Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to hold a ministerial-level open debate on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors. Expected briefers include Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of inter-governmental organisations and civil society. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman is expected to chair the open debate. At press time, it was unclear whether there would be an outcome.
On 28 April 2004, the Council adopted resolution 1540 with the stated aim of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—nuclear, chemical and biological—to non-state actors. The relevance of the 1540 architecture (namely the work of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts) and the progress in the implementation of the legal obligations imposed by resolution 1540 are currently the object of a comprehensive review, prior to the renewal of the 1540 Committee’s mandate, which expires in 2021. The review started in mid-2015 and has been a key focus of the 1540 Committee, led by its chair, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), and its Group of Experts.
Within the framework of the comprehensive review, the 1540 Committee held formal open consultations from 20 to 22 June. A background paper prepared by the Group of Experts ahead of the meeting highlighted the changes to the proliferation risk environment as one of the key challenges to the implementation of the resolution. This includes two important factors, namely the evolution in the activities of non-state actors and, in particular, of the nature of the terrorist threat over the last five years, and relevant advances in the fields of science, technology and international commerce. These advances have made weapons cheaper and easier to access. In a 29 January report, the Secretary-General warned that there are indications that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be seeking to develop a long-term capacity to use more sophisticated weapons, including chemical and biological weapons, in suicide attacks.
The open debate organised by Malaysia is expected to provide an opportunity for member states to take stock of the general WMD proliferation threat; assess the implementation and effectiveness of existing measures aimed at preventing the proliferation of WMD, related materials and technologies to non-state actors; and explore possible actions and measures to address new threats and challenges. It is also expected to contribute to the efforts of the comprehensive review; its first draft report is due on 31 August in order to meet the 30 November deadline called for in resolution 1977.
Issues identified by Malaysia as particularly relevant in addressing the proliferation of WMD, related materials and technologies to non-state actors include:
- identifying new threats or challenges faced by member states;
- discussing measures to strengthen the current international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, including within and beyond the existing normative framework;
- reflecting on the effectiveness of cooperation between and among states, the UN and specialised agencies, including at the regional level;
- sharing best practices in implementing concrete aspects of the architecture; and
- sharing experiences for raising public awareness and engaging with non-traditional partners, including industry, academia and civil society.
Council members are in agreement about the importance of resolution 1540 and the urgent need to enhance its implementation. On 22 July, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2298 providing for the transfer from and destruction outside Libya of Category 2 chemical weapons. The resolution was negotiated and adopted within 72 hours, an extremely speedy process by today’s Council standards. Such urgency was motivated by the risk that these chemical weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist groups if not transferred and destroyed quickly and safely outside the country.
Despite general agreement, there are differences of view about the level of ambition for the comprehensive review. While Russia and China have advocated a cautious approach, Spain and other Council members, including the UK and the US, believe that the findings of the comprehensive review should be reflected in a strong outcome aimed at improving overall implementation.
UN Documents on Non-Proliferation
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 April 2011 S/RES/1977||This resolution renewed the mandate of the 1540 committee for 10 years. The committee was requested to conduct a comprehensive review of the status of implementation of resolution 1540 and recommend any necessary adjustments to its mandate every five years. The committee was also asked to consider by 31 August the feasibility of a coordination and leadership post for the group of experts, as well as the expertise and broad geographical representation required for the group of experts. In addition, the Council decided that the committee should submit an annual programme of work to the Council before the end of each May, with the next due by 31 May 2011.|
|28 April 2004 S/RES/1540||This resolution established the 1540 Committee and its mandate, affirmed that proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security.|
|29 January 2016 S/2016/92||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the threat.|