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SC/14481
30 March 2021

Implementing Non-Proliferation of Mass Destruction Weapons Resolution ‘Long-Term’ Task Requiring Effort at All Levels, 1540 Committee Chair Tells Security Council

The Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), which supports States in preventing non-State actors — including terrorists — from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, provided a briefing to the Security Council during a videoconference meeting today, describing the successful completion of the body’s ongoing comprehensive review process as its top priority.

Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico), addressing the 15-member organ in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), said States have made significant progress in implementing that critical resolution.  However, some gaps remain, he said, describing the text’s full and effective implementation as a long-term task requiring continuous efforts at the national, regional and international levels.

Outlining the 1540 Committee’s recent work, he noted that, owing to travel and other COVID-19-related restrictions imposed in 2020, members took various precautionary measures and conducted its work largely by virtual means.  The Committee held one in-person meeting and undertook no in-person visits to States, in contrast to 59 in-person events in 2019.  It held 24 virtual informal consultations with Member States to discuss and clarify additional information they provided relevant to Committee matrices.  Two virtual meetings were also held to discuss assistance requests, submitted to the Committee by Mongolia and Panama.

He said the Committee finalized its update and review of all matrix information in preparation for the comprehensive review of resolution 1540 (2004), which was initiated in 2019.  In March 2020, the Committee sent draft updated matrices to all Member States, inviting comments and additional information on national implementation, so as to provide the body with a more accurate set of data.  A total of 66 Member States responded to the invitation, of which 56 provided substantive comments and additional information.  In December, it finalized its review of 193 Committee matrices and published updated matrices on its website, in respect of 190 Member States with their consent.

To date, he said, 184 countries have submitted initial reports providing the Committee with information on the measures they have taken, or plan to take, to comply with their obligations under resolution 1540 (2004).  Spotlighting one critical activity, he said the Committee helps States develop voluntary national implementation action plans, as encouraged by resolution 2325 (2016).  Those help to identify actions to close any gaps and vulnerabilities in regulations and national control frameworks, foster inter-agency cooperation and identify areas where assistance may be required.  In 2020, Colombia and the Dominican Republic submitted their second action plans, and the number of States that have submitted such plans to the Committee since 2007 now stands at 35.

Describing other recent developments, he noted that countries are increasingly conducting peer reviews on the resolution’s implementation.  In 2020, the Committee received reports from the Dominican Republic and Panama, and from Paraguay and Uruguay, respectively, on the outcome of two peer reviews organized in 2019, with a view to sharing experiences and good practices in the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).  To date, five peer reviews have been held globally, three of which were in the Latin American and Caribbean Group region.  A total of 127 States have also shared a point of contact on the resolution’s implementation with the Committee, he said, adding that the Committee continues to use its website for public outreach.

Turning to the Committee’s comprehensive review of resolution 1540 (2004), prior to the renewal of its mandate in April, he described that process as an inclusive one that makes use of contributions by Member States.  While the process has begun, the Committee decided in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that all remaining activities related to the review should be postponed until 2021, with the exception of the process then under way of revising the Committee matrices and any other activities that could be undertaken in an online format.  Among the themes to be addressed in the review are the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) by Member States; the Committee’s role in facilitating assistance matchmaking; its collaboration with relevant international, regional and subregional organizations and other United Nations bodies; and outreach activities.  A report on the comprehensive review will be submitted to the Security Council, he concluded.

As Council members took the floor, many voiced their staunch support for resolution 1540 (2004) as well as progressive strides being made by States around the world towards its full implementation.  Many expressed concern about the evolving threats posed by non-State actors and terrorist groups, emphasizing that as they adapt to new realities and technologies so too must the responses of the international community.  While speakers largely welcomed progress made by the Committee towards completing its comprehensive review, some voiced concern over delays imposed by the pandemic and asked the Council to take those into account as it works to renew the Committee’s mandate — and examines the timetable for its work — in the coming weeks.

The representative of Estonia said the risk of terrorists or other non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction is a real and serious threat to international security.  The use of chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and the proliferation of missiles and components to non-State actors in the Middle East are some of the recent reminders of the risks involved.  Describing resolution 1540 (2004) as one of the most critical instruments to prevent and counter such threats, she declared:  “We need to ensure that the resolution and its implementation remains effective and strong.”  Welcoming the growing number of States that have submitted their first reports to the Committee and encouraging those who have not yet done so to submit them without delay, she said the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) can be further improved through assistance and cooperation measures.  The biannual Wiesbaden conferences are examples of how private sector engagement can also provide support.  Noting that the Committee’s comprehensive review is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the scope of the resolution and the mandate of the Committee and the Expert Group established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), she underlined the need to continue to evolve in order to keep up with the changing nature of the threats posed by terrorists and non-State actors.

The representative of Ireland said the full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) will prevent non-State actors from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction.  Encouraging Member States to take that threat seriously, she also urged them to reinforce their collective resolve to push forward the resolution’s implementation, describing monitoring, assistance and outreach as critical components of the Committee’s mission.  Civil society, academia and the private sector also have crucial roles to play, and the Committee should remain open to all viewpoints.  While the comprehensive review is a key part of the Committee’s work, it is also vital that its regular work continues at the same time.  As the Council considers the Committee’s mandate renewal in the weeks ahead, it should take the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting delays in the comprehensive review process into account.  For that reason, she advocated for pushing forward the timeline for completing that process to April 2022 as the most suitable option.

The representative of China said that non-proliferation goals must be achieved through multilateralism, with guidance from the United Nations and alongside the universal adoption of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.  The international community must pay attention to proliferation risks brought about by emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and 3D printing, he added.  He went on to say that the Committee should objectively assess proliferation issues while also respecting national sovereignty and conditions, and ensure that the comprehensive review is open and transparent.

The representative of France said that resolution 1540 (2004) must be implemented in a tangible way, including through border controls and export control mechanisms.  Her country, like others, has a solid legal arsenal in that regard.  She underscored the importance of France’s mandate as coordinator of the working group on assistance, adding that it stands ready to assist other States as they might require.  Noting that work on the comprehensive review is continuing despite the pandemic, she said that the Committee will hopefully be able to come to an agreement soon on an extension of its mandate, along with a programme of work and a calendar of related activities.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) is a long-term task that requires ongoing efforts at all levels.  She welcomed steps taken by the Committee during 2020 to coordinate with international, regional and subregional organizations, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  She also applauded the 184 Member States which submitted reports on the measures they have taken, or plan to take, to comply with their obligations under the resolution.  She encouraged the Committee to strengthen dialogue with Member States and to continue to help States parties to improve their mechanisms for controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The representative of Norway, thanking the Committee for its work during the very challenging circumstances imposed by the pandemic, took note of the fact that many of its activities in 2020 had to be postponed.  Reiterating her delegation’s concerns about the continually evolving nature of the risk of proliferation — including the rapid advances in science, technology and international commerce — she pledged Norway’s continued support for and engagement with the Committee’s important work, including on the comprehensive review process.  To achieve the full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), States requiring and requesting assistance must be able receive it.  An efficient process, which is regularly updated and which matches requests with offers of assistance, is therefore essential, she said.

The representative of Kenya underscored the importance of the Committee’s work, urging the Council’s decision on the way forward.  Kenya is keen to see two things:  the work of the Committee moves forward and meetings that require experts from capitals can receive the broadest possible participation.  Considering the various concerns expressed about the options for extending the Committee’s mandate, all can agree that the review conference and its open consultations are a key part of the Committee’s work.  With both pending, it is important to remain open to options, he said, showing his delegation’s flexibility on any agreed path to the resumption of the body’s substantive work.

The representative of Niger described the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery as a growing concern.  Recalling that national Governments bear the primary responsibility for implementing resolution 1540 (2004), he said it is also important to maintain contact with regional and subregional organizations.  The Committee should achieve consensus on its programme of work, which should include outreach and awareness-raising activities.  Given the delays caused by COVID-19, he said his delegation has no objection to extending the Committee’s mandate until April 2022 as well as extending the deadline for the completion of its comprehensive review process.

