9589th Meeting (PM)

1540 Committee Chair Briefs Security Council on Government Efforts in Past Year to Prevent Non-State Actors from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction

Ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of a resolution aiming to prevent non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the head of the Security Council Committee tasked with its implementation today briefed the organ on the work of that subsidiary body over the past year.

On 28 April 2004, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1540 (2004) under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, affirming that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security.  The resolution obliges States, inter alia, to refrain from supporting non-State actors from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring or using such weapons and their means of delivery.

At the outset of the meeting, a procedural vote on the meeting’s provisional agenda was requested by the representative of the Russian Federation.  Having received the requisite number of votes in favour, the Council adopted the agenda and proceeded with the meeting.

José Javier de la Gasca (Ecuador), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), briefing the Council on the Committee’s work since 23 March 2023, stated that the Council’s recognition of the severe threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to international peace and security was a “pivotal moment” in the international community’s response to prevent it. “States have continued to make efforts towards the full implementation of the resolution, which remains a long-term task,” he reported.

Noting that the Committee held seven formal and one informal meeting in 2023 and has held three formal meetings to date in 2024, he acknowledged that Member States are in the best position to identify effective national practices.  To that end, he recognized the need to promote the sharing of experience, including through voluntary peer reviews and other means, to evaluate and reinforce effective practices. 

Alongside detailing other facets of its activities, he said that the Committee approved the appointment of five candidates to its Group of Experts in February 2024, which will allow the Group to be better resourced to assist the Committee in its work.  “The Committee will continue discussing the issue of the remaining vacancy in the spirit of cooperation,” he added, also informing the Council of the Committee’s intention to hold an open briefing this year in accordance with resolution 2663 (2022) on the status of implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).

In the ensuing discussion, many Council members underlined the importance of the Committee’s work.  The representative of Sierra Leone highlighted its vital role in facilitating assistance to Member States, as well as the capacity development it provides to help countries fulfil their obligations under resolution 1540 (2004). Underscoring the importance of preventing non-State actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, Algeria’s representative also commended the Committee’s work in engaging with Member States, providing assistance and fostering international cooperation to strengthen national non-proliferation capacities.

Guyana’s delegate, meanwhile, pointed out that a revised assistance mechanism could help address challenges relating to assistance requests, allow for timelier processing of those requests and encourage feedback from States on whether their requests were addressed.  She also highlighted the important role that women can play in the Committee’s work.

Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of Ecuador also highlighted the importance of adopting a new model for the Committee’s assistance mechanism, improving some aspects of the one approved in 2018 and facilitating dialogue with countries that require assistance. He also called on all Council members to maintain a constructive approach to enable the selection of the remaining candidate for the Group of Experts from the Asia-Pacific region. The actions of non-State actors require a global response, he said, calling on the Council to amplify the Committee’s voice, within its mandate, to counter that phenomenon.

The filling of vacancies in the Committee’s Group of Experts courted discussion from other Council members as well, with the speaker for Mozambique welcoming the consensus that led to the appointment of five highly qualified candidates to fill five of the six vacant positions in the Group of Experts.  This “strategic move”, he noted, ensures that the Group can effectively support the Committee’s vital activities.

While welcoming that the Committee was able to fill certain vacancies within the Group of Experts, the representative of Switzerland nevertheless pointed out that the process took more than a year and that candidates from the States who hold permanent membership in the Council were treated differently than those from other countries.  The representative of Malta echoed that, stressing that there should be no difference in the treatment afforded to such candidates. He also expressed concern over repeated obstructions to multiple compromise proposals that would have allowed the appointment of all six experts without delays.

For his part, the United Kingdom’s delegate looked forward to the addition of new experts, which will inject new technical knowledge and experience — vital to the continuation of effective Committee support to States. Commending its accomplishments, he said that resolution 1540 (2004) remains important as the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction has evolved, and new challenges are emerging.

Detailing some of those — such as unmanned vehicle technology and artificial intelligence — the representative of Japan, Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity to urge the Committee and its Group of Experts to play an even more proactive role in providing their expertise to Member States. Congratulating the five new experts on their recent appointment, she expressed hope that the Committee can reach a consensus to fill the last vacancy without further delay.  “This important position cannot become another victim of obstructionism by a certain Council member,” she stressed.

Slovenia’s delegate, while welcoming the recent agreement on appointing five new experts to the Group, stressed that the issue of the last remaining vacant post must be resolved promptly.  “No need to repeat how extremely dangerous” the proliferation risk posed by non-State actors is, she observed.  Similarly, the representative of France noted that the latest report from the Investigation and Identification Team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — attributing a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Marea in 2015 to Da’esh — reflects the reality of this threat.

Adding to that was the representative of the Republic of Korea, who described the recent heinous attack in Moscow as “yet another wake-up call”. Stating that the threat posed by non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction continues to evolve, he stressed that the Council must ensure that the Group of Experts is fully functioning, better-resourced and empowered to provide their expertise.  Welcoming the appointment of five candidates, he said Council members must not undermine this process.

Also spotlighting the recent “horrific” attack in Moscow was China’s delegate, who underscored that frequent terrorist attacks around the world are dealing a serious blow to peace and security in the countries and regions concerned.  “These bloodstained facts show that the threat of terrorism remains serious,” he said, adding that the consequences of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands are “inconceivable”.  Efforts must therefore be made to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime, and the Committee must continue to play its role effectively.

The representative of the Russian Federation recalled that resolution 1540 (2004) concerns the adoption of effective measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction and related material from falling into the hands of non-State actors.  Against the backdrop of the persistent threat of terrorism — including the recent attack in Moscow — “the paramount importance of this objective cannot be overestimated”, he said.  However, he emphasized that the Committee must strictly comply with its mandate, and that its Group of Experts can only operate “exclusively following its instructions”. 

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States pointed out that the Committee had to forsake dozens of available awareness-raising opportunities in 2023 due to a lack of available experts.  Moreover, the Committee’s reputation has not recovered, as States and international organizations are taking less of an interest in requesting the Committee’s support due to the growing likelihood that they will be turned down.  Every time the Committee’s work is blocked, progress in addressing the threats posed by non-State actors is materially diminished, he stressed, calling for an end to obstruction in this context and urging those present — as does resolution 1540 (2004) — to “remain seized of the matter”. 

For information media. Not an official record.