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As UN takes stock of landmark resolution on weapons proliferation, Ban urges greater prevention efforts

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (screen) delivers remarks at formal open consultations at UN Headquarters in New York on the 2016 Comprehensive Review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004). UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (screen) delivers remarks at formal open consultations at UN Headquarters in New York on the 2016 Comprehensive Review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004). UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
21 June 2016 – While Governments around the world have been working decidedly and collectively to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear weapons, the international community must intensify efforts in that regard in order to keep up with and effectively address global challenges, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“I count on the international community to urgently step up its efforts on disarmament and non-proliferation of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction,” the Secretary-General said at formal open consultations at UN Headquarters in New York on the ‘2016 Comprehensive Review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004),’ which aims to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors.

“Let us redouble our efforts to create a safer and more secure world,” he added.

The three-day meeting, which began yesterday, is being hosted by the Security Council’s so-called 1540 Committee, which was established to facilitate implementation of the resolution by all States. The meeting, which opened yesterday and will conclude tomorrow, will include the participation of UN Member States, as well as international, regional and sub-regional organizations and non-governmental organizations.

By the terms of resolution 1540, the Council decided that all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.

The resolution requires all States to adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws to that end. It also requires them to develop and maintain effective border controls and law-enforcement efforts to detect, deter, prevent and combat, including through international cooperation when necessary, the illicit trafficking and brokering in such items in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law.

Resolution 1540 ‘fine example’ of cooperation

In his remarks, Mr. Ban said that throughout his tenure as Secretary-General, resolution 1540 (2004) has been an important tool to prevent non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

“For twelve years, it has functioned as a fine example of international cooperation,” he said.

The UN chief noted that the alliances forged between the Committee and regional and sub-regional organizations such as the Organization of American States, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the League of Arab States and the African Union, have greatly benefitted the States of those regions, and the world as a whole.

Praising the 1540 Committee for the partnerships it has established with civil society, academia and the private sector, the Secretary-General noted that a collective approach is critical for a “robust and adaptable resolution.”

In addition, Mr. Ban expressed gratitude to those Member States that have provided funds or in-kind assistance, including to the Office of the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and its regional centres, to support implementation of the resolution since 2004.

He said, however, that it is necessary to acknowledge that the world has changed since 2004.

“Sadly, this has not always been for the better,” Mr. Ban emphasized, noting that the use of poison gas in Syria was an alarming reminder of the continuing threat of WMD.

“Dangerous non-state actors have demonstrated global reach. They have actively sought the full range of WMD capabilities. They often operate on the territory of states that unfortunately lack the capacity to address these dangerous activities,” the Secretary-General said.

“These non-state actors take advantage of the open borders and technologies that define the modern world and our global society. They seek to misuse the broad diffusion of technology, for their own evil ends,” he added.

Review process

As such, the UN chief stressed that the review process, which was mandated by Security Council resolution 1977 (2011), is an opportunity to ensure that resolution 1540 can continue to be “fit for purpose in this dynamic environment.”

Noting concern about the increasing danger of malicious use by terrorists of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material against a population centre, the Secretary-General said that resolution 1540 should and can play a greater role in ensuring that the international community has the appropriate mechanisms to prevent such an incident.

Member States must also endow resolution 1540 with the means to guard against the misuse of technological advances, he said.

“Resolution 1540 needs to be adaptable if it is to continue protecting us against easier, cheaper and more accessible means of production, and methods of delivery,” Mr. Ban said.

“Narrowing these gaps in the 1540 regime clearly requires the universal and full implementation of resolution 1540,” he added.

Urging all Member States to make sure they are properly equipped to prevent non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the Secretary-General also said that while good progress has been made in prevention, it is also necessary to think about what to do if, despite all efforts, prevention fails.

“Resolution 1540 has become an important component of the global security architecture. It is a pillar of the UN strategy to confront the global challenge of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It must be strengthened to keep up with the times,” he said.

Preventing proliferation

In that regard, he urged members of the Security Council to take responsibility for improving preparedness in response to the possible use of a WMD by a non-state actor.

In addition, the Secretary-General stressed that the best way to prevent non-state actors from using WMD is by eliminating all such weapons, completely and irreversibly.

Along those lines, the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, highlighted that resolution 1540 is an important tool in global non-proliferation efforts, noting that its relevance remains as strong today as it was in 2004.

“Around the world, terrorist acts are already causing great damage and suffering. The prospect of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons or dangerous chemical or biological substances, however, is even more worrying,” he said.

“We must not underestimate the risk of this occurring, particularly given that in some cases, those actors have managed to seize considerable military and financial means, or take control over territories, thus improving their chances of accessing facilities related to weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

In that regard, it is important that countries continue to build their legal frameworks and adopt effective measures to prevent the proliferation of WMD and their delivery means, including by non-state actors, Mr. Lykketoft said.

The adopted laws, however, must also be enforced, and Governments must be able to lean on effective national export control systems as well as trained and qualified experts, he said.

“I was pleased to learn that since the adoption of this resolution, many countries have recognized this necessity as well as the importance of national action and international cooperation in this area,” he said.

“The fact that more than 90 per cent of United Nations Member States have reported on the measures that they have undertaken to implement the resolution also deserves our acknowledgment,” he added.

Comprehensive review

Mr. Lykketoft also highlighted that the comprehensive review to be concluded by December is an opportunity to analyse and evaluate implementation, identify best practices and gaps, and, based on that, determine what further action is needed to achieve full and universal implementation of resolution 1540.

“Together we can find more effective ways to help member states in building and training capacities for prevention, particularly in today’s rapidly changing scientific, technological and commercial environment,” he emphasized.

“In a context where emerging actors including in the private sector now have access to sensitive weapons technologies and operate in dual-use industries, it is critical that due attention is given to partnerships and cross-sectoral engagement including with research, industry, academia, parliamentarians, civil society and other relevant stakeholders,” Mr. Lykketoft said.