COUNTERING CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL, RADIOLOGICAL AND NUCLEAR TERRORISM

The risk of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons, or related materials, being used by non-State actors for terrorist or other criminal purposes is one of the gravest concerns of our time. To prevent and counter this threat, the international community has pursued a common legislative framework.

Over recent years, UNODC has increasingly scaled up its support to Member States by:

  • Raising awareness on the importance and benefits of adhering to and fully implementing the international legal instruments against CBRN terrorism;
  • Assisting national policy makers and legislators in drafting and reviewing their relevant legislation upon their request;
  • Conducting capacity-building of criminal justice officials to ensure effective investigation, prosecution and adjudication of CBRN-related terrorism offences;
  • Developing and disseminating training tools; and
  • Enhancing international cooperation in criminal matters related to CBRN terrorism.

Legal framework

Seven of the nineteen international legal instruments against terrorism deal, to varying degrees, with CBRN terrorism:

Incorporation into national legislation of the criminalization obligations established by the seven international legal instruments related to CBRN terrorism may also contribute to the fulfilment by UN Member States of several obligations set forth by United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) on the risk of proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by non-State actors.

Mandate

The promotion of the universalization and effective implementation of these legal instruments is among UNODC’s priorities.
 
UNODC’s mandate in this regard was most recently reaffirmed by General Assembly resolution A/RES/74/175. The General Assembly requested UNODC “to continue, within its mandate, to develop its specialized knowledge of the international legal framework for combating chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism as enshrined in the conventions and protocols on terrorism in order to continue to provide assistance to requesting Member States in preventing and countering those forms of terrorism.

Technical assistance tools

  1. Legal training curriculum module on The International Legal Framework against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism. This training tool promotes the awareness of the need to adhere to the international legal instruments against CBRN terrorism and to incorporate their provisions into national legislation. It examines the relevant international instruments and showcases their importance as effective tools to prevent CBRN terrorism.
  2. eLearning module on The International Legal Framework against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism. This self-paced learning tool hosted on UNODC’s eLearning platform aims to familiarize policy-makers and counter-terrorism practitioners with the requirements of the international legal instruments against CBRN terrorism. It can also assist legislative drafters and criminal justice officials with their effective implementation. The eLearning module is available in all six UN official languages, as well as in Portuguese. Upon successful completion, participants receive a personalized certificate. For registration, please contact unodc-cbrn@un.org
  3. Webinar series on Countering Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism: International Legal Approaches and Criminal Justice Responses. This series of webinars, delivered through UNODC’s Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform, aims to:
    • strengthen the capacity of UN Member States in detecting and responding to the threat of non-State actors acquiring CBRN materials or weapons;
    • raise awareness on the international legal framework against CBRN terrorism; and
    • enhance capacities in investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating CBRN terrorism cases.
  4. Model legislative provisions on nuclear terrorism. Jointly developed with the International Atomic Energy Agency, this tool can assist States with the incorporation of the criminalization provisions of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. The model legislative provisions are available in section 14.3.1 of the IAEA Handbook on Nuclear Law, Implementing Legislation.

Radiological and nuclear terrorism

UNODC’s activities aimed at preventing and countering the threat of radiological and nuclear terrorism are currently conducted under two major projects:

UNODC’s outreach and technical assistance efforts have yielded concrete results. This has led to demonstrably enhanced awareness of the importance of the international legal framework against radiological and nuclear terrorism among UN Member States, and to an increased adherence to the relevant instruments. UNODC’s key role in this regard has been recognized in several fora.

Chemical and biological terrorism

UNODC cooperates with relevant international organizations to increase awareness and promote universalization of the international legal instruments that deal with chemical and biological terrorism:

Amid mounting concerns over the potential use of biological agents by terrorist groups, UNODC held an online event on the international legal framework against biological terrorism in September 2020. The event aimed to raise awareness on the existing international legal instruments addressing the threat of biological terrorism, and to discuss their synergies and complementarities.

Relevant events

March 2021
International legal approaches and criminal justice responses to the threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism were the focus of a webinar series conducted by UNODC between 2020-2021.

December 2020
UNODC delivered a webinar on “The Implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT): The Experience of Cameroon”. The webinar was conducted in French and focused on one Member State’s experience with the adherence to and national implementation of the convention.

November 2020
UNODC delivered an online workshop for English-speaking African countries which are not yet party to ICSANT in order to promote the universalization and effective implementation of the Convention.

September 2020
UNODC delivered an online awareness-raising event on the International Legal Framework Against Biological Terrorism.

UNODC conducted two webinars, held in French and Spanish, on countering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism. The webinars focused on UNSC resolution 1540 and its relationship to three instruments which are key components of the international legal framework on nuclear security: the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment.

July 2020
The Chief of UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch, Mr. Masood Karimipour, virtually briefed the Council of Europe’s Working Party on Non-Proliferation (CONOP) on the progress made by UNODC on the implementation of Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/1939 on Union Support for the Universalization and Effective Implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).

March 2020
UNODC, in cooperation with the IAEA, organized a country visit to Uganda to facilitate adherence to and implementation of the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) and the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A/CPPNM).

February 2020
UNODC delivered a national workshop on the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) in Manila, the Philippines.

UNODC and the Government of Barbados co-hosted, in Bridgetown, a regional workshop for selected CARICOM countries on the universalization and effective implementation of the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its 2005 Amendment (ACPPNM).

UNODC hosted a side event on its contribution to the prevention of nuclear terrorism. The event took place on the margins of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts (ICONS 2020), at the Vienna International Centre.

September 2019
UNODC delivered a cross-regional event on countering the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (by non-State actors) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

June 2019
UNODC delivered a regional workshop to promote the universalization and effective implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its 2005 Amendment for selected Latin American and Caribbean countries in Panama City.

May 2019
UNODC and UNOCT launched a project to promote the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) in Vienna.

April 2019
UNODC launched an e-Learning module on the international legal framework against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism

February 2019
UNODC held a national workshop on the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment in Luanda, Angola.

March 2018
A global workshop on the universalization of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and its Amendment was held in Vienna.

December 2017
Representatives of Governments and international organizations, including the UNODC, as well as experts gathered in Vienna to mark the 10th anniversary of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).

May 2017
UNODC announces the publication of a training module The International Legal Framework against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism, in the six official languages of the United Nations, which is part of UNODC’s counter-terrorism legal training curriculum.

January 2017
The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), in partnership with Canada and UNODC, held the Vigilant Marmot Legal Frameworks Workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia.

December 2016
UNODC participated in IAEA's International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions held in Vienna, Austria.

May 2016
The Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material entered into force.

October 2015
UNODC, in cooperation with the IAEA, held a 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.

August 2015
UNODC holds an Expert Group Meeting on the Development of a Training Tool on the International Legal Framework against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism.

April 2015
UNODC participated in a regional dialogue on nuclear smuggling prosecutions, organized by the United States Department of State in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

December 2014
Senior officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Palau, Philippines, Tajikistan and Tonga gathered at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss two key international legal instruments against nuclear terrorism at a UNODC-organized workshop.

For more information on UNODC’s activities and available assistance in this area, please contact unodc-cbrn@unodc.org