CBNW talks to Anna Paternnosto, Director of Governmental Affairs, IB Consultancy and Vice President, CBRNe Society

Anna Paternnosto completed her studies with a Cum Laude Master’s Degree in International and Diplomatic Studies from the University of Trieste. Her work in the international relations area started at the Austrian mission to NATO in Brussels and has further developed with the start of her consultancy career in November 2015, which led to specialisation and management in governmental relations. Having contributed to the organisation of the NCT Event series worldwide since the start of her consultancy career, Anna has maintained links with CBRNe experts and government officials in all ranks, throughout the world

CBNW: First of all, we at CBNW congratulate you on being listed by Forbes Italy as one of the 100 young leaders of the future in the category Law & Policy. May we start by asking about how you became involved in the field of public policy, together with the area of CBRN?

AP: My ambition has always been to work in the field of defence and security. During my university career I dedicated a lot of my free time to managing the activities of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association of my campus in Gorizia, part of the University of Trieste (Italy). These initiatives involved conferences, workshops, visits to the Headquarters of NATO and US Army Garrison Italy.

During this period, I started building different stakeholders, while keeping in mind cultural differences as well as the geopolitical and security context. During the past four years at IB Consultancy and the CBRNe Society, I had the opportunity to travel to over 40 countries and interact with both civil and military CBRN representatives. Such an international vision definitely contributes to providing me with a unique perspective and influence from which both Italian and international stakeholders can benefit from.

CBNW: Please could you describe the main goals of your work as the Director of Governmental Affairs at IBC, and as Vice President of the CBRNe Society?

AP: The essence of my work lies in human connections. CBRNe is all about people working as a team. Law enforcement, fire brigades, armed forces, health authorities. They are all required to operate together during a CBRNe event. My work is to facilitate relationships between actors within the global CBRNe community with the goal of enhancing knowledge exchange and creating new alliances (or strengthening existing partnerships).

A large part of this translates into the creation of regular forums like the NCT events. Dfferent components of the events, conferences and workshops, the operational trainings, and the industry exhibition all contribute to this goal. One of my main missions is to offer civil and military CBRN first responders the opportunity to work together and be better prepared in case of an emergency.

For example, through NCT PRO training we offer teams from different countries and backgrounds the chance to operate together in a realistic CBRN scenario and learn from each other’s operating procedures. In a larger-scale CBRN event in any European country, the response will have to be multinational. If responders are not used to operate jointly, how can we expect an appropriate response?

CBNW: Could you outline and explain the importance of private-public cooperation? And together with this, the importance of independent organisations like the CBRNe Society and IB Consultancy?

AP: Government organisations are very often limited in their scope by bureaucracy and politics, while private companies require the support of governments to achieve their goals. Cooperation between the two spheres is crucial. Organisations like IB Consultancy and CBRNe Society have the advantage of not carrying any national affiliation and being independent from political stances.

Much of our work is positioning ourselves between governments. By representing an independent organisation, we can conduct projects that have a real impact in the CBRNe arena. Furthermore, the cooperation between the public and private sector is essential also in relation to the development of defense technology. How can the industry develop the best products for armed forces, law enforcement and civil first responders if they don’t get the chance to receive their input?

CBNW: How do you support governments in further developing their CBRNe capabilities – specifically, through the creation of knowledge-sharing platforms and international networking opportunities?

AP: I believe that one of the most important aspects of supporting governments in further developing their CBRNe capability is the ability to first understand properly the requirements, and then tailor the support based on these needs. Each country has its own way of seeing and dealing with threats. While less developed countries might need support in developing a base capability, others look at expanding their existing force.

My support in this field ranges from using my international network to connect government organisations that have mutual interests with each other, to facilitating government-to-industry relations. I believe that in order to increase response capability against the emerging CBRN threats, it is essential to establish forums that facilitate the alignment of industry’s R&D efforts with the end-user’s operational needs, promote mission-driven innovation, and enable technology to adapt more speedily to commanders’ requirements.

CBNW: Could you outline your greatest achievements in the past four years within the CBRNe Community?

AP: The biggest achievements in my career have always been related to instances when I realised that the results of my work had a tangible impact. For example, there are countries that for historical/political reasons don’t have official channels of collaboration.

Through the CBRNe Society and IB Consultancy we have facilitated meetings and other joint activities between countries that had no pre-existing framework in place for bilateral CBRN defence-related talks. When I saw that, through my work I had contributed to the establishment of an official cooperation between such countries, I felt that my efforts had made a difference.

CBNW: Finally, would you like to venture any thoughts on the future of this field, in the face of unexpected crises and other factors which pose challenges to CBRNe?

AP: CBRN preparedness is too often seen as a ‘luxury.’ Due to the low probability of a CBRN event, many countries do not invest enough budget in properly developing this capability.

History has shown us that many CBRN events are not resulting from terrorist attacks, they can occur at any time even in countries where the terrorist threat is fairly low. Hence, there is no country in the world that can afford being unprepared. Outbreak of infectious diseases – such as we are currently enduring in the form of COVID-19; chemical spills in factories; smuggling of radiological material; incidents in nuclear power plants… These are all scenarios that could happen in almost any country in the world and that would require immediate action by civil and military responders.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example. If three months ago anyone would have told us that we will be banned from travelling to most of the countries of the world, have to practice social distancing and limit our freedom because of a virus – we would all have thought we were in a science-fiction movie. Now we know it’s a reality. All of a sudden, the general public is being exposed to words like PPE – personal protective equipment – and decontamination.

The current situation demonstrates that every country needs to be prepared for the unexpected – and that we need to adapt to the ever-changing CBRN threat environment, whether it is the result of terrorist acts or natural and man-made disasters.


Photo credit: Anna Paternnosto visited the CBRNE Unit of the Colombian National Police in Bogotá in 2019.
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