Strengthen Support for the International Atomic Energy Agency


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) still lacks the political and financial support it needs to fulfill its nuclear security mission, provide crucial nuclear security assistance to member states, and play a central coordination role for global nuclear security.

For more on the IAEA’s role and the challenges it faces, see “Support for the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Data Highlights

  • Only 13% of countries have made financial or in-kind contributions to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) in the past two years. Of the 22 countries that have done so, 13 are countries with nuclear materials and 9 are countries without nuclear materials.[1]
  • A total of 76% of countries participate in the Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB). Participation is strong among both countries with materials and countries without materials. Of 134 participating countries, 21 have materials (95% of countries with materials) and 113 do not (73% of countries without materials).
  • A total of 43% of countries participate in the Nuclear Security Guidance Committee (NSCG). Participation is stronger among countries with materials than countries without materials. Of 76 participating countries, 19 are countries with materials (86% of countries with materials) and 57 are countries without materials (37% of countries without materials). One country with materials and six countries without materials joined the NSGC for the first time since release of the 2018 Index.[2]
  • Only 30% of countries sent a minister to the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS). Of the 53 countries that did so, 14 have nuclear materials (64% of countries with materials) and 39 do not (25% of countries without materials). Two countries with materials[3] and 19 countries without materials participated in ICONS at the ministerial level for the first time in 2020.[4] These numbers show that participating in ICONS at a high level is an action that all countries can take to demonstrate their commitment to the IAEA and this unique forum for nuclear security.
Support for the IAEA
The number of countries with and without materials that have contributed to the IAEA NSF (NSF) in the past two years, participated in the most recent IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) at the ministerial level, and participate in the Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) and Nuclear Security Guidance Committee (NSGC).


Countries should increase their financial and political support for the IAEA by contributing to the Nuclear Security Fund or supporting and participating in IAEA activities.

  • More countries should contribute to the IAEA’s NSF, whether through financial or in-kind contributions. Countries should also reduce the number of conditions placed on those funds to provide more flexibility to the IAEA as it prioritizes its resources and engages in long-term planning.
  • All countries, including countries without materials, should strive to be represented by ministers or their equivalent at the next ICONS in 2024. Doing so demonstrates support for the IAEA, as well as support for a strong ICONS that can serve as a platform for progress and commitments.
  • All countries should participate in and actively report incidents to the ITDB to close the coverage gap in the IAEA’s ability to track incidents of illicit tracking of nuclear and radiological materials around the world. The ITDB is vital for the IAEA to track those incidents, and the more countries that participate, the more effective and comprehensive this tracking system will be.
  • At a minimum, all countries with nuclear materials and facilities should become members of the NSGC. More support and participation in the NSGC will boost the status of the IAEA’s nuclear security guidance, potentially leading to broader adoption and implementation of the guidance and strengthening nuclear security implementation around the world. Countries without nuclear materials should also participate. Countries without nuclear materials have a stake in strong, effective nuclear security guidelines that all states follow, given that weaknesses in nuclear security in one country can affect others.

The IAEA should do more to build awareness of its nuclear security activities and how they have helped countries to benefit from peaceful nuclear applications.

  • To address perceptions that the IAEA’s nuclear security activities pull resources away from technical cooperation, the IAEA should build greater awareness of how its nuclear security activities support countries’ peaceful use of nuclear technology. This effort can include greater transparency by the IAEA on how countries support and participate in activities such as the ITDB, the NSGC, and the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions.
  • One way to build awareness is to highlight how individuals around the world benefit from nuclear security and from the IAEA’s assistance daily.

[1] Seven countries’ scores decreased for this subindicator because their NSF contributions were made before the two-year window and were not renewed: Albania, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. Five countries made new contributions in the past two years: Australia, Denmark, Indonesia, Sudan, and Sweden.

[2] Benin, Bolivia, Cambodia, Georgia, Nepal, South Africa, and Zambia. South Africa has weapons-usable nuclear materials.

[3] China and Kazakhstan. Italy’s score also improved in 2020, but it had previously received credit for ministerial attendance in 2016. Its score dropped to 0 in 2018 owing to its lack of representation at the ministerial level at the 2016 ICONS.

[4] Brazil, Lithuania, and Romania received credit in the 2016 NTI Index for previous ICONS attendance at the ministerial level, but their scores dropped to 0 in 2018 owing to their lack of representation at the ministerial level at the 2016 ICONS. Their scores improved in 2020 when they were once again represented at the 2020 ICONS at the ministerial level. Two countries with materials (Belarus and Pakistan) and 18 countries without materials that previously participated at the ministerial level did not do so in 2020.