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Frequently Asked Questions on Resolution 1540 (2004)

  1. What is resolution 1540 (2004) and what is its significance?
  2. What does resolution 1540 (2004) require from States?
  3. Why is resolution 1540 (2004) relevant to States that do not possess weapons of mass destruction?
  4. What is the added value of UNSC resolution 1540 (2004) when most States have already undertaken international obligations in the non-proliferation areas, for example, through the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?
  5. How does resolution 1540 (2004) relate to counter-terrorism effort?
  6. What is the 1540 Committee and how do the Committee and its experts function?
  7. Is the 1540 Committee a sanctions committee? Does the 1540 Committee conduct any investigation or prosecution?
  8. What is the relationship between the 1540 Committee and the other Security Council Committees in the area of counter-terrorism?
  9. What role do international, regional and sub-regional organisations play in the implementation of the resolution, and how does the Committee liaise with them?
  10. How does the Committee encourage States to implement the resolution?
  11. What is the 1540 Committee matrix and what do the symbols “X” and “?” mean in the matrix?
  12. What are the control lists that we can refer to when implementing export controls?
  13. How often should States report to the Committee?
  14. What type of assistance is available?
  15. What is the mechanism of matching offers and assistance requests?
  16. What is the link between capacity building in the context of resolution1540 and development?

1.  What is resolution 1540 (2004) and what is its significance?

Resolution 1540 (2004) is a decision of the Security Council taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter affirming that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The resolution is significant as a binding instrument, which adds illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials, as a new dimension of proliferation, and recognises the nexus of proliferation and the risk posed by non-State actors, including terrorists, of acquiring such weapons or related materials. As other international legal instruments mostly govern the activities of States, Resolution 1540 (2004) addresses the threat posed by non-State actors by explicitly having States refrain from providing any support for proliferation-related activities to such actors and by preventing their involvement in such illicit activities.

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2.  What does resolution 1540 (2004) require from States?

Resolution 1540 (2004) requires States to refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, posses, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.

States are also required, in accordance with their national procedures, to adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws that prohibit any non-State actor to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, as well as attempts to engage in any of the foregoing activities, participate in them as an accomplice, assist or finance them.

The resolution also requires States to take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials in the areas of accounting/securing, physical protection, border and law enforcement, export and trans-shipment.

(a) Develop and maintain appropriate effective measures to account for and secure such items in production, use, storage or transport;

(b) Develop and maintain appropriate effective physical protection measures;

(c) Develop and maintain appropriate 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;

(d) Establish, develop, review and maintain appropriate effective national export and trans-shipment controls over such items, including appropriate laws and regulations to control export, transit, trans-shipment and re-export and controls on providing funds and services related to such export and trans-shipment such as financing, and transporting that would contribute to proliferation, as well as establishing end-user controls; and establishing and enforcing appropriate criminal or civil penalties for violations of such export control laws and regulations.

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3.   Why is resolution 1540 (2004) relevant to States that do not possess weapons of mass destruction?

Resolution 1540 (2004) is relevant to all States as the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery is recognised by the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security which affects all States. In case of use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction, no State in the international community would be immune to the worldwide consequences.

In addition, persons or entities being engaged in or providing support for proliferation activities, including terrorist activities and/or illicit trafficking, operate across national boundaries or in different territories. Many States have industries or institutions that possesses and/or trade in related materials that could also be used in weapons of mass destruction programmes (dual-use materials). This calls for active participation and cooperation of all States in the international community in non-proliferation prevention efforts.

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4.   What is the added value of resolution 1540 (2004) when most States have already undertaken international obligations in the non-proliferation areas, for example, through the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?

Resolution 1540 (2004) complements relevant multilateral treaties and arrangements by requiring all States to comply with the obligations outlined in the resolution, irrespective of their status regarding such treaties and arrangements. Through its integrated approach, resolution 1540 (2004) aims at preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery as well as illicit trafficking in WMD-related materials, particularly with respect to the activities of non-State actors. Resolution 1540 (2004) is particularly relevant at the practical level. For instance, by implementing resolution 1540 (2004) States better integrate their national capacities—such as with law enforcement and border control agencies—to prevent the proliferation of illicit trafficking of WMD, an augmentation to States’ treaty obligations.

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5.  How does resolution 1540 (2004) relate to counter-terrorism efforts?

The main objective of resolution 1540 (2004) is to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and, to that end, to prohibit any non-State actor from engaging in any proliferation-related activities, in particular for terrorist purposes. The resolution does not focus narrowly on terrorists but uses rather the broader concept of “non-State actor,” which it defines as an “individual or entity, not acting under the lawful authority of any State in conducting activities, which come within the scope of the resolution.” Its concern is with the prevention of acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery by any non-State actor and deterring illicit trafficking in weapons-related items. Without directly dealing with counter-terrorism, the resolution covers a broad range of non-proliferation activities, which are different from but complementary to counter-terrorism efforts because they seek to reduce the risk of proliferation that could lead to the use of WMD for terrorist purposes. Notwithstanding the unique counter-proliferation mandate of resolution 1540 (2004) to other counter-terrorism actions, the 1540 Committee is integrally linked to the UN’s broad counter-terrorism Committees and their work.

