliferation & counterproliferation’




June 22, 2021
June 24, 2021
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