May 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2014
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Non-Proliferation (1540 Committee)

In May, at the initiative of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Council will hold an open debate with a briefing by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to commemorate the 10th anniversary of resolution 1540. ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will chair the meeting. The ROK on 23 April circulated a concept note in preparation for the debate, inviting member states to share ideas and recommendations about how to ensure full and sustained implementation of the resolution. At press time negotiations were under way on a draft presidential statement proposed by the ROK.  

 Also in May, the chair of the 1540 Committee, Ambassador Oh Joon (ROK) will report on the work of the Committee at the semi-annual joint briefing with the chairs of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Committee and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee.   

Background and Recent Developments

The Council adopted resolution 1540 on 28 April 2004 to address concerns that non-state actors might acquire weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or WMDs) for terrorist purposes. (Individuals and non-state groups are not covered under existing treaties dealing with WMDs.) The resolution, which was drafted by the US, requires all states to prevent non-state actors from obtaining WMDs, adopt laws and establish domestic controls to prevent proliferation of such weapons and their delivery systems, as well as controls over related materials.

In terms of recent developments, Oh said in his latest briefing to the Council on 27 November 2013, that there had been steady progress in the implementation of resolution 1540 and noted that the number of states that had yet to submit national implementation reports was down to 22. In reviewing the activities of the Committee, he reported that efforts to facilitate matchmaking between assistance requests from states and offers of financial and other support had continued (a key priority for the Committee) and that work had begun on the compilation of member states’ best practices aimed at preventing the proliferation of WMDs. Oh also noted that resolution 2118 of 27 September 2013 on the use of chemical weapons in Syria requested member states to inform the Council of any violations of resolution 1540.

On 24 December 2013, Oh transmitted the Committee’s annual review of the implementation of resolution 1540 to the Council with  a number of suggestions for further steps to be considered by the Committee to strengthen implementation, such as making additional efforts to achieve the goal of universal reporting, sharing best practices, strengthening the assistance mechanism, promoting synergies with other counter-terrorism and non-proliferation bodies and expanding interaction with civil society and the private sector.

On 28 February, the chair convened an open briefing for member states with the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation, Kunio Mikuriya. 

Key issues

The ROK concept note asserts that significant progress has been made over the past 10 years towards universal implementation of resolution 1540, but important challenges remain. It identifies the following key issues for the debate:

  • assessing the status of implementation of the resolution;
  • effectively addressing threats posed by WMDs, including newly emerging, potential threats;
  • developing a long-term vision and strategy for effective implementation;
  • enhancing the assistance matchmaking mechanism;
  • strengthening trans-shipment and proliferation-financing controls;
  • consolidating existing non-proliferation efforts and resources;
  • promoting synergy between non-proliferation and counter-terrorism; and
  • raising awareness of the importance of full implementation of the resolution, in particular among high-level policy-makers around the world.

 An immediate, practical issue for the Committee is the need to agree on a programme of work for the period 1 June 2014 through 31 May 2015.


The main option for the Council is to adopt a presidential statement using the occasion of the 10th anniversary of resolution 1540 to:

  • reaffirm its main objectives;
  • commend the work of the 1540 Committee and encourage it to develop a strategy aimed at ensuring fuller implementation;
  • urge states to take additional measures to ensure full implementation and submit implementation reports to the Committee if they have not yet done so;
  • remind states of their obligations under resolution 2118;
  • stress the need for assistance and capacity-building to support implementation; and
  • reiterate the importance of close cooperation between the Committee and other Council subsidiary bodies as well as coordination with other relevant international bodies.
Council Dynamics

While the 1540 resolution was initially somewhat controversial, it now enjoys the general support of Council members as well as the wider UN membership. Negotiations of the presidential statement have therefore been fairly smooth. Also, it seems the ROK was mindful of avoiding any contentious issues and proposed a short text, focusing on a few key objectives. 

At press time, there were still some outstanding issues, however. It seems the UK and some other members wanted to delete a paragraph that reminded member states of their obligations under resolution 2118 while Russia wanted to retain it. Also, some Council members were keen to encourage the Committee to strengthen cooperation not only with the other counter-terrorism committees, but with all subsidiary organs (such as for example the Iran and DPRK panels of experts) whereas Russia was said to prefer previously agreed, more restrictive language. There were also some differing views on a US proposal to include specific references to the Hague Nuclear Security Summit of March 2014 and the Global Health Security Agenda, with other Council members proposing instead that these be referred to only as “other relevant initiatives”.

Beyond the Council, it is still unclear how profoundly the violation of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 (S/1994/1399), and the assurances given by the P5 as guarantor states to refrain from the threat of or use of force against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine in exchange for its nuclear disarmament, may have affected non-proliferation more generally. The impact of ignoring such assurances on future nuclear disarmament scenarios may be an issue of concern for some members.

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UN Documents on the 1540 Committee

Security Council Resolutions
27 September 2013 S/RES/2118 was on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
20 April 2011 S/RES/1977 renewed the mandate of the 1540 Committee for ten years.  
28 April 2004 S/RES/1540 obliged states to prevent the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery to non-state actors and established the 1540 Committee.  
Security Council Meeting Records
27 November 2013 S/PV.7071 was the latest semi-annual joint briefing by the chairs of the counter-terrorism-related committees.  
24 December 2013 S/2013/769 was a letter from the chair of the 1540 Committee transmitting the annual implementation review.

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