For their part, counter-terrorism efforts include the promotion of legislative and enforcement measures by States, such as those encouraged by the Security Council Committees dealing with counter-terrorism, covering a wide range of terrorist activities that employ any available weapons or other lethal means. By providing improvement in the security situation of States, such counterterrorism measures complement the efforts of the 1540 Committee to promote State security against risks emanating from any proliferation of WMD-related items.

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6.  What is the 1540 Committee and how do the Committee and its experts function?

The 1540 Committee is a subsidiary body of the Security Council, composed of the fifteen current members of the Council. The mandate and scope of activities of the 1540 Committee are derived from resolution 1540 (2004) and subsequent resolutions 1673 (2006), 1810 (2008) and 1977 (2011) and the Programmes of Work submitted to the President of the Security Council by the Chair of the 1540 Committee. In the Ninth Programme of Work, which covered the period from January 2010 to 31 January 2011, the Committee established, and subsequently maintained, working groups in the following areas:

(i) Monitoring and national implementation;

(ii) Assistance;

(iii) Cooperation with international organisations, including the Security Council Committees established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1373 (2001); and,

(iv) Transparency and media outreach.

The working groups are open to all members of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).

The 1540 Committee is assisted by a group of experts. The experts, and its coordinator, are appointed by the Secretary-General following the approval of their recruitment by the Committee. In accordance with resolution 2055 (2012), up to nine experts can be appointed. The UN Department for Political Affairs (UNDPA) and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), provide support to the 1540 Committee and its group of experts.

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7.   Is the 1540 Committee a sanctions committee? Does the 1540 Committee conduct any investigation or prosecution?

The 1540 Committee is not a sanctions committee. It does not investigate or prosecute alleged violations of non-proliferation obligations. The 1540 Committee and its group of experts are committed to a cooperative relationship with the international community to facilitate implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) by all States.

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8.   What is the relationship between the 1540 Committee and the other Security Council Committees in the area of counter-terrorism?

The question relates to three subsidiary bodies of the Security Council: the Committee concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities, the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the 1540 Committee, which were established respectively by resolution 1267 (1999), resolution 1373 (2001) and resolution 1540 (2004). These Committees have different mandates and different structures (see comparative table in the 1540 Committee website).

Areas of cooperation among these Committees are explicitly encouraged by the Security Council as all of them form part of the UN’s broad counter-terrorism efforts. In particular, resolution 1810 (2008) reiterates the need to enhance ongoing cooperation between the 1540 Committee and these other subsidiary bodies, including through "enhanced information sharing, coordination on visits to countries, within their respective mandates, technical assistance and other issues of relevance to all three committees".

The Committees deliver periodic joint briefings to the Security Council, which provide opportunities for States to comment on the work of the Committees and the development of cooperation among them.

The 1540 Committee has established a Working Group which, inter alia, deals with issues related to cooperation with the Security Council Committees established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1373 (2001).

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9.  What role do international, regional and sub-regional organisations play in the implementation of the resolution, and how does the Committee liaise with them?

International, regional and sub-regional organisations, particularly those in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation of WMD, can play a vital role in assisting their member states to implement resolution 1540 (2004) through their respective programmes. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention-Implementation Support Unit (BTWC-ISU) are notable in this regard. Others include the World Health Organization (WHO), World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

For example, the IAEA assists States in establishing and maintaining effective national nuclear security regimes, promotes worldwide security of nuclear and other radioactive material in use, storage and transport. The IAEA also encourages the implementation of relevant international instruments, such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, and the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive sources.

The 1540 Committee has built working relationships with various international and regional organisations and will continue to deepen these relationships through, inter alia, creating more formal and informal cooperative arrangements to facilitate the sharing of information on effective practices and lessons learned, development and implementation of standards, and identification of assistance requirements and programmes.

Under its Programme of Work, the 1540 Committee Working Group on cooperation with international organisations including the Security Council Committees established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1373 (2001) is engaging with relevant organisations through briefings and expert visits.

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10.  How does the Committee encourage States to implement the resolution?

The Committee seeks to promote implementation of the resolution through dialogue, outreach, assistance and cooperation. It uses several tools in these efforts, including the 1540 Committee Matrix, an assistance template, the participation in workshops and events relevant for the implementation of the resolution and information posted on its website.
(See list of outreach activities.)

