What's In Blue

Posted Thu 16 Jun 2016

Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Open Consultations on the Comprehensive Review of Resolution 1540

Next week, from Monday (20 June) through Wednesday (22 June), the Security Council’s 1540 Committee will be hosting consultations on the comprehensive review of resolution 1540 with all UN member states, as well as invited international, regional and sub-regional organisations and non-governmental organisations. The purpose of the three-day meeting is both for the Committee to provide an update on progress made in the implementation of the resolution, which aims to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors, and to offer participants an opportunity to convey their views on the comprehensive review for consideration by the Committee.

Context of the Review

The current review is the second comprehensive review of resolution 1540 since its adoption in 2004. The findings of the first review were endorsed in resolution 1977, adopted in 2011, in which the Council decided that the Committee should conduct another review within five years, as well as prior to the renewal of the Committee’s mandate, which expires in 2021.

The current process started officially on 28 April 2015, when the Committee approved a paper outlining the modalities for the conduct of the review with a view to completing the process by 30 November 2016, as called for in resolution 1977. According to the modalities paper, the review is meant to be both retrospective and forward-looking. It should aim to improve implementation of resolution 1540 by recommending specific action, while analysing the operation of the Committee and making recommendations for adjustments if necessary.

Over the past year, the comprehensive review has been a key focus of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts. It has also been a high priority for the current Committee chair, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), with Spain making clear early in the process its intention to propose a resolution on the outcome of the review during its presidency in December. As part of its work related to the review, the Committee has analysed information on the status of implementation by states and conducted a series of discussions and outreach events seeking views from international organisations, academics and industry. Most recently, the Committee held a special meeting in Madrid on 12 -13 May with participation from capitals, focusing specifically on the review.

The open consultations taking place next week were already announced in a press statement issued on 16 June last year (SC/11929), which invited member states, relevant international organizations and civil society, including industry, to engage actively in the review, and noted that the consultations would be held in the summer of 2016. The views expressed during the consultations will be taken into account by the 1540 Committee during the next phase of the review, which is the drafting of the final report, including findings and recommendations.

Background Paper

In preparation for the consultations, participants received earlier this month a background paper, along with the agenda for the meeting.

The background paper, which was prepared by the Group of Experts, highlights several areas and challenges that participants may want to address. On the topic of monitoring and national implementation, the data analysis conducted in preparation of the review shows that there has been progress in the rate of implementation over the last five years, as assessed by the number of measures taken by states, especially in terms of legal action to prohibit activities of non-state actors related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Overall, there was a global increase of seven percent in recorded measures. The paper also notes, however, that there was less progress with regard to accounting, security and export control measures, and there were also significant differences in the rate of implementation between the three types of weapons (nuclear, chemical and biological) as well as regional differences. It concludes that significant efforts are needed by states to close these gaps in implementation.

With regard to assistance, the paper notes the important role of the Committee in matching offers and requests for assistance, as mandated by the Council. Since the last review, the Committee has received 14 requests for assistance and 45 offers. Despite the relatively high number of positive responses, however, the Committee’s matchmaking role had been one of its most challenging functions, according to the paper. The responses received have been mostly from regional organisations and seem to have been part of ongoing cooperation, and not necessarily responding to a specific request. Only nine of 47 states registered as assistance providers have responded and the responses have been modest. According to the paper there are therefore very few examples of responses directly addressing a request and which have actually resulted in assistance being provided. At the same time, a significant number of requests are not specific enough or technically sound to be adequately considered. Moreover, while assistance is often provided without any matchmaking involvement of the Committee, such programmes are often concentrated in a limited number of countries.

Concluding that the matchmaking mechanism had shown “clear limitations in responding in a timely manner to assistance requests”, the paper suggests as a possible option the establishment of a dedicated fund that could be used to finance assistance programmes offered by relevant international organisations. It also suggests that the 1540 Committee could develop assistance projects in cooperation with international organizations, and might consider inviting states and relevant regional organisations to provide information on a regular basis on existing assistance programmes. Furthermore, it highlights recent efforts by the Committee to strengthen cooperation with regional organisations as worth pursuing, noting in particular the first-ever regional assistance conference organised in collaboration with the AU from 6 to 7 April, which brought together states seeking assistance with providers, as an example of a new initiative that should be continued.

On the question of transparency and outreach, the paper notes that efforts in this area can contribute to enhancing confidence, promoting greater cooperation and raising awareness about the resolution. In this regard, it highlights the Committee’s website, quarterly messages from the chair which are posted on the website, video messages, press releases and invitations to other organisations to speak to the Committee as important tools for reaching a wider audience.

