Non-Proliferation: Today’s vote on the 1540 Committee’s Mandate Renewal*
This morning (30 November), the Security Council voted on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts for ten years, until 30 November 2032. The draft text was adopted unanimously as resolution 2663. (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.)
The negotiations were difficult. Mexico, the 1540 Committee chair, circulated an initial draft text to Council members on 14 November and convened the first round of negotiations on 16 November. It then revised the text three times to accommodate inputs and comments from Council members. The penholder placed the fourth draft text under silence procedure on 28 November. Russia then broke silence in relation to a proposed annex that outlined the roles and responsibilities of the Group of Experts of the 1540 Committee and to an operative paragraph encouraging the committee to consider the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in its activities. Subsequently, the vote on the draft resolution, which was initially scheduled for yesterday (29 November), was postponed to today to allow for further deliberations.
Yesterday afternoon, Mexico placed a revised draft text in blue, which omitted the proposed annex, opting instead for an operative paragraph directing the committee to review its internal guidelines on matters concerning its group of experts by 30 April 2023. The text also altered the operative paragraph from “urging” the committee’s consideration of women’s participation in its activities to “encouraging” it. Despite these changes, it appears that Russia still opposed this paragraph, as it placed a separate competing draft in blue shortly thereafter. The Russian draft text was a straightforward mandate renewal of the committee and its group of experts. It did not make substantive changes to the committee’s mandated tasks, most recently set out in resolution 2325 of 15 December 2016 and extended in resolution 2622 of 25 February. Following further deliberations with Council members and bilateral negotiations with Russia, Mexico placed a revised draft in blue that changed the contentious operative paragraph on women’s participation to a preambular paragraph. In turn, Russia withdrew its draft text and the Council voted only on the draft resolution submitted by the penholder.
The negotiations on the 1540 Committee’s mandate renewal overlapped with the deliberations on the comprehensive review of resolution 1540 requested in resolution 1977 of 20 April 2011, which were similarly challenging. Many of the divisive issues during the negotiations on the final report of the comprehensive review—which was meant to inform the 1540 Committee mandate renewal—were apparently also contentious during the negotiations on the resolution extending the 1540 Committee’s mandate. (For background on the comprehensive review, see our brief in the November Monthly Forecast).
In addition to the ten-year extension of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts, Resolution 2663 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 reflects agreed language from previous resolutions on the 1540 Committee, in particular resolution 1977 and resolution 2325, there are some new elements. One addition is the provision directing the committee to review its internal guidelines on matters regarding its Group of Experts by 30 April 2023. Russia has long argued in favour of a clearer articulation of the responsibilities of the 1540 Group of Experts, emphasising that it must act under the committee’s strict direction and purview. Several other members agree that outlining the key roles and responsibilities of the Group of Experts would be beneficial. These members however 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. Many Council members view this as hindering the efficiency and effectiveness of the group.
During open consultations on the comprehensive review of the implementation of resolution 1540 that were held in late May, 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, expressed the view that the group should have a more limited role. When the Council extended the 1540 Committee’s mandate in February, 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”.
China and Russia have been emphasising the need to uphold the leading role of member states in the implementation of resolution 1540. While several members—including Albania, Norway, Ireland, Mexico and the P3 (France, the UK, and the US)—favoured the inclusion of the proposed annex outlining the responsibilities of the Group of Experts, others—such as China, India and Russia—preferred to address this question within the committee itself, through a review of its internal documents.
On the issue of women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the committee’s activities, the penholder sought to include this reference based on inputs raised by a cross-regional group of member states during the open consultations on the comprehensive review. Mexico and Norway published a non-paper in mid-May encouraging participants in the open consultations to consider practical ways to incorporate women, peace and security (WPS) considerations into the work of the 1540 Committee.
Most Council members support bridging the gap between the WPS agenda and non-proliferation efforts, in line with the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, which affirms that “empowering women and ensuring their equal and meaningful participation in disarmament and arms control decision-making processes can lead to more inclusive, effective and sustainable policy outcomes”. Russia, on the other hand, has often opposed attempts to include WPS language in Council products and has regularly taken the view that the Security Council should focus on threats to international peace and security, especially since other UN bodies—such as the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council—already work on women’s rights and empowerment.
In their explanation of votes following the adoption of the resolution this morning, several members expressed disappointment that, because of “one Council member”, the resolution failed to incorporate several proposals aimed at improving the work of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts.
Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of Resolution 1540
Although Council members generally agree on the importance of resolution 1540 and the need to enhance its implementation, the comprehensive review process has revealed differences among Council members in their priorities for the 1540 Committee’s work. China and Russia have opposed major changes in the functioning or mandate of the committee, whereas Mexico, as the chair of committee, and several other Council members, such as the UK and the US, have pushed for more substantive measures and new approaches that more accurately reflect the current context in which states are implementing resolution 1540.
As a result, the discussions in the 1540 Committee on the report of the comprehensive review were 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 to reach agreement on the final document. The committee agreed on the final report yesterday (29 November).
It seems that Russia, which was represented by an official from capital, played a particularly active role in trying to weaken the text. Contentious issues included the question of how to refer to new and emerging technologies, the issue of proliferation financing; the extent of increased cooperation between the 1540 Committee and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, consideration of gender perspectives in the committee’s activities, and the role and responsibilities of the committee’s group of experts. The final report’s recommendations are fairly general, reflecting the need to find compromises acceptable to all Council members.
*Post-script: On 30 November, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2663, extending the mandate of the 1540 Committee until 30 November 2032.