Outreach events offer a forum to participating States to share their national experiences and different approaches in implementing resolution 1540 (2004). These events also foster cooperation between individual States and the 1540 Committee through bilateral consultations and discussions on future actions such as of voluntary national implementation action plans according to resolution 1977 (2011) to promote capacity-building at the national and regional level.

The Committee encourages States to review their existing legislation and practices, and to consider steps to fill any gaps.

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11.   What is the 1540 Committee matrix and what do the symbols “X” and “?” mean in the matrix?

The 1540 Matrix is a tool used by the 1540 Committee to reflect what steps States have taken or plan to take to implement the obligations of the resolution. Information in the Matrix comes from States and intergovernmental organisations. The Matrix covers the requirements of the resolution and can help States identify areas for further action. The Matrix is used by the 1540 Committee and its experts for dialogue and assistance.

An “X” in any data field signifies that the State has taken a relevant measure providing specific references to the applicable legal basis or executive measures. It does not mean that the 1540 Committee has determined that the State has met the relevant obligations. A “?” in any data field signifies that there are questions of relevance or availability of legislation.

A blank in any data field signifies only that no information has been provided by the State or identified by the Committee.

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12.  What are the control lists that we can refer to when implementing export controls?

The Committee does not endorse or require any control lists that states must adopt. Each State may adopt the lists of materials, agents, technology or end-users that it considers appropriate. The Committee recognises that several international conventions, intergovernmental organisations and multilateral or regional agreements or arrangements have already adopted lists of sensitive goods that are in the public domain.

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13.  How often should States report to the Committee?

States are called upon to present a first report to the Committee on the steps they have taken or intend to take to implement the resolution. As called for in subsequent resolutions, States that have not yet submitted a first report are called upon to do so without delay, and States that have already reported are encouraged to provide additional information at any time or upon the request of the 1540 Committee. As of 1 January 2014, 171 States and one regional organisation had submitted first reports to the Committee, while 108 of these had provided additional information (see national reports page on the Committee's website). It is not necessary for a State to have all its legislation and measures in place before presenting a report to the 1540 Committee. States can also include in their reports, a request for assistance to facilitate implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).

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14.  What type of assistance is available?

In operative paragraph 7 of resolution 1540 (2004), the UN Security Council recognises “that some States may require assistance in implementing” the resolution, and invites States to offer such assistance in response to requests. The 1540 Committee itself offers States technical expertise in drafting their reports to the Committee, in preparing assistance requests, and in implementation planning, but only to the extent that its resources or voluntary contributions to the 1540 Committee allow. However, many other sources of assistance exist to help States implement the resolution. In many cases, States draw upon assistance programs already in place before the adoption of the resolution, such as those of the IAEA and the OPCW, programs offered by individual States, and even assistance offered by private foundations or non-governmental organisations, which directly address an obligation in the resolution. In addition, several bodies have developed new assistance programs specifically designed to implement the resolution. The website of the 1540 Committee has more information on the offers of assistance from States and on programmes of assistance from international organisations or other arrangements.

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15.  What is the mechanism of matching offers and assistance requests?

In operative paragraph 7 of resolution 1540 (2004), the UN Security Council invites States to offer assistance “in response to specific requests” from other States. Currently, States notify the 1540 Committee by an official communication to the Chairman of the 1540 Committee of requests or offers, or by including them in the reports to the 1540 Committee. In addition, the 1540 Committee is cognizant of several relevant assistance programs of several States and international bodies. The 1540 Committee also serves as a “clearing house” for requests and offers by posting the offers on its website and distributing the requests for assistance directly to those bodies offering assistance, and eventually agreeing to post abstracts of requests on the website. In its outreach activities, the 1540 Committee also encouraged States to make requests, as well as make their requests more specific, and it developed an assistance request template in this regard.

With the adoption of resolution 1810 in 2008, the 1540 Committee is urged to engage “actively in matching offers and requests for assistance through such means as assistance templates, action plans or other information submitted to the 1540 Committee,” (operative paragraph 11c) and which it has been doing both formally and informally. The 1540 Committee Working Group on Assistance continually reviews its procedures to make the processing, examining, and matching of requests and offers as efficient and effective as possible.

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16.  What is the link between capacity building in the context of resolution 1540 (2004) and development?

While assistance is available to facilitate implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) by States, many States require capacity-building in what they consider to be high-priority areas such as development. The final document of the 2009 Comprehensive Review of the status of implementation of the resolution states that the 1540 Committee should consider integrating the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) obligations with the pursuit of relevant broader national objectives. Assistance that can be provided by States and international organisations to implement resolution 1540 (2004) can complement or contribute to capacity building, for example, in border and customs controls, transport safety and security, and public health. Projects for implementing resolution 1540 (2004) can also be built into existing development programs that aim to improve national infrastructure, including in the aftermath of conflicts or natural disasters.

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