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Lao PDR Ratifies A/CPPNM; IAEA Intensifies Efforts to Achieve Universalization of Key Nuclear Security Treaty


Upon becoming party to the CPPNM and its Amendment, Parties are required to take appropriate measures necessary for the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities. (D. Calma/IAEA)

Lao PDR has become the 132nd Party to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A/CPPNM), an instrument that strengthens the international legal framework for the physical protection of nuclear material and facilities used for peaceful purposes.  

Lao PDR’s ratification of the A/CPPNM on 12 April is the first ratification of the Amendment this year. Last year four countries joined the A/CPPNM: Brazil, Malawi, Mozambique and Oman. 

“This is a cornerstone in strengthening the national regulatory framework on nuclear security for our country and advancing partnerships with other State Parties to achieve our common objectives under the A/CPPNM,” said Moukdavanh Sisoulith, Deputy Director General, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR. “We have received continuous support from the IAEA in the process of adhering to the A/CPPNM, such as assistance in raising awareness by organizing national workshops and translating the Treaty text into the Lao language. This assistance has enhanced our agencies’ capacities, strengthened their understanding, and ultimately facilitated the adherence process.”

The IAEA supports countries in adhering to, and effectively implementing, international instruments in the area of nuclear security. It does this through its advisory services and its legislative and technical assistance programmes. In Lao PDR the Agency supported the organization of a national workshop on adhering to the A/CPPNM in 2021, sensitized officials on the importance and benefits of joining the A/CPPNM and funded the translation of the Convention text into the Lao language.

The CPPNM, as strengthened by its Amendment, is one of the main international tools to protect nuclear material and facilities from criminal or intentional unauthorized acts – an important global counter-terrorism objective. The first Conference of the Parties to the A/CPPNM, held in Vienna in March 2022, emphasized the importance of achieving universal adherence to and full implementation of the Convention and its Amendment.

“The IAEA strongly encourages all countries to take the necessary steps to join the Convention and its Amendment – it is relevant for all, including countries without nuclear power programmes,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

While there are 164 Parties to the CPPNM, 32 of those have not yet joined the Amendment. The Amendment significantly strengthens the original CPPNM by extending the scope to cover all nuclear facilities and nuclear material used for peaceful purposes under a State Party’s jurisdiction, whereas the original CPPNM focuses on the protection of nuclear material only, specifically during international transport. The Amendment also adds nuclear material smuggling and sabotage to the list of criminal offences, and provides for enhanced international cooperation. Thirty-three States are yet to join the CPPNM and Amendment. Major obstacles for countries in their adherence and implementation efforts include limited awareness among national stakeholders on the importance and benefits of joining the Convention and its Amendment, lengthy national procedures and processes for joining, and insufficient human and financial resources for implementation and adherence.

To address these, the IAEA has intensified its efforts to promote universalization and support countries in adhering to and effectively implementing the CPPNM and its Amendment. Last year it significantly increased the number of national, regional and international workshops promoting the A/CPPNM’s universalization, from an average of six in previous years to 11 in 2022, and with a particular focus on engaging not only technical experts but also decision-makers. Numerous outreach and awareness-raising activities are planned for 2023, including two events for decision-makers and parliamentarians, three regional/sub-regional workshops and four national events. The Agency has also published frequently asked questions on the CPPNM and its Amendment to facilitate further understanding on the topic and the IAEA support available.

Over 35 national officials from 23 African countries attended a regional workshop to promote universalization of the CPPNM and its Amendment organized by the IAEA in cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe in March 2023. (Photo: R. Sseggane/IAEA)

“The more countries sign up, ratify, adhere to and advocate for this convention and its crucially important amendment, the stronger a legal framework it becomes. That is why the IAEA is committed to making it universal,” Mr Grossi said.

This year, the IAEA held a regional workshop in Zimbabwe for countries in the Africa region. Forty-four out of 54 African States are Party to the CPPNM, and 30 of those have also joined the Amendment.

“Each one of us within the Africa region have an important role to play; I urge and call upon all countries to speed up processes to ratify the CPPNM as amended and ensure implementation of obligations,” said Albert Chikondo, Secretary for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Office of the President and Cabinet of the Republic of Zimbabwe, at the workshop. “International cooperation in this area is important as it allows for a more inclusive, coordinated, and sustainable global nuclear security architecture. We remain mindful to the adage that we are only as strong as the weakest link.”

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