In relation to outreach events, the value of the Committee and its Group of Experts interacting directly with member states is highlighted, having resulted in 2015 in the submission of seven additional voluntary national implementation action plans and other steps likely to improve implementation. Moreover, an analysis of implementation data had shown a positive correlation between states’ participation in 1540 resolution-related events and their implementation of the resolution. The paper also stresses the important role of civil society both in facilitating implementation of the resolution and in helping to identify ways to enhance the ability of others to implement the resolution, with a special reference to the role of industry.

8 June Open Briefing

In addition to the background paper, there was an open briefing for member states on 8 June to prepare them for next week’s consultations. Oyarzun, the coordinator of the Group of Experts, Terence Taylor, and relevant Secretariat staff briefed.

In addition to the points raised in the background paper, Oyarzun highlighted in particular the Committee’s role in the area of capacity-building, such as providing support for national authorities to set up or improve 1540 implementation management, including drafting of legislation and advising on the writing of national implementation plans. On the issue of assistance financing, he drew attention to the UN Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament, managed by the Office for Disarmament Affairs, which is currently mainly used to cover outreach activities. With regard to international cooperation, Oyarzun stressed in particular the establishment of a network of points of contact or coordinators appointed by international and regional organisations, as called for in resolution 1977, as a key to future action to continue to reinforce coordination.

Taylor invited member states to consider some specific questions in regard to implementation, reporting and assistance. In particular, noting that the experts had seen improved implementation and more accurate reporting as a result of direct interaction with member states, he said it would be useful to hear member states’ views on ways to inspire such visits as well as ways to improve interaction. He also said it would be helpful to get their feedback on the so-called 1540 matrices, which constitute the primary tool for the 1540 Committee to organise information about implementation of the resolution by states and which Taylor described as an essential component of the review process. Moreover, drawing attention to the assistance mechanism challenges, he said the conference in Addis Ababa organized in cooperation with the AU had been a very productive one, allowing direct interaction between countries seeking and those offering assistance, and invited states to share their views on such an approach. Finally, on the issue of voluntary national implementation action plans, Taylor noted that there had been a sharp increase in requests for assistance to develop such plans and said he would be very interested in member states’ views on this.

Next Week’s Consultations

The consultations will start off with opening statements by the president of the General Assembly, the deputy minister for foreign affairs of Spain and Oyarzun, followed by a general debate. The Secretary-General will speak in the morning of the second day, before the start of thematic discussions that afternoon focusing on three main themes: monitoring and national implementation; assistance and cooperation with international organisations, including the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Da’esh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee; and transparency and outreach. Each of the thematic sessions will be introduced by a 1540 Committee member and a member of the Group of Experts, followed by “interactive discussion and interventions” by member states and other participants. At the time of writing, more than 50 speakers had signed up for the general debate. Participants in the open consultations may wish to comment on the findings and suggestions of the background paper and state their position on what they see as the most important issues that the comprehensive review should try to address. Member states may also want to share their opinion on specific challenges raised by Taylor during the 8 June open briefing related to implementation, reporting and assistance.

During the consultations, there will be three side events. On 20 June, Germany will be hosting an event on the role of industry in the fight against proliferation, building on the four Wiesbaden conferences they convened on this topic in the period 2012 to 2015. On 21 June, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is organizing a meeting on the role of academia and civil society in the implementation of resolution 1540 with a focus on transfer controls. The third event, on 22 June, organized by the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium based in Nigeria, will focus on biosecurity, bio-threat reduction and infrastructure development in Africa in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis.

Next Steps and Council Dynamics

Looking ahead, the 1540 Committee with the assistance of the Group of Experts will now start preparing the first draft of the comprehensive review, which is due by 31 August. Although Council members are in agreement on the importance of resolution 1540 and the need to enhance its implementation, there are differences of view on the level of ambition for the review. Russia has consistently advocated a cautious approach and stated during the last Council briefing by the chair on 4 May (S/PV.7686) that the Committee required “fine-tuning rather than radical change”, while also pronouncing itself “quite sceptical” about the creation of additional bureaucratic structures relating to the resolution. At that same meeting, China said that the Council should avoid “introducing other complex issues that do not fall within the purview of resolution 1540”. Moreover, Russia has apparently said that a new resolution is not necessary.

By contrast, Spain and other Council members such as 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. It seems that these members may be hoping that speakers in the open consultations will support their views, both in terms of the issues that should be addressed and the need for an ambitious resolution, thus strengthening their position in the upcoming Council negotiations on the outcome of the review.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails