Preventing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to non-state actors is a major security and developmental objective for African states, given the dramatic consequences if such weapons were ever used.
UN Security Council Resolution 1540 is a key legally binding non-proliferation resolution.
It requires states to:
- refrain from providing support to non-state actors involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction;
- adopt effective laws to criminalise proliferation activities;
- establish controls over equipment, materials and technology that could be diverted for proliferation purposes.
Although African states have made steady progress in implementing the resolution, more can, and should, be done to put it into practice.
Chaired by Nicolas Kasprzyk, ISS consultant and former 1540 Committee Expert, this roundtable featured a presentation by Raphael Prenat, 1540 Committee Expert. His presentation offered insights on whether African states are implementing resolution 1540 effectively on the continent, and how they can overcome remaining challenges. Mothepa Shadung, ISS junior researcher, made closing remarks.
According to Prenat, ‘all too often, Africa is presented as a continent which lags behind in implementing resolution 1540 and in undertaking the necessary control measures and is crippled with other priority challenges. In fact, Africa should be seen in terms of its diverse opportunities’. Overall, the implementation trend is encouraging on the continent. However, more measures have been taken in the nuclear and chemical areas than in the biological area.
The speaker described the active role played by the 1540 Committee to facilitate implementation of resolution 1540 by States, including visits to states. Prenat also emphasised the need for co-operation between states and with the 1540 Committee.
Kasprzyk attributes much of this success to the leading role played by the African Union (AU), which works in synergy with other African stakeholders, such as the regional economic communities (RECs) and the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC).
The AU was one of the first international organisations to designate a focal point for resolution 1540 in 2011. Since then, the AU has steadily raised its profile on 1540-related matters. The AU also plans to host an assistance conference in early 2016 to facilitate the delivery of support to African states by matching assistance providers with assistance requesters.
However, challenges remain including: porous borders, control of biological agents, illicit trafficking routes, emergence of extremist groups and overall stability challenges. At the national level, legal frameworks, enforcement measures and controls over sensitive material, equipment and technology still need to be enhanced. Most of the 18 UN member states that have not submitted a report to the 1540 Committee are African states.
Shadung highlighted the importance of continuous co-operation among states, various organisations, such as the UNREC, the UN office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), other UN bodies, African civil society and academia in strengthening Africa’s implementation efforts. She also emphasised the need for African states to see implementing resolution 1540 as a key component of Africa’s socio-economic and developmental objectives.
The event was part of a project launched by the ISS in 2014 to strengthen and facilitate implementing resolution 1540 in Africa.