What's In Blue

Posted Tue 6 May 2014

Open Debate to Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Resolution 1540

Tomorrow morning (7 May), the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate and adopt a presidential statement on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of resolution 1540. Entitled ”Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Resolution 1540 (2004) and Looking Ahead”, the debate has been initiated by the Republic of Korea (RoK), which is currently also the chair of the 1540 Committee and has non-proliferation among its key priorities. RoK Foreign Minister Yun Byung will chair the meeting and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will brief.

The key objective of resolution 1540, which was adopted on 28 April 2004, is to prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. It imposes obligations on all UN member states to prevent non-state actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological weapons), adopt laws and establish domestic controls to prevent proliferation of such weapons and their delivery systems, as well as controls over related materials. The role of the 1540 Committee is to promote full implementation of these provisions by all states.

While initially somewhat controversial, resolution 1540 now enjoys the general support of Council members as well as the wider UN membership as evidenced by the fact that 172 member states have now submitted national implementation reports to the Committee.

In order to guide tomorrow’s debate, the ROK has circulated a concept note (S/2014/313) outlining the objectives of the meeting and suggesting key issues to be discussed. According to the concept note, significant progress has been made over the past 10 years towards universal implementation of resolution 1540, but important challenges remain. The note highlights how increased globalisation and connectivity have heightened the risk of the “dangerous nexus between weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism” and suggests that it is time to move forward from a decade of awareness-raising to a decade of “full and sustained implementation” of resolution 1540. It also places the debate within the context of the upcoming comprehensive review of the implementation of the resolution, inviting member states to present ideas and recommendations that can help the Committee in its future work. (The review is due by the end of 2016, as decided by the Council in resolution 1977 which also extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee for 10 years.)

More specifically, member states are invited to address issues such as how to effectively address threats posed by WMDs, including newly emerging, potential threats; how to ensure effective implementation; enhancing the existing mechanism for providing support to states needing assistance to implement the resolution; 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. Although not highlighted in the concept paper, some members may be interested in assessing in particular how successful resolution 1540 has been in preventing the rise of illicit nuclear proliferation networks.

At press time, it seemed that Council members had just agreed on the text of the presidential statement. The draft reaffirms the main provisions of resolution 1540 and calls on states to step up their efforts to implement their obligations and inform the 1540 Committee regularly of their efforts while also emphasising the importance of achieving universal reporting. Furthermore, it commends the work of the Committee and recommends that it consider developing a strategy aimed at ensuring full implementation and incorporating such a strategy into the comprehensive review. It also stresses the need for assistance and capacity-building to support implementation. In addition, the draft reiterates the importance of close cooperation between the Committee and other Council subsidiary bodies as well as coordination with other international, regional and sub-regional organisations.

While Council members describe the negotiations as fairly smooth, there were some differences that were not resolved until the very end. In particular, it seems that a paragraph containing agreed language from operative paragraph 14 of resolution 2118 on the use of chemical weapons in Syria was somewhat contentious. Paragraph 14, which was proposed by Russia in the context of Syria, decided that member states shall “inform immediately the Council of any violation of resolution 1540, including acquisition by non-state actors of chemical weapons, their means of delivery and related materials in order to take necessary measures therefore”. Likely reflecting the controversy surrounding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it seems some Council members were uncomfortable with the specific reference to resolution 2118 and generally preferred not to include this provision in the draft presidential statement on 1540 whereas Russia was keen to keep it in. In the end, it seems a compromise was reached by not specifically mentioning resolution 2118, but instead just recalling the Council’s “decision” and repeat the agreed language from the resolution.

There were also some other minor disagreements, including differing views on a US proposal to recognise the importance of other initiatives including the Nuclear Security Summit (held every two years, the first such summit was hosted by the US in 2010 and was then hosted by the RoK in 2012 and the Netherlands in March this year). Others, however, were opposed to this and there was a proposal to instead refer to “other relevant initiatives”. As a compromise, the agreed draft contains a reference only to the Hague Nuclear Security Summit communiqué (which contains a paragraph on the importance of resolution 1540 and the work of the 1540 Committee) and not to any other initiatives.

Implementation of resolution 1540 will be on the agenda also later this month when on 28 May the chairs of the three counter-terrorism-related committees – the 1540 Committee, the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) – will jointly brief the Council.

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