Security Council members — citing multiple incidents involving the alleged use of weapons of mass destruction — vowed to redouble efforts to keep such deadly agents out of the hands of terrorists and other non-State actors, as they considered the work of the “1540 Committee” created for that purpose 14 years ago.
Meeting to hear an annual briefing by the Chair of that body — known formally as the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) — members of the 15-nation organ voiced grave concern over the rapidly increasing number of allegations of chemical weapons attacks in recent months. Among others were reports that such weapons had been employed this week in the Syrian town of Douma; allegations of a nerve agent attack in Salisbury, United Kingdom, in March; and the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, in Malaysia. Many said those incidents laid bare the “very real”, and constantly evolving, potential of weapons of mass destruction use by State and non-State actors.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the 1540 Committee, told the Council that overseeing the 2004 resolution’s implementation had become a “truly challenging task”. Outlining the Committee’s recent activities, as well as the priorities laid out in its 2018 programme of work — agreed to this morning — he described efforts in such areas as information‑sharing, monitoring, outreach and “match‑making” between States requesting technical assistance and those able to support them. The Committee had helped support Member States in developing and putting in place voluntary national implementation plans, he said, adding that its Expert Group had met with several United Nations counter-terrorism officials to discuss scientific and technological trends and the risk of their misuse by non-State actors.
The representative of the United Kingdom declared: “It is clear that we stand on the cusp of a nightmare” in which weapons of mass destruction could be used with impunity. Recalling that the Joint Investigative Mechanism created in 2015 to investigate chemical weapons use had determined that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had used mustard gas in Syria and Iraq, she added that a planned chemical weapons attack in Australia had been thwarted in 2017. In acts of unbelievable irresponsibility, the risk had been exacerbated by the use of weapons of mass destruction by State actors in Salisbury, as well as the Syrian towns of Khan Shaykhun and Douma. It was not enough for the Council to condemn such actions, she stressed, calling for members to also act with meaningful consequences.
The representative of Sweden was among several speakers voicing concern over the “clear and present danger” posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to — and through — non-State actors. Noting that the global regime set up to protect against that risk was under immense pressure, she agreed with others that the repeated use of chemical weapons seen in recent years could not be allowed to “become the new normal”. It was critical to hold perpetrators to account and show the world that the use of those weapons remained unacceptable. Among other issues, she underlined the need to address risks associated with intangible transfers of technology, whereby sensitive know-how might be transferred through research, industry or social media.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea, expressing concern over the growing threat posed by terrorism around the world, emphasized that efforts by States in such areas as tracking and monitoring at border crossings would have little effect if developing countries were not supported in developing similar systems. All categories of weapons of mass destruction must be destroyed, he stressed, voicing disappointment that the Council had once again showed itself incapable of effectively protecting the lives of the Syrian people. Against the backdrop of recent events, its members should redouble efforts to create a new mechanism aimed at monitoring and attributing responsibility for chemical weapons use.
Peru’s representative, serving as Council President for April, said in his national capacity that all weapons of mass destruction posed a major threat to international peace and security. Calling on the international community to stand together in confronting new challenges to the global non-proliferation regime, he drew attention to addressing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme. Equally important was preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and ensuring its strict monitoring and implementation. Voicing concern that illicit financial transactions and technology transfers could lead to the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he said all countries should put in place effective export controls in line with resolution 2325 (2016).
The representative of the Russian Federation said the fight against weapons of mass destruction was a political and military priority for his country. Emphasizing that resolution 1540 (2004) was a tool for cooperation, he said responsibility for its implementation was borne by States, with others — such as regional organizations, industry and civil society — playing a subsidiary role. With ISIL and other groups having mastered chemical weapons technology, the “heinous phenomenon” of chemical weapons must be suppressed in a concerted way, he said, warning of the risk of terrorists seeking cover in third countries. Everything said about the incidents in Salisbury and Douma so far remained unsubstantiated, he stressed, expressing support for their respective investigations by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Netherlands, France, United States, Poland, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Ethiopia and Kuwait.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), emphasized that the body was a platform for cooperation to prevent non-State actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. Describing its recent activities, and plans for its upcoming work, he declared: “We have a truly challenging task in overseeing the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).” Noting that its 2018 programme of work would be submitted shortly, he said, among other things, it planned to hold discussions on enforcing appropriate laws for the prohibition of activities under paragraph 2 of resolution 1540 (2004) and to take note of the evolving nature of proliferation risks. It would also hold a closed expert-level meeting to consider issues highlighted in resolution 2325 (2016).
