April 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2011
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Counter-Terrorism: 1540 Committee

Expected Council Action
A report from the 1540 Committee on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is expected in April. The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the committee before its expiring on 25 April.

The Council adopted resolution 1540 in 2004 to address concern that non-state actors might use weapons of mass destruction for terrorist purposes (individuals and sub-state groups are not covered under existing treaties dealing with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons). The resolution established a committee to report on implementation of the resolution’s provisions. Resolution 1540 requires that all states:


  • prevent non-state actors from obtaining access to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their delivery systems;
  • adopt laws prohibiting access by non-state actors to such weapons and their means of delivery; and
  • establish domestic controls to prevent proliferation of such weapons and their delivery systems, as well as controls over related materials.

There were initially questions whether the resolution would be widely accepted by member states. However, in recent years the response has improved and is now generally good in part due to the committee’s adoption of a cooperative approach in its engagement with states and its attempts to facilitate assistance to states to aid in implementing the resolution.

The Council decided in 2008 in resolution 1810 to extend the mandate of the 1540 Committee until 25 April 2011. The committee has since compiled matrices on actions states have taken to implement the resolution. Through outreach, dialogue and other assistance, the committee also works to provide practical assistance to states to promote implementation of resolution 1540, including the development of domestic legal and infrastructure controls to fulfil these obligations.

Key Recent Developments
During the last joint briefing of the counterterrorism committees to the Council on 15 November 2010, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico (then chair of the 1540 Committee) emphasised that the committee and the group of experts continued to participate in outreach events at the international, regional and subregional levels to facilitate implementation. Heller said the committee was in the process of reviewing matrices of state implementation of the resolution, which will form the basis of the committee’s April report to the Council. In addition the committee has consolidated a database on assistance requests, adopted new procedures for handling formal requests for assistance and adopted new procedures for publishing reports from member states to improve transparency.

Heller briefly highlighted five “ideas and proposals” for the future, both during the joint counterterrorism briefing as well as the 20 December 2010 briefing to the Council by subsidiary body outgoing chairmen. Heller said the proposals which had emerged from bilateral and multilateral consultations were:

  • that the committee focus greater attention on biological weapons as the category of weapons of mass destruction with the least number of preventive measures in place (other areas worthy of special attention included delivery vehicles, sanctions lists and the financing of prohibited proliferation activities);
  • that the committee enhance cooperation with international entities (such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Customs Organization), particularly with regard to information exchange, while maintaining respect for the specific mandates of those entities;
  • that the committee strengthen its work on cooperation and assistance, as implementation of resolution 1540 depends not only on political will, but also on the resources required for specific security measures;
  • that the committee or Secretary-General appoint a coordinator for the committee’s group of experts in order to permit it to function more effectively; and
  • that the committee’s mandate be extended for a longer period, for example by ten years with a review in five years. (Heller pointed out that such a longer mandate would result in a review cycle that is similar to the one for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.)

On 26 January Ambassador Baso Sangqu of South Africa, who began chairing the 1540 Committee in 2011, informed the Council that the committee had decided to extend its 2010 programme of work to cover the period from 1 February to 25 April 2011 (the mandated report on compliance with resolution 1540 that is due in April was added to this existing programme of work).

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is ongoing implementation of resolution 1540. The lack of capacity in many states to implement relevant requirements and report on them seems to require a continuing focus on providing such states with additional assistance.

As there seems to be wide acceptance among Council members of the necessity of renewing the mandate of the 1540 Committee in April, another key issue will be consideration of the terms of that renewal. Discussion of how the mandate might be modified seems likely to centre on the recommendations made by Heller in late 2010, in particular the desirability of increasing the length of the committee’s mandate.

Options for the Council include:

  • a simple extension of the 1540 Committee with no new substantive elements; or
  • extending the 1540 Committee with modifications, including some or all of Heller’s recommendations, for example by lengthening its mandate to ten years and/or supporting the appointment of a coordinator for the group of experts or both.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members appear supportive of the committee’s work and do not anticipate difficulties in coming to agreement on the renewal of the committee’s mandate. It appears that as 25 April approaches, discussion of the mandate will intensify as the committee’s report nears finalisation. The possibility of altering the committee’s mandate in some way will likely be considered and negotiated at that time.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1887 (24 September 2009) was the resolution on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament passed at the summit meeting of the Council.
  • S/RES/1810 (25 April 2008) extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee on weapons until 25 April 2011.
  • S/RES/1673 (27 April 2006) extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee for two years.
  • S/RES/1540 (28 April 2004) established the 1540.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2010/19 (27 September 2010) reiterated the obligations of member states pursuant to resolution 1540 and the need to enhance cooperation among the Council’s counterterrorism committees (the 1267 Committee, the Counter Terrorism Committee [CTC] and the 1540 Committee), recalled the Council’s request that the committees’ expert groups to be co-located as soon as possible.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6457 (20 December 2010) was the most recent annual briefing by chairmen of the Council’s subsidiary bodies.
  • S/PV.6424 (15 November 2010) was the most recent briefing by the chairs of the 1267, 1540 and CTC Committees.

Selected Letters

  • S/2011/37 (26 January 2011) informed the Council that the committee had decided to extend and revise its 2010 programme of work to cover the period from 1 February to 25 April 2011.
  • S/2010/112 (26 February 2010) transmitted the 1540 Committee’s programme of work for 1 February 2010 to 31 January 2011.
  • S/2010/52 (29 January 2010) was the 1540 Committee’s final document on its 2009 comprehensive review.
  • S/2008/493 (30 July 2008) was a previous 1540 Committee report to the Security Council on the status of implementation of resolution 1540 on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Other Relevant Facts

Chair of the 1540 Committee

Ambassador Baso Sangqu (South Africa)

Useful Additional Sources

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