Nuclear technology is applied safely and peacefully in several ways across the globe; however, it may also be misused for terrorist or other criminal purposes. To prevent and suppress offences involving nuclear or other radioactive material, it is essential that all States establish a strong legal framework. To date, only half of African countries are party to the international legal instruments which criminalize these offences, exposing the continent to the risk of becoming a safe haven for terrorists and other criminal actors.
UNODC has a long-standing history of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the promotion of the international legal instruments against nuclear terrorism, within their respective mandates. Recent examples of this fruitful partnership are two events organized by the IAEA in Africa to which UNODC was invited to contribute.
On 28-31 March 2023, UNODC provided expertise to the IAEA regional workshop to promote the universalization of the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material (CPPNM) and its amendment (A/CPPNM), which took place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and gathered more than 30 participants from over 20 African States. Most of these countries are not yet party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), a key legal instrument in the field of nuclear security that UNODC has been supporting since its adoption in 2005. UNODC delivered presentations on ICSANT, benefits of adherence and synergies with CPPNM and A/CPPNM, as well as participated in a panel discussion and facilitated group work on a fictional case study. The event also provided an opportunity to engage with representatives of participating States and discuss the technical and legislative assistance services that UNODC can offer in connection with both the universalization and effective implementation of ICSANT, as well as of the CPPNM and the A/CPPNM.
Subsequently, UNODC contributed to the IAEA national workshop to raise awareness on the A/CPPNM, which was held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 3-5 April 2023, which brought together some 30 national stakeholders.
In the margins of the event, UNODC staff seized the opportunity to sensitize relevant policy and decision-makers to the importance of adhering to ICSANT, as well as its benefits. In this regard, UNODC staff met bilaterally with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Solicitor General and Minister of Justice, and briefed them on the support that can be offered to Sierra Leone within the context of a European Union-funded project to promote the universalization and effective implementation of the Convention.
UNODC’s contribution to both events, the country visit, and the bilateral engagement with Sierra Leone was made possible thanks to funding from the EU under the above-mentioned project.