Regarding reporting from Member States, he said 180 nations had submitted national reports to the Committee to date, also encouraging them to inform the body of their national points of contact for resolution 1540 (2004)’s implementation. Over the review period, the Committee had continued its efforts to support regional and subregional organizations in assisting Member States to develop and put in place voluntary national implementation plans for the implementation of the resolution. Outlining such activities as information‑sharing, monitoring and efforts to enhance the Committee’s “match‑making” efforts to connect States requesting assistance with those able to support them, he said it had also held several resolution 1540 (2004) training courses and conducted various regional, subregional and international outreach events. The Committee also continued to develop its website as a tool to raise public awareness and serve as a source of information on its work, he said.
On 24 December 2017, he continued, the Secretary-General had appointed six new members to the Expert Group of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004). A process to select the Group’s Coordinator would begin soon. Outgoing Council members Japan and Egypt had, respectively, served as the Coordinators of the Committee’s working group I on monitoring and national implementation, and working group III on cooperation with international organizations, including the sanctions committee related to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida and the Counter‑Terrorism Committee. Welcoming Enri Prieto of Peru as the incoming Coordinator of the working group on monitoring and national implementation — and Antonin Bieke from Côte d’Ivoire as Coordinator of the working group on cooperation with international organizations, including the Sanctions Committees — he said Bolivia planned to host a conference on resolution 1540 (2004)’s implementation in May for countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region.
Turning to cooperation with international and regional organizations and United Nations entities, especially those tasks set out in resolution 2325 (2016), he said the Expert Group had already held a meeting with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate to prepare future country visits, and with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force on how best to collaborate in support of the 1540 Committee’s activities, particularly with respect to scientific and technological trends and the risk of misuse by non-State actors. The Committee was also continuing its work on the Wiesbaden Process, which called for an active dialogue between States and industry on effective implementation of expert controls. Two regional meetings on that item, one to take place in India and another in the Republic of Korea, were planned for 2018.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), recalling that resolution 1540 (2004) was the first topic she worked on the first time she was assigned to the Council a decade ago, said the 1540 Committee was a vital component of the international order that must be supported to the hilt. The Security Council should dread the current situation whereby the use of chemical and biological weapons was becoming routine. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism had found that ISIL/Da’esh had used mustard gas in Syria and Iraq, while a planned chemical weapons attack in Australia was thwarted in 2017. In acts of unbelievable irresponsibility, the risk had been exacerbated by the use of weapons of mass destruction by State actors, she said, citing incidents in Douma, Salisbury and Khan Shaykhun, as well as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia. With regard to Salisbury, she said her delegation had requested a Council meeting next week to brief on the outcome of the findings of OPCW. The United Kingdom strongly supported work to increase State capacity for implementing resolution 1540 (2004) and it was encouraging that there now were only 13 non-reporting States. “It is clear that we stand on the cusp of a nightmare” in which weapons of mass destruction could be used with impunity, she said. It was not enough to condemn — meaningful action with meaningful consequences had to be taken. Regarding work of the 1540 Committee, she said one Council member had sought to slow its progress and dilute the substance of every proposal, with the Panel of Experts even being prevented from travelling. That could not continue, she said, adding that she could not think of any legitimate reason why any country would want to affect the work of the 1540 Committee. The Council must stand up for universal norms and standards built over many years to build a powerful non-proliferation regime, she said.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said the use — and threat of use — of weapons of mass destruction was real. Death came gruesomely to those affected by such weapons, while survivors were left to deal with the aftermath for the rest of their lives. Challenges and opportunities presented by scientific and technological developments also had an impact on the situation, and that aspect should not be forgotten by the 1540 Committee in its work. To address the threat, full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) should be a priority for all. The Netherlands was pleased that agreement had been reached on a programme of work for the Committee, but now was not a time for complacency. The body must pursue its work, effectively and efficiently, in line with resolution 2325 (2016), and in particular, the measures contained in clauses 8 and 9 therein.
