Non-Proliferation (1540 Committee)
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Adopted in 2004, resolution 1540 aims to address concerns related to the use of weapons of mass destruction by non-state actors for terrorist purposes. (Individuals and sub-state groups are not covered under existing treaties dealing with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.) It requires all states to prevent non-state actors from acquiring access to nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their delivery systems. Furthermore, the resolution requires states to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons.
On 25 April 2008, the Council adopted resolution 1810, which extended the 1540 Committee’s mandate for a period of three years. The resolution also requested the committee to consider a comprehensive review of the implementation status of resolution 1540. The precise scope and modalities of the review process were outlined in Security Council letter S/2009/170, dated 1 April 2009, which determined that the comprehensive review would assess the evolution of risks and threats; address specific, unresolved issues; and identify new approaches for improving the implementation of resolution 1540.
As part of the comprehensive reviews, the 1540 Committee holds open consultations with broad participation—including UN member states, international organisations, regional and sub-regional organisations, and civil society—to exchange views and provide practical ideas on how to enhance implementation of resolution 1540.
In April 2011, with the adoption of resolution 1977, the Council renewed the mandate of the 1540 Committee for ten years and approved the appointment of a group of experts to assist the committee in its work. Experts are appointed by the Secretary-General and approved by the 1540 Committee. The resolution called for the committee to conduct two comprehensive reviews on the implementation of resolution 1540: one after five years and the other before the renewal of the committee’s mandate in 2021.
Following the completion of the first review, the Council adopted resolution 2325 in December 2016, which encouraged the submission of voluntary national implementation action plans and the designation of national focal points.
In 2020, the committee was supposed to conduct activities related to the second comprehensive review; open consultations were planned for June 2020. However, because of restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee decided in August 2020 to postpone those activities.
On 22 April 2021, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2572, which extended, until 28 February, the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its group of experts. At the time, the Council opted for a straightforward renewal of the mandate to allow the committee to complete its comprehensive review. The Council adopted another technical rollover of the committee’s mandate on 25 February, extending it until 30 November, to allow for completion of the comprehensive review, including its open consultations.
From 31 May to 2 June, the 1540 Committee held open consultations. In her opening remarks, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu commended the work of the 1540 Committee and warned that the current security context “is very different from when the Security Council conducted previous reviews”. Nakamitsu urged the committee to focus on addressing threats posed by emerging technologies, suggesting that these “lower the barrier for non-state actors to gain access to materials and manufacturing techniques necessary to acquire weapons of mass destruction”.
On 5 July, the committee held informal consultations to discuss the outcomes of the open consultations. Committee members exchanged views on the various ideas presented at the open consultations. They also considered proposals to enhance outreach efforts and elements to be included in the final report of the comprehensive review.
Key Issues and Options
The overarching issue for the Council is how to respond to the findings of the comprehensive review with a view to improving implementation of resolution 1540 amidst concerns about growing proliferation risks enabled by advances in science, technology and international commerce. Key issues addressed during the review include how to improve monitoring and national implementation, technical assistance, international cooperation, and transparency and outreach.
A key issue that emerged during the review is the need to address proliferation financing; that is, the provision of funds to non-state actors related to the manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, developing, transporting, and transferring or use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery. Some members—including the UK and the US—support the introduction of robust language about this issue in the 1540 Committee’s mandate renewal. At the open consultations, the UK suggested that a definition of proliferation financing “will improve awareness and understanding of the issue” and offer a conceptual framework to combat it. Mexico, the 1540 Committee Chair, also noted the importance of “a more detailed study” of the implications of proliferation financing, stressing the need to enhance international cooperation “aimed at addressing illicit financial flows”.
The main option for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts, endorsing the comprehensive review and deciding on new measures aimed at improving implementation, such as enhancing the facilitation of technical and legal assistance; strengthening cooperation with regional, sub-regional, and multilateral institutions; and increasing outreach efforts, including by expanding the mandate of the group of experts.
Most Council members support an active role for the committee and its group of experts in engaging with member states to provide technical assistance and capacity development in implementing resolution 1540. These members also tend to encourage interactions between the experts’ group, civil society actors and academia to help inform the group’s work.
Some members believe there should be less committee oversight on the group of experts’ work. During the open consultations, the US argued that the group must have a clear mandate to do its work “without having to seek individual approval for each and every action it seeks to undertake”, adding that “no other subsidiary body of the Security Council is forced to operate under such self-defeating constraints”.
Russia, however, believes that the group should have a more limited role. When the Council renewed the 1540 Committee’s mandate in February, Russia cautioned against the committee’s becoming “an invigilator, controller or judge” and against the group of experts’ being “endowed with attributive functions, permitting it to interfere in the internal affairs of States”. China and Russia have emphasised the need to uphold the leading role of member states in the implementation of resolution 1540.
UN DOCUMENTS ON NON-PROLIFERATION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 February 2022S/RES/2622||This resolution extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts until 30 November 2022.|
|28 April 2004S/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.|