The representative of Tunisia commended the Chair of the 1540 Committee for making room for Member States, international, regional and subregional organizations, and civil society to participate in the comprehensive review.  He reiterated the need to achieve the universal adoption of the different conventions dealing with weapons of mass destruction and called on States to make good on their pledges.  Expressing concern at a lack of tangible progress in disarmament, particularly at the nuclear level, he stressed the importance of establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and encouraged all concerned parties to take part in the upcoming session of the conference tasked by the General Assembly with achieving that goal.

The representative of Mexico, speaking in his national capacity, said that the multilateral non-proliferation architecture must be strengthened.  The current international situation demonstrates that multilateral cooperation is vital.  Much has changed with the pandemic, but the threat of non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction has not.  Somewhat paradoxically, progress in the field of science and technology constitutes a new challenge for non-proliferation.  Member States must consider what needs to be done to adjust and strengthen the Committee’s mandate to ensure that it is suited to new realities.  Hopefully, he added, it will be possible to identify areas to facilitate and strengthen the Committee’s work and thus halt the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction has evolved since the Council adopted resolution 1540 (2004).  His country is particularly concerned about the attempted use of crude toxin weapons, such as ricin, by non-State actors.  Discussing the comprehensive review, he said it should be open and transparent, thus enabling the engagement of all States.  It should focus on assistance, given the complexity of tackling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  He added that the Council should agree on a sufficiently long extension of the Committee’s mandate to allow a thorough review process.  Stressing that resolution 1540 (2004) is part of the wider international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, he said that the United Kingdom will continue to support strong cooperation between the 1540 Committee and the Expert Group.

The representative of Viet Nam, emphasizing that “we must not let our guard down,” stressed the importance of implementing all non-proliferation frameworks, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the 1540 Committee.  The success of the comprehensive review must also be ensured.  He noted with appreciation the efforts of all Committee members to promote the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) and commended their efforts to engage with Member States virtually during the past year.  He called for greater efforts to assist Member States in the area of capacity-building, as well strengthened cooperation with international and regional organizations, especially with regard to the sharing of best practices.

The representative of India said that as a long-time victim of terrorism, his country is cognizant of the cataclysmic danger of terrorist groups gaining access to weapons of mass destruction.  The focus on non-State actors should not, however, diminish the responsibility of States to prevent those groups from acquiring such weapons.  He underscored India’s long-standing commitment to global non-proliferation, saying that it is among the few countries which regularly submit national reports on the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) to the Committee, in addition to sharing its knowledge and technical expertise as part of the Committee’s assistance framework.  He encouraged the Committee to meet in person in 2021, as it did in 2020 despite the pandemic, adding that it should make the completion of a robust comprehensive review a priority.

The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that resolution 1540 (2004) is enshrined in his country’s national laws, said that while the Committee is working on the basis of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, its terms of reference do not include coercion or the ability to infringe on the sovereign rights of countries.  Much remains to be done to fully implement the resolution, he said, expressing regret that the Committee continues to suffer the impacts of the pandemic.  Completing the comprehensive review process remains critical, and he hoped that it will enhance the effectiveness of both the Committee and the Expert Group.  Welcoming the spirit of cooperation that has emerged around resolution 1540 (2004), he said it represents one of the few “islands of stability and non-confrontation in multilateral diplomacy” today.  As such, States must avoid allowing their disagreements to be exploited by those against whom the resolution is targeted, namely terrorists and other non-State actors, he said.

The representative of the United States, Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, agreeing with other speakers that collective efforts to address the grave threat posed by terrorists and non-State actors remains as crucial now as it has ever been.  Turning to the Committee, whose work “protects us from the worst consequences” and saves lives, he expressed his support for a technical rollover extension of its mandate until April 2022, which will provide more time for the completion of the comprehensive review before the Council considers making any substantive changes to the mandate.  Turning to its regular work, he said the Committee must adapt to evolving threats, including the advent of synthetic biology and unmanned aerial vehicles which could be used to delivery weapons of mass destruction.  Member States should take active steps, even before the comprehensive review is over, such as appointing points of contact for resolution 1540 (2004).  Meanwhile, he urged the Council to stand united in support of the Committee’s work, as “the stakes could not be higher”.

For information media. Not an official record.