ANTOINE MICHON (France) drew attention to the persistent risk of a nuclear Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, destabilizing ballistic activity in the Middle East and the re-emergence of chemical weapons in Syria and Salisbury. The risk of non-State actors obtaining weapons of mass destruction was a “dangerous reality”, as well. Underscoring the importance of the Committee, he paid tribute to the work of the Expert Group, whose efforts were indispensable. While progress had been made in implementation resolution 1540 (2004), much remained to be done. Member States must do more to secure sensitive materials on their territories, he said, noting that France had modernized its legislation to criminalize proliferation activities. Emphasizing that non-proliferation must not be undertaken in an isolated way, he called for a cooperative approach, including at the regional level, and cited steps taken by the European Union in that regard. Synergies must also be stepped up with such bodies as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Customs Union.
AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said the shocking use of chemical weapons in Iraq, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, as well as their systematic use in Syria, showed that the risks they posed was “all too real” today. Given those persistent threats, as well as that of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups, the United States was strengthening its national policies with the aim of ensuring its security and that of the international community. Her country would also continue to provide extensive support to both organizations and countries, and had provided millions of dollars in grants to Committee’s Trust Fund. It was also working on cooperation and export control-related programmes to build trust and improve safety. Expressing regret that it had taken nearly three months to adopt the Committee’s 2018 programme of work, she said the body must now immediately move forward, prioritizing more regular meetings; the process of appointing a new Coordinator for its Expert Group; work to assist States in developing national control lists; and action to address the risks posed by rapid advances in science and technology. Reminding Council members that resolution 1540 (2004) had been adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, she stressed that it was, therefore, binding on all nations.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), noting that his country had presented its national report to the 1540 Committee in 2017, vowed to continue to work towards its full and appropriate implementation. Expressing concern over the growing threat posed by terrorism around the world — as well as the risk that its perpetrators could develop, gain access to or use weapons of mass destruction — he said efforts by States in such areas as tracking and monitoring at border crossings would have little effect if developing countries were not supported in developing similar systems. All categories of weapons of mass destruction must ultimately be destroyed, he stressed, voicing disappointment that the Council had, once again this week, showed itself incapable of effectively protecting the lives of the Syrian people. Calling on all the parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to think of the Syrian civilians “as if they are our mothers and fathers”, he said the Council should redouble its efforts to create a new mechanism aimed at monitoring and attributing responsibility for chemical weapons use.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), recalling that resolution 2325 (2016) called on States to report on the rapidly evolving threats posed by technological advances, including in dual-use domains, cautioned that non-State actors were becoming more creative in the use of such materials. In that regard, the Joint Investigative Mechanism created to investigate past chemical weapons use in Syria had determined that multiple parties — including, but not limited to, ISIL/Da’esh — had used chemical weapons in that country. Calling for efforts to build more synergies between the Committee and regional organizations and country groupings, she welcomed that the body’s 2018 work programme recognized the need for more regular discussions based on monthly meetings, and expressed hope that the new structure would lead to the better implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) and 2325 (2016) were becoming all the more vital in the face of rapidly increasing threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. Kazakhstan, having long supported the Committee’s work, contributed voluntary contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament Activities. Welcoming the Committee’s outreach activities and its work to address the rapid growth of new technologies, he underlined the need to avoid losing sight of nuclear security. During the recent opening of the IAEA’s new Low Enriched Uranium Bank in Kazakhstan in August 2017, his country’s Government had highlighted the importance of resumed Nuclear Security Summits, which had been conducted by the United States from 2010 to 2016. Emphasizing the importance of such regular meetings to discuss topical issues related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he also voiced support for his Government’s initiative to establish a “United Nations Register on Scientific Developments leading to the Creation and Advancement of Weapons of Mass Destruction”, which would track such dangerous discoveries.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, 14 years after the adoption of resolution 1540 (2004), the threat of weapons of mass destruction was constantly evolving. He emphasized the importance of strict respect for relevant international norms, as well as strengthened cooperation in such areas as border controls and the monitoring of financial flows and Internet networks. Drawing attention to the security of fissile material stockpiles, which were not covered by any international regulations, but could be used to make weapons of mass destruction, he called for strengthening the capacities of Member States to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.
