Nuclear and other radioactive material is widely used in numerous fields, including medicine, agriculture, industry, research and power production. Millions of radioactive sources are being shipped every year to improve people’s lives all around the globe. If not handled securely, however, these materials - as well as associated facilities - may fall in the wrong hands and be used for malicious purposes.
To support Member States’ response to these threats, UNODC continues to implement the European Union-funded project “To promote universalization and effective implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT)” across the globe. As part of these efforts, on May 8th to 10th, 2023, the UNODC organized a workshop in Nadi, Fiji for countries in the Pacific region. The workshop brought together approximately 40 participants from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
During the workshop, one expert emphasized that “materials do not commit crimes, people do” and noted that the ever-increasing transnational nature of such crimes requires a joint and coordinated response from States and the wider international community.
In this context, workshop participants explored the range of essential tools that ICSANT has to offer in preventing and suppressing terrorism and other criminal conduct involving nuclear or other radioactive material, thus improving security worldwide. Workshop sessions facilitated several discussions, with a particular focus on addressing how ICSANT provisions on criminalization, jurisdiction, the principle “extradite or prosecute,” and international cooperation can help deny safe havens for those who plan and carry out such offences. Through the active participation in a fictional case study, the audience was able to obtain a better understanding of enhanced international cooperation and other benefits of adhering to ICSANT.
In addition to ICSANT, there are multiple other international instruments in the ambit of nuclear terrorism and nuclear security in general. They include, for example, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, its 2005 Amendment, and UN Security Council resolution 1540 (2004). Synergies among them, as well as the role of respective international organizations regarding various aspects of nuclear security, were explored during the workshop thanks to the invaluable contribution of experts from the 1540 Committee Group of Experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency, INTERPOL, and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (Office for Disarmament Affairs). Civil society also plays a substantive role in promoting nuclear security worldwide, which was addressed in the presentations of experts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
As mentioned by many participants, becoming both party to and implementing ICSANT may take significant time and effort. However, as underlined by an expert from Saint Kitts and Nevis, it is helpful to have a “national ICSANT champion” and it is necessary to start the process without delay, even if this involves taking small steps. International assistance is of critical importance and therefore, the workshop sessions extensively covered various types of support that UNDOC and other organizations may offer to States upon request, such as capacity building, legislative assistance, e-learning modules and other tools and resources.