March 2023 Monthly Forecast

Non-proliferation (1540 Committee)

Expected Council Action

In March, Ambassador Hernán Pérez Loose (Ecuador), the chair of the 1540 Committee, is expected to brief the Council.

Background and Key Recent Developments

Adopted in 2004, resolution 1540 aims to prevent non-state actors from obtaining access to weapons of mass destruction. It requires states to establish relevant domestic controls and encourages enhanced international cooperation to prevent the proliferation of such weapons.

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.

The final report of the second comprehensive review has been completed but has yet to be published at the time of writing. (The review, which was due in 2021, had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.) It reportedly will note that most states had strengthened measures preventing non-state actors from manufacturing, acquiring or transferring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. It apparently will also acknowledge the varying industrial capabilities and political, economic, and security situations of states in their efforts to implement resolution 1540. In addition, the report is expected to say that eight states have yet to submit their first national report, a decrease from 17 in 2016; it is likely further to observe that 77 states have submitted national reports or submitted additional information to the Committee on implementation since 2016.

The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2663 on 30 November 2022, extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts for ten years until 30 November 2032. The resolution tasks the Committee with conducting two comprehensive reviews on the status of implementation of resolution 1540, including through the holding of open consultations: one after five years and the other prior to the renewal of its mandate. In addition, it decides that the Committee shall continue to submit an annual programme of work to the Council before the end of each January and that its chair shall brief the Council in the first quarter of each year. The resolution reiterates that all states should implement fully and effectively resolution 1540 and should submit national implementation reports, while also encouraging the submission of voluntary national implementation action plans and the provision of national points of contact. While much of resolution 2663 reflected agreed language from previous resolutions, one new provision directed the Committee to review its internal guidelines on matters regarding its Group of Experts by 30 April 2023. In addition, for the first time, the Council included women, peace and security language in a mandate renewal of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts, encouraging the Committee to consider the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in its activities.

On 20 February, the 1540 Committee agreed its programme of work for the period ending on 31 January 2024. In its programme, the Committee said that it would intensify efforts to promote the implementation of resolution 1540 by all member states. In this regard, it noted that it would facilitate the voluntary sharing of information by member states of best practices and lessons learned and that it would take note of the evolving risks of proliferation presented by changes in technology and science. The programme also stated that the Committee would facilitate technical assistance by offering expertise to member states requesting assistance.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Council (and its 1540 Committee) is the need to continue to strengthen the efforts of states to implement resolution 1540. The Committee’s efforts to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to states is critical in this regard, as it links states to appropriate service providers, organises workshops for them on relevant topics, and shares information with them on capacity-development initiatives.

Another important issue is the need to agree on the roles and responsibilities of the Group of Experts as reflected by the decision in resolution 2663 for the Committee to review its guidelines by the end of April. There are differing views among Council members regarding the level of oversight that the Committee should provide to the Group of Experts’ work.

In the future, the Council could consider a private meeting with the eight member states that have yet to submit national reports to discuss how the 1540 Committee and other regional and international entities could best assist them in implementing resolution 1540.

Council Dynamics

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.

Some members advocate less committee oversight of the work of the Group of Experts. Currently, proposals by the 1540 Committee’s Group of Experts must be approved by the committee members through a no-objection procedure. During open consultations on the comprehensive review of the implementation of resolution 1540 that were held in late May 2022, the US argued that the Group of Experts should 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 Committee should act under the Committee’s strict direction and purview. When the Council extended the 1540 Committee’s mandate in February 2022, Russia cautioned against the Committee becoming “an invigilator, controller or judge” and against endowing the Group of Experts with “attributive functions, permitting it to interfere in the internal affairs of States”.

Ecuador is the chair of the 1540 Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
30 November 2022S/RES/2663 This resolution extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts for ten years until 30 November 2032.
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.