WU HAITAO (China), noting that resolution 1540 (2004) was the first Council action dedicated to non-proliferation, emphasized the need to build political consensus. All countries must work towards common and sustainable security, built upon a fair and just security architecture. State responsibility must be strengthened and pragmatic cooperation on non-proliferation deepened, he said, stressing the need to assist developing countries to meet their obligations. He emphasized a fair and balanced approach, with issues being addressed through diplomacy. Unilateralism, double standards and discriminatory practices should be rejected. Turning to the Committee, he said its work must be guided by its mandate under resolution 1540 (2004) “to the letter”.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the fight against weapons of mass destruction was a political and military priority for his country. There must be concerted and coordinated efforts by all States bar none. “We are keen to find common ground with our partners” to advance the non-proliferation regime, he said. Noting that the Russian Federation and the United States had been the source of resolution 1540 (2004), he said that text was a tool for cooperation, not coercion. In his delegation’s view, responsibility for implementation was borne by States, with others — such as regional organizations, industry and civil society — playing a subsidiary role. On the resolution’s institutional framework, he said that assessments of the work of the Council’s subsidiary bodies should be approached in a realistic manner, guided by the “cooperate and do no harm” principle.
With ISIL/Da’esh and other groups having mastered chemical weapons technology, the “heinous phenomenon” of such weapons must be suppressed in a concerted way, he said, warning of the risk of terrorists seeking cover in third countries. The Russian Federation was eager to strengthen the weapons of mass destruction non-proliferation regime, including through resolution 1540 (2004), and it stood ready to engage with the Chair of the 1540 Committee and its partners in that regard. Turning to Salisbury, he said his delegation was awaiting information from the ongoing investigation as well as responses to the questions it had posed. So far, everything said about incidents in Salisbury and eastern Ghouta had been unsubstantiated. His delegation trusted that OPCW would be allowed to proceed with its work.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said it was concerning that, of the 13 Member States which had yet to submit even their first reports under resolution 1540 (2004), 11 were in Africa. Moreover, that continent remained far behind in terms of overall implementation and the establishment of domestic controls, particularly in relation to materials related to the production of weapons of mass destruction. Calling for enhanced cooperation with the African Union on the issue, he said it was also important for the Committee to work closely with the Expert Group in the area of assistance. Concluding, he reaffirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to undertake all measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands, as that was something that had always worried his country.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) expressed her country’s strong commitment to efforts to strengthen the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation regimes. “The threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to — and through — non-State actors is constantly evolving,” she stressed, adding that the global regime set up to protect against that risk was under immense pressure. The use of chemical weapons by State and non-State actors had been seen repeatedly in recent years, which “cannot be allowed to become the new normal”, she said, emphasizing the need to hold perpetrators to account and show the world that the use of those weapons remained unacceptable. Echoing regret voiced by other speakers that the Council had failed to establish a new attribution mechanism for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, she also underlined the need to highlight the risks associated with intangible transfers of technology whereby sensitive know-how might be transferred through research, industry or social media. As Vice-Chair of the Committee, Sweden was considering ways to further those efforts. Only though the important non-proliferation mechanisms could the “clear and present” threats, demonstrated by events in recent days, be managed.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), voicing support for efforts to help States develop road maps to prevent non-State actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, welcomed the adoption of the Committee’s programme of work after lengthy negotiations. He also welcomed the programme’s focus on country visits and efforts to address the special conditions of certain States, among other issues. Voicing concern over recent challenges to the global non‑proliferation regime, he recalled that the Council had met four times in just the last month to address allegations of chemical weapons use in several States. Kuwait had recently appointed a point of contact for interaction with the 1540 Committee and planned to submit its voluntary national report soon.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing that all weapons of mass destruction posed major threats to international peace and security. Calling on the international community to stand together in addressing new challenges to the global non‑proliferation regime, he drew attention to ending the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme, as well as preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran — known as the “Iran nuclear deal” — and ensuring its strict monitoring and implementation. It was also critical to maintain Council unity on efforts to fully investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria and assign responsibly for them. Voicing concern that illicit financial transactions and technology transfers could lead to the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he said all countries should put in place effective export controls in line with resolution 2325 (2016).