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UNICRI and Canada Initiate Cooperation on Enhancing Capacities to Counter Radiological and Nuclear Trafficking in Southest Asia


On 1 March 2021, UNICRI and Global Affairs Canada signed a multi-year agreement for the implementation of the project “CONTACT – Southeast Asia – Enhancing capacities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear (RN) material in Southeast Asia.”

The project will aim at:

  • Improving Member States’ capabilities to devise, plan and carry out intelligence operations to thwart RN trafficking attempts by laying the groundwork towards a sustainable training system for law enforcement, intelligence officials and other relevant ministries and agencies.
  • Fostering regional cooperation and sharing of information related to investigations of RN trafficking cases through a series of regional workshops, meetings and exercises to exchange best practices and challenges, identify gaps in the current information sharing mechanisms and jointly elaborate a set of future activities aimed at addressing the identified gaps.

The threat of radiological and nuclear terrorism, and consequently the importance of nuclear non-proliferation, are among the most pressing concerns on today’s international agenda. Factors such as regional instabilities, ongoing and frozen conflicts, uncontrolled territories, and growing dangerous links between organized crime and terrorist groups have increased the risk of terrorist and criminal organizations obtaining radiological and nuclear material. Several countries in the Southeast Asia region have acknowledged these risks in their National Action Plans for mitigating threats stemming from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) material.

Within this context, the present project will focus on a crucial issue that has sometimes been overlooked in past technical assistance projects, namely the role of state security agencies in preventing RN trafficking. Effective and carefully planned intelligence and law enforcement operations are essential to prevent attempts to illicitly traffic RN materials. Indeed, the evidence indicates that the vast majority of successful seizures were attributable to soundly planned and executed intelligence operations. In addition, the project will promote regional cooperation and information-sharing on malevolent RN acts, in line with the countries’ CBRN strategies and Action Plans.

The project is part of the CONTACT initiative, a UNICRI programme aimed at strengthening the capacities of law enforcement and state security agencies to plan and carry out operations aimed at thwarting radiological and nuclear trafficking attempts. The first CONTACT project was launched in the Middle East region, thanks to the generous contribution of Global Affairs Canada. In 2020, UNICRI kicked off the “CONTACT – Black Sea” project, funded by the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA), the United Kingdom Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (UK BEIS) and the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).


Photo credits: @Dan Meyers