What's In Blue

Posted Wed 14 Dec 2016

Open Debate and Adoption of Resolution on the 1540 Comprehensive Review

Tomorrow morning (15 December), the Security Council will hold an open debate titled “Preventing Catastrophe: A Global Agenda for Stopping the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction to Non-State Actors”. It will mark the conclusion of the second comprehensive review of the status of implementation of resolution 1540, which seeks to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) to non-state actors. The Council is expected to adopt a resolution endorsing the review and noting the findings and recommendations contained in its report, which was agreed by the 1540 Committee last Friday.

The meeting tomorrow will be chaired by Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfonso MarĂ­a Dastis. Briefings are expected by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; Brian Finley, President of the Stimson Center, a policy research centre focusing on security threats; and James Min, DHL Express Vice President of International Trade Affairs and Compliance. Eliasson is expected to speak broadly about the role of the UN system in preventing the proliferation of WMDs to non-state actors, while Finley is likely to focus on new technology and other emerging threats, and Min on the important role of the private sector in the implementation of resolution 1540. The briefing by a private sector executive is unusual, but not unprecedented. At press time, more than 60 countries and 13 organisations had requested to speak.

Concept Note and Key Findings of the Review

In preparation for the debate, Spain circulated a concept note outlining key objectives, the main findings of the comprehensive review and suggested topics for discussion (S/2016/1013). According to the concept note, the goal of the meeting is to reflect on the practical measures that can be adopted to prevent non-state actors, in particular terrorists, from accessing or using WMDs, building on the conclusions and recommendations of the comprehensive review.

The concept note highlights the risks of non-state actors using WMDs; the emergence of new infectious biological agents that can be used as weapons; and the rapid advances in science and technology. In this context, the comprehensive review is seen as one of the main Council initiatives in dealing with these new threats.

Regarding the main findings of the review, the concept note highlights the increase in the number of legally binding measures adopted by states to prevent the proliferation of WMDs, but indicates that less progress has been made as regards accounting and export control measures, and in securing the production, use, storage and transport of materials related to chemical and biological weapons. Progress has also been uneven across different regions.

Another finding is that the 1540 Committee has made progress in adopting a regional approach to strengthen its capacity to respond to requests for funding support and in developing a network of “1540 Points of Contact” among states and international organisations. Still, closer cooperation between the Council and international and regional organisations is needed to coordinate activities, avoid duplication and focus on the most important areas.

A further key finding is that direct interactions with states, which are described as very useful, should focus on areas where they are most needed and on subjects where implementation is generally weaker, such as the obligations related to chemical and biological weapons. Finally, the review concluded that the support structure for the1540 Committee could be strengthened to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness, in light of the increased activities of the Committee and the need to deliver better assistance to member states.

With regard to the debate, the concept note invites member states to announce measures they intend to adopt to prevent the proliferation of WMDs in the main areas highlighted by the comprehensive review, and to highlight effective practices that could further the global non-proliferation agenda based on the conclusions and recommendations of the review. International and regional organisations are also invited to announce relevant measures aimed at preventing proliferation.

Referring more specifically to the role of the Council, the concept note proposes that it could reflect on ways to strengthen the preventive system to combat the proliferation of WMDs, including how the non-proliferation architecture can be reinforced so that there is greater coordination; how to enhance the work of the 1540 Committee; and how to better monitor implementation and analysis of proliferation risks. Finally, it encourages a discussion on ways to improve transparency and outreach.

The Comprehensive Review Process and Report

Although Council members generally agree on the importance of resolution 1540 and the need to enhance its implementation, the comprehensive review process has been more difficult than initially expected due to differences among Council members in their priorities and ambitions for the review. Russia and China made clear that they did not see the need for radical changes in the functioning or mandate of the Committee, whereas Spain, as the chair of the Committee, and other Council members, such as the UK and the US, were pushing for more substantive measures and new approaches. As a result, the discussions in the 1540 Committee on the report of the review were quite contentious, in particular with regard to its conclusions and recommendations. It took more than two months of intense negotiations after the Committee considered the first draft of the report on 27 September to reach agreement on the final document. The whole review process has taken almost two years.

