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Diplomacy in Action

Frequently Asked Questions


Background and Participation

1. What is the mission of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT)?

The mission is to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism by conducting multilateral activities that strengthen the plans, policies, procedures, and interoperability of partner nations.

2. How was the GICNT created?

U.S. President George W. Bush and former Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly announced the creation of the GICNT on July 15, 2006 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The GICNT’s first meeting occurred in Rabat, Morocco in October 2006 and included 13 countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under the leadership of Ambassador Robert Joseph of the United States and Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergy Ivanovich Kislyak, the delegates developed a Statement of Principles that outlined nuclear security goals that partners would voluntarily work toward in order to effectively combat the shared threat of nuclear terrorism.

3. What is the GICNT "Statement of Principles"?

The Statement of Principles (SOP) is a set of broad nuclear security goals related to the full spectrum of nuclear terrorism deterrence, prevention, detection, and response objectives. The eight principles within the SOP aim to develop partnership capacity to combat nuclear terrorism on a determined and systematic basis, consistent with national legal authorities and obligations as well as relevant international legal frameworks such as the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1540.

4. How does a nation become a GICNT partner?

A State that wishes to become a partner to the GICNT sends a written letter of endorsement of the Statement of Principles to the GICNT Co-Chairs (currently the United States and Russia). A State becomes a partner upon Co-Chair agreement.

5. What benefits do countries gain by becoming partners in the GICNT?

GICNT partners share a commitment to implementing the SOP both individually and collectively. Each partner is integrated into a group of nations taking an active approach to combating nuclear terrorism through workshops, seminars, and exercises that result in the sharing of best practices and lessons learned on a variety of topics. Specific functional areas that GICNT activities have focused on include:

  • Improving accounting, control, and physical protection of nuclear and other radioactive materials;
  • Detecting and suppressing illicit trafficking;
  • Strengthening national legal frameworks to deny safe haven and ensure the effective prosecution of terrorists; and,
  • Responding to and mitigating the consequences of acts of nuclear terrorism.

6. How do partner nations contribute to the GICNT?

Partner nations volunteer to host, contribute content to, or participate in regional or global GICNT workshops, seminars, exercises, and other meetings. They can also provide assistance to other partners who seek to strengthen implementation of the SOP.

7. Who are the official observers to the GICNT and what role do they play?

Currently, official observers include the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Union, INTERPOL, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. These international organizations provide crucial advice and expertise to the GICNT regarding activities and the development of best practices. However, they do not have voting rights in the partnership.

8. How does an international organization become an official observer?

An international organization that wishes to become an observer to the GICNT sends a written letter of endorsement of the Statement of Principles to the GICNT Co-Chairs. Upon Co-Chair agreement, the organization becomes an official observer. Currently, observer status is not permitted for private and non-governmental organizations.

9. What role can the private sector play in the GICNT?

Although national governments develop policy and implement GICNT functions, the private sector can bring additional innovation and specialized expertise from the viewpoint of the practitioner. Several private think-tanks and academic institutions have provided strategic recommendations and issued letters of support for the GICNT.

10. What have been the major accomplishments of the GICNT?

To date, the GICNT has built a partnership of 85 nations and four official observers committed to combating nuclear terrorism. The GICNT has held more than 50 multilateral activities and exercises to share best practices and lessons learned in order to strengthen individual and collective capabilities for preventing, detecting, deterring, and responding to nuclear terrorist incidents. These workshops, along with senior-level Plenary Meetings, have strengthened policies, increased technical capacity, and fostered collaboration on nuclear terrorism issues. Please see a summary of our activities to date to learn more about GICNT achievements.

Activities and Implementation

11. How is information shared among partner nations to facilitate GICNT efforts?

The GICNT facilitates information sharing among partners and official observers through expert-level workshops, seminars, exercises, and other activities. A primary focus of the GICNT Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG) is also to share best practices and other information in priority functional areas identified by the senior-level Plenary Meetings. The Plenary Meetings review and address progress on the GICNT Statement of Principles, and identify future priorities and goals. Partner nations may also utilize the Global Initiative Information Portal, a secure website that is available only to GICNT partner nations and official observers.

12. How are GICNT activities developed and executed? Who organizes and hosts them?

The Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG) coordinates GICNT activities. Spain currently serves as the Coordinator of the IAG. This working-level body is open to all partner nations and works to ensure that GICNT activities align with the Statement of Principles and are complementary to existing international efforts. Partner nations may indicate their desire to host activities, exercises and workshops that directly address the GICNT Statement of Principles to the IAG Coordinator. Partner nations may seek assistance from the Co-Chairs with identifying subject matter experts, event planning, and other logistics. In some cases, financial assistance from the Co-Chairs is available to assist with activities.

13. What is the Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG)?

The IAG is a coordination framework designed to facilitate implementation of the GICNT. It is an informal advisory body which, upon the direction of the Plenary, creates working groups specifically designed to address priority and focus areas identified by the Plenary. It also implements new and maintains existing activities within the GICNT Plan of Work. The IAG is open to participation from all GICNT partner nations and official observers.

14. What is a typical GICNT activity like?

A typical GICNT activity is an expert-level gathering of representatives from partner nations and official observers who are working to develop best practices or to share information to achieve goals outlined in the GICNT Statement of Principles. For more information on GICNT activities and a summary of past workshops, please click here.

GICNT in the Broader Nonproliferation Context

15. How is the GICNT a unique nonproliferation program?

The voluntary nature of the GICNT partnership allows for a large degree of flexibility and the ability to achieve a maximalist impact. Because the GICNT is not constrained by consensus decision-making, partner nations bring with them and contribute the maximum that their resources and capabilities allow for. The GICNT is unique in its ability to draw together all functional areas related to combating nuclear terrorism – such as consequence management, detection, terrorist financing, and nuclear forensics – under a single strategic vision. This eliminates stovepipes in individual functional areas and allows all stakeholders to work together, including all levels of government, the private sector, and international organizations. The GICNT also expands the network of resources available to partners and helps partner nations identify and build the core competencies required to effectively combat nuclear terrorism.

16. What is the relationship between the GICNT and formal international organizations like the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Several international organizations such as the IAEA, INTERPOL, European Union, and UN Office on Drugs and Crime are official observers of the GICNT and make critical contributions to the Initiative. Through direct collaboration with these international organizations, the GICNT leverages their expertise and ensures that the GICNT complements, rather than duplicates, other existing processes and activities.

17. How does the GICNT differ from the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)?

The GICNT and the PSI are complementary, voluntary initiatives that use similar practices and strategies but focus on achieving distinct policy goals. Whereas PSI partners commit to halting and disrupting the trafficking in WMD, their means of delivery, and related materials to state programs and non-state actors of proliferation concern, GICNT efforts focus on strengthening capacity for prevention, deterrence, and response to a nuclear terrorist incident. Although some of these core competencies may be similar for all WMD events, the GICNT focuses exclusively on radiological- and nuclear-related incidents, while the PSI addresses the full spectrum of WMD proliferation. To learn more about the PSI, please see its website at http://www.state.gov/t/isn/c10390.htm

18. How does the GICNT differ from the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance ("EXBS") program?

The GICNT and the EXBS program have complementary practices and goals. However, the EXBS program focuses specifically on providing assistance to enhance nations’ strategic trade controls and border security to address WMD proliferation to or from any party. The GICNT incorporates the development and sharing of best practices for border security into its broader efforts to address the nuclear terrorist threat, but is not limited to this particular functional area and does not provide direct assistance to partner nations. If GICNT partner nations request border security-related assistance, the GICNT may refer partner nations to the EXBS program to receive that assistance. To learn more about the EXBS program, please see: http://www.state.gov/t/isn/ecc/index.htm.

19. How is the GICNT related to United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540?

UNSCR 1540 outlines Chapter 7 UN obligations for UN member States with respect to a broad variety of nonproliferation areas, to include nuclear terrorism. This includes prohibiting support to non-state actors seeking to acquire nuclear materials or weapons, adopting and enforcing effective laws prohibiting nuclear proliferation to non-state actors, and promoting dialogue and taking cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking. Participating in the GICNT is one of many steps that UN member nations may take to fulfill their UNSCR 1540 obligations.


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