Bolster the Global Nuclear Security Architecture


Despite continued actions to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture, the rate of improvement has slowed and significant gaps in the architecture remain.

Data Highlights

  • The rate of improvement in the Global Norms category has slowed. Of the 22 countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, 12 countries improved in 2014, 17 improved in 2016, and 18 improved in 2018, but only 7 countries improved in 2020. Of the 154 countries without materials, 54 countries improved in 2014, 69 improved in 2016, and 77 improved in 2018, but only 32 improved in 2020. (See figures below.)
  • Large numbers of countries still have not ratified key nuclear security treaties. For example, 38% of all countries have not ratified the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and 18% of countries have not ratified the original CPPNM.[1] In addition, 39% of countries have not yet ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).
The number of countries with and without materials that have ratified the amended CPPNM and ICSANT.
  • Among countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, 73% participate in at least six of the nine activities included in the indicator that tracks Voluntary Commitments and receive a full score. This shows a high rate of engagement with efforts to bolster the international architecture among those countries. In contrast, only 8% of countries without weapons-usable nuclear materials participate in at least six of the nine activities included in this indicator and receive a full score, showing low levels of engagement.
  • Similarly, while only one country with materials—North Korea—receives a zero for Voluntary Commitments, meaning it has participated in none of the activities, 17% of countries without materials receive a score of zero.
The number of countries with and without materials that receive a full score (6 or more voluntary actions) or a zero score (no voluntary actions) for the Voluntary Commitments indicator.
  • Only 22% of all countries[2] have subscribed to Information Circular (INFCIRC) 869, which includes commitments to implementing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear security guidance, continuous improvement, and demonstrable competence.
  • Only 20% of all countries[3] have subscribed to three or more of the nine other nuclear security INFCIRCs included in the Index. Nine additional countries[4]have subscribed to two INFCIRCs, and five countries[5] have subscribed to just one INFCIRC.


Countries must do more to close gaps and support, contribute to, and participate in efforts to bolster the international nuclear security architecture. This will require greater political attention.

  • Greater effort is needed to strengthen and sustain political attention on nuclear security and make continued progress in building an effective global nuclear security architecture.
  • A coordinated effort, led by the IAEA and the United Nations and supported by member states, is needed to achieve universalization of the two foundational nuclear security legal instruments: the amended CPPNM and ICSANT. Efforts to universalize treaties should be coupled with efforts to understand barriers to ratification (such as lack of awareness or competing priorities), to address capacity needs, and to identify technical and legal assistance needed to overcome those barriers.
  • Countries should implement their treaty obligations. In the context of the amended CPPNM, countries should submit information to the IAEA on their laws and regulations that implement the convention, as required by article 14.1 (see “The Amended CPPNM: A Vehicle for Renewed Focus on Nuclear Security”).
  • Countries, especially those without nuclear materials, must do more to contribute to, to support, and to participate in global nuclear security initiatives by becoming members of organizations such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism or the World Institute for Nuclear Security and by supporting the IAEA.
  • Countries should subscribe to nuclear security INFCIRCs to demonstrate commitment to nuclear security and help raise nuclear security standards globally (see “What Are Nuclear Security INFCIRCs?“). Countries should subscribe to INFCIRC/869, which will help to raise the prominence of the IAEA’s nuclear security guidance.

[1] Four countries with materials (Belarus, Iran, North Korea, and South Africa) and two additional countries with nuclear facilities (Brazil and Egypt) have not ratified the amended CPPNM. Eritrea ratified the original and amended CPPNM after data collection for the NTI Index ended.

[2] That percentage includes 73% of countries with materials and 15% of countries without materials.

[3] That percentage includes 55% of countries with materials and 16% of countries without materials.

[4] These nine countries include four countries with materials and five countries without materials.

[5] These five countries include one country with materials and four countries without materials.