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. Recent threats have prompted countries around the globe to strengthen their capabilities to counter the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material being used for malicious purposes.
To support Member States’ response to these threats, UNODC is conducting a series of online regional workshops under the new EU Project Union Support for the universalisation and effective implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) which runs from July 2023 until June 2026. On 6 October 2023, UNODC held an event, the second in the series, targeting French-speaking African countries not party to ICSANT and bringing together senior policy and decision makers from the region.
Ms Marjoljn van Deelen, Special Envoy for Disarmament and Non-proliferation of the EU’s External Action Service opened the workshop by highlighting how the peaceful use of nuclear technologies in medical diagnostics, cancer treatment, plant breeding, insect pest control, food safety, land and water management, environmental research and many other applications played a key role in achieving many sustainable development goals.
Ms van Deelen underscored how relevant international instruments, like ICSANT, helped address the threat of nuclear and other radioactive materials being used for malicious acts, reiterating that “it is in our common interest that the fear of such events does not hinder the peaceful use of nuclear technologies in key areas to achieve the sustainable development goals and improve living conditions in many regions of the world, including in Africa. Therefore, I can only reiterate the call to join the Convention and help us move forward in achieving our common goal of universalizing the Convention and strengthening the architecture, culture and practice in nuclear security worldwide.”
UNODC experts informed participants on the status of adherence to ICSANT in Africa and provided an overview of the provisions within ICSANT that could effectively assist States parties in preventing and suppressing terrorism and other criminal conduct involving nuclear or other radioactive material. Guidance was also provided on how to access the various types of support that UNODC and UNOCT have to offer, such as capacity building, legislative assistance, e-learning modules and other tools and resources.
Mr. Hubert K Foy, Director of the African Center for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS) offered insight from the regional perspective and addressed issues of competing priorities and challenges resulting from narratives which he described as based on “myths and complacency.” Mr Foy highlighted that the lesson learned in addressing these issues and challenges was “collective effort”, namely through close cooperation among African States and relevant international organizations. He reiterated that “collective effort enhances knowledge sharing, resource allocation and capacity building.”