Tackling Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism

In accordance with its mandate related to preventing and combating terrorism, the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC/TPB) is assisting States with the ratification and implementation of the 19 international conventions and protocols related to terrorism, including the seven legal instruments [1] out of the 19, that deal, to varying degrees, with chemical, biological, radiological and/or nuclear (CBRN) terrorism. The adoption of five new instruments in the short time period of five years - between 2005 and 2010 - generated an urgent and even greater need for specialized technical assistance services in this field. Consequently, the promotion of the ratification and implementation of the seven legal instruments dealing with CBRN terrorism is one of the priority areas to which the Terrorism Prevention Branch is increasingly devoting its efforts, and is doing so through a variety of means, including:

  • Awareness-raising on the importance of ratifying and fully implementing these instruments;
  • Assistance to national policy makers and legislators in reviewing and drafting national legislation;
  • Capacity building training of criminal-justice and law-enforcement officials for the effective implementation of these instruments (in particular with reference to investigation, prosecution and adjudication of terrorist related cases); and
  • Enhancing international cooperation in criminal matters related to CBRN terrorism.

One example of the work in this area is UNODC/TPB's Workshop on the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 16 to 18 October 2013.

Another example is the project of the European Union CBRN Risk Mitigation Centers of Excellence Initiative on prerequisites to strengthening CBRN national legal frameworks in several South East Asian countries, which UNODC is implementing as part of a consortium.

In addition, UNODC/TPB  continues to review, upon request, the relevant CBRN legislation of Member States on a frequent basis.

It is worth noting that incorporation into national legislation of the criminalization obligations established by the seven international legal instruments related to terrorism dealing with CBRN also contributes to the fulfillment by States' of several of their obligations under United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).

In his opening remarks at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the United Nations Secretary-General highlighted that "the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has an important role to play. It can help States to ratify the relevant legal instruments, incorporate their provisions into domestic criminal laws and build capacity to implement them."

Participants at the 2012 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism with a Specific Focus on Strengthening the Legal Framework welcomed the positive impact that UNODC's Global Project on Strengthening the Legal Regime against Terrorism has had in increasing the number of ratifications and achieving effective implementation of the international legal instruments against nuclear terrorism. UNODC invited Member States to avail themselves of the UNODC/TPB's successful and long established technical legal assistance programme and capacity-building activities.

In 2009, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism granted UNODC official observer status, highlighting that "UNODC's commendable work in addressing issues related to counter terrorism, including nuclear terrorism, has already had a positive impact in promoting implementation of the universal legal framework against terrorism, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1540 and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism".

In carrying out its activities relevant to combating CBRN terrorism, the Terrorism Prevention Branch works in close partnership with specialized international and regional organizations and entities, including the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit, the United Nations Security Council Committee established pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) and its Group of Experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

For more information, please contact: nuclear-treaties@unodc.org.



[1] 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, 2005 Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 2005 Protocol to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf and 2010 Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts relating to International Civil Aviation.