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 High-Level Workshop on the Promotion of the Entry into Force of the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, held in Vienna from 28-29 October 2015. The workshop was organized in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which greatly contributed to the subsequent entry into force of the Amendment. 

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 implemented 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.

In 2016, UNODC published a new legal training curriculum module on The International Legal Framework against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism. The module is a technical assistance tool for training purposes that aims to familiarize policy and decision makers and counter-terrorism practitioners with the requirements of the relevant international legal instruments, and assist legislative drafters and criminal justice officials with their effective implementation.

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).

Precisely to assist States with the incorporation of relevant requirements in the area of nuclear terrorism, UNODC and the International Atomic Energy Agency, jointly model legislative provisions for the implementation of the criminalization provisions of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), and the CPPNM's 2005 Amendment. 

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".

Participants at the 2012 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism with a Specific Focus on Strengthening the Legal Framework (28 September 2012, New York) 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" and invited Member States to avail themselves of UNODC/TPB's successful and long established technical legal assistance programme and capacity-building activities. 

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.