It seems that Russia, which was represented by an official from capital, was seen as playing a particularly active role in trying to weaken the text. Contentious issues included the question of how to refer to new threats; whether to mention the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the work of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM); and how to describe and address gaps in implementation, with some expressing concern about anything that could be perceived as “naming and shaming” or placing undue burden on small, no-risk countries. There were also differences over whether to strengthen the administrative support structures for the Committee. It seems that there was little support for a proposal to create a new Committee support structure involving the merger of the functions performed by the Office of Disarmament Affairs and the Group of Experts assisting the Committee into a new non-proliferation directorate. The final report reflects the need to find compromises acceptable to all Council members, with recommendations being fairly general.

The report can be found on the 1540 Committee’s website and will be published under the document symbol S/2016/1038.

For further background on the comprehensive review, please refer to our December 2016 Forecast.

The Draft Resolution

Once there was agreement on the report of the comprehensive review, it seems that the negotiations on the resolution were fairly straightforward as the draft draws on agreed language from the report. The text, which was put in blue this morning, 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 the draft reflects agreed language from previous resolutions, in particular resolution 1977, which endorsed the first comprehensive review, there are some new elements.

With regard to implementation, the draft resolution emphasises that the Committee should continue to take into account the particular circumstances of states, such as their ability to manufacture and export relevant materials, and prioritise efforts and resources where they are most needed. It specifically notes the need for more attention to enforcement measures; measures relating to biological, chemical and nuclear weapons; proliferation finance measures; accounting for and securing related materials; and national export and transshipment controls. It encourages states to control access to intangible transfers of technology and to information, and calls on states that have not done so to start developing effective national control lists “at the earliest opportunity”.
Specifically in relation to the implementation of operative paragraph 2 of resolution 1540, which obligates states to adopt and enforce appropriate laws to prevent non-state actors from acquiring WMDs, the draft requests the Committee to hold discussions on the optimal approach for enforcing this paragraph. It seems that this language resulted from an initial US proposal calling on the Committee to consider recommending new obligations for states, including criminalising the activities referred to in resolution 1540.

Another new element is a provision calling on states to take into account “developments on the evolving nature of risk of proliferation and rapid advances in science and technology” in their implementation of the resolution. A separate provision requests the 1540 Committee to take note of these developments in its work as well.

On the issue of assistance, the draft resolution mostly reiterates the language from resolution 1977, such as encouraging voluntary contributions to the UN Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament Activities, and urging the Committee to continue strengthening its role in facilitating technical assistance. There is some new language, however, calling for a regional approach, including the holding of regional assistance conferences. The draft also encourages states needing assistance to provide the Committee with more details about their needs and directs the Committee to help with the formulation of requests and to revise its assistance template.

With regard to international cooperation, the draft reiterates the call for enhanced cooperation between the Committee and relevant international, regional and sub-regional organisations, and adds a request for the Committee to convene regular meetings with these organisations to share information and experiences. Furthermore, the draft encourages these organisations to highlight the 1540 obligations in their model legislation and/or guidelines for instruments under their mandate relevant to the resolution.

Also with regard to cooperation, the draft resolution contains a preambular paragraph recalling the invitation in resolution 2319, which renewed the JIM’s mandate, for the JIM as well as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to brief the 1540 Committee as appropriate on relevant results of their work. This is seen as significant since there is no reference to the JIM in the report of the comprehensive review because of the strong opposition by some Council members.

Another addition which is seen as significant and was contentious during the negotiations, concerns the Committee’s outreach activities. In the context of requesting the Committee to continue its outreach efforts, the draft adds a new provision encouraging interaction with parliamentarians and representatives of civil society, including industry and academia.

While there is no direct mention of the need to strengthen the support structures for the Committee, the draft resolution requests the Committee to consider “the efficiency and effectiveness” of these structures on the basis of the comprehensive review report, and encourages it to report to the Council on its findings “within 2017 as appropriate”. In other provisions, the draft decides that the Committee shall submit its annual programme of work before the end of each January, as opposed to end of May, which is the current timeline established by resolution 1977. The draft also clarifies that there will be a briefing by the Committee to the Council in the first quarter of each year, and a joint briefing once a year with the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Da’esh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee.