UN Security Council Resolution 1540


On 28 April 2004, the Security Council passed resolution 1540 on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The beginnings of the resolution first appeared in an address to the General Assembly in 2003 by U.S. President George W. Bush, who declared that the United States would be seeking a resolution from the Security Council to criminalize the proliferation of WMD by non-state actors. In December, a draft resolution from the US circulated amongst the Permanent Five for months, as the five veto-wielding members of the Council debated amongst themselves before opening the debate up to the Elected Ten members (E10) or the public.

The resolution was intended to address the gaps in the current legal WