What's In Blue

Non-Proliferation: Briefing by the Chair of the 1540 Committee

This afternoon (26 March), Chair of the 1540 Committee, Ambassador José Javier De La Gasca (Ecuador), will provide the Council the annual update on the Committee’s work. Adopted on 28 April 2004, resolution 1540 aims to prevent non-state actors from obtaining access to weapons of mass destruction. It requires states to establish the relevant domestic controls and encourages enhanced international cooperation to prevent the proliferation of such weapons.

The final report of the second comprehensive review on the implementation of resolution 1540, which was published on 29 November 2022 and covers developments since 2016, says that while progress has been recorded, the resolution’s full implementation is a long-term task. It notes that, overall, member states have strengthened measures to prohibit non-state actors from manufacturing, acquiring, developing, transporting, or using nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery. However, some member states have continued to face difficulties in fully implementing the resolution owing to several factors, including lack of adequate financial resources, technical expertise, legal frameworks, and implementation capabilities. In this regard, the report highlights the continued importance of the 1540 Committee in supporting member states in implementing resolution 1540 and facilitating assistance to that end.

Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2663 of 30 November 2022, the Security Council extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts for ten years, until 30 November 2032. Among other matters, 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.

At today’s meeting, De La Gasca is expected to highlight the crucial role that resolution 1540 plays in the global non-proliferation architecture. He might emphasise the need for practical steps by member states to implement the resolution, including by developing voluntary national implementation action plans, a measure further encouraged by resolution 2663. During last year’s annual Council briefing from the chairs of the counter-terrorism-related committees, which was held on 15 November 2023, the previous 1540 chair, Ecuador said that such plans help to outline states’ priorities and actions to be taken in relation to national regulatory and control frameworks as well as to identify areas in which assistance is required. As at November 2023, 38 States had submitted a total of 47 such plans to the Committee since 2017. De La Gasca may note today that 185 states have submitted to the Committee their initial national report on measures taken to comply with obligations under resolution 1540. He might also describe the Committee’s outreach to the eight states that have yet to do so.

De La Gasca is expected to elaborate on the Committee’s work in facilitating assistance to member states in implementing resolution 1540. Among other things, the Committee matches assistance requests from states with offers of assistance from other states as well as from international, regional, and sub-regional organisations. Since last year, the Committee has been discussing a proposal by Ecuador for a new working method for the committee’s assistance mechanism, which was last updated in 2018. De La Gasca may also provide information about planned activities to mark the 20th anniversary, in April, of the adoption of resolution 1540.

At today’s meeting, Council members are expected to express united support for the objectives of resolution 1540 and highlight the importance of its implementation. Some members may raise the need to address new proliferation risks arising from technological advances, including emerging technologies.

Council members generally 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. However, in recent years, there have been some disagreements among Council members regarding the Group of Experts. Some Council members, such as the US, have advocated 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.) Russia, however, maintains that the Group of Experts should act under the Committee’s strict direction.

Resolution 2663 directed the 1540 Committee to review its internal guidelines on matters regarding its Group of Experts by 30 April 2023. These guidelines have not yet been agreed on, however. At the latest annual briefing by the chair of the 1540 Committee, which was held on 23 March 2023, several Council members—including Malta, Switzerland, the UK, and the US—said that they were looking forward to the adoption of the guidelines in order to describe the activities to be undertaken by the Group of Experts. The US said that it is crucial to clarify the responsibilities of the Group of Experts so that “it can engage fully in the activities that are clearly outlined in the Committee’s mandate”.

There have also been some difficulties in the appointment of experts to the 1540 Group of Experts. Under resolution 2055 of 29 June 2012, up to nine experts can be appointed to the Group. The experts and the coordinator of the Group are appointed by the Secretary-General following the approval of their recruitment by the 1540 Committee. In 2023, the Group of Experts operated with only three experts. Earlier this year, after prolonged deliberations, the Committee approved the appointment of experts to fill five out of the six positions that became vacant last year.

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