Home / Events / Non-proliferation in a non-compliant world: rethinking UN Security Council resolution 1540
Non-proliferation in a non-compliant world: rethinking UN Security Council resolution 1540
Date: 29 October 2015
Time: 09h00 - 11h30
Venue: The Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave, NW 8th Floor, Washington DC

United Nations Security Council resolution 1540, adopted in 2004, obliges states to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors. The resolution is a powerful instrument in a time of increasing transnational threats, but to what extent have states put into practice its measures?

The implementation of the resolution will be assessed by the end of 2016 in a comprehensive review, as required by the Security Council. As part of this effort, former 1540 Committee experts met in Cape Town, South Africa, in May 2015 to exchange and contribute their thoughts on the challenges that governments experience in adhering to the resolution.

A number of these challenges were assessed by participants at this roundtable discussion co-hosted by the Stimson Center and the Washington Foreign Law Society, in co-operation with the ISS. Current and former 1540 Committee experts facilitated discussion and participants received a copy of an ISS monograph, Towards the 2016 Comprehensive Review – Former experts assess UNSC Resolution 1540.

Representatives from civil society, think-tanks, the legal fraternity and academia, were divided into five groups to discuss prepared questions and background information on different issues relating to resolution 1540. The meeting was chaired by Debra Decker, Senior Advisor, Managing Across Boundaries’ Project.

Speakers included: 

  • Brian Finlay, President and CEO, Stimson Center
  • Terence Taylor, Coordinator, Group of Experts supporting the UN Security Council 1540 Committee
  • Dr Richard Cupitt, US State Department Special Coordinator, Office of Counterproliferation Initiatives
  • Nicolas Kasprzyk, Consultant, Institute for Security Studies
  • Esther Zubiri, Spanish State Attorney Chief, Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee against Terrorism

Each group discussed the following issues and provided some recommendations:

  • How to make the 1540 Committee assistance and capacity-building mechanisms work and the changes needed in the mandate and structure of the 1540 Committee and Group of Experts: The first and second group highlighted that states require assistance in identifying implementation priority areas and support to better coordinate assistance providers and assistance requesters. This could, for example, be achieved through discussion forums for states, such as regional conferences.
  • Incentivising states to better comply with the requirements of 1540: The third group discussed implementation of the resolution and noted that the 1540 Committee should explore the idea of a peer review mechanism. The group regarded the Polish-Croatian peer review as a successful and model practice. The group stressed that ‘naming and shaming’ techniques do not encourage improved implementation.  
  • Measuring implementation of 1540 - sufficiency of the 1540 Committee Matrix: The fourth group suggested that regular international conferences could be a useful method of providing time-bound implementation of the requirements of the resolution. While having a large number of categories in the 1540 Matrix might be more difficult, it may actually help guide states.
  • Non-proliferation laws and regulations enabling business compliance and criminal prosecutions: The fifth group discussed these legal issues. It argued that the labyrinth of export compliance laws and the difficulty of defining and controlling dual-use items create obstacles to criminal prosecutions. The group recommended that the 1540 Committee, combined with expertise of the Group of Experts, could help facilitate prosecutions through international funds and United Nations support.
  • Future proliferation challenges – what we know and what we haven’t thought of: 3-D printing, synthetic biology and DNA/RNA manipulation, insider threats, uncontrolled financial transfers and mass refugee movements were among the new and future challenges that the final group identified. The group recommended that it is vital to synchronise intelligence and law enforcement agencies to detect, deter and hold those undertaking proliferation activities accountable.

Participant inputs from this roundtable are important for states, the UN Security Council, the 1540 Committee and other stakeholders, and should be considered as part of the 2016 comprehensive review of the implementation of resolution 1540.

The event is co-sponsored by the Stimson Center and the Washington Foreign Law Society, in cooperation with the ISS. The participation of the ISS in this event is made possible with funding from the government of Norway. The ISS is also grateful for support from the other members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA.
The Stimson Center
1211 Connecticut Ave
NW 8th Floor
Washington DC
Nicolas Kasprzyk
Phone: +27 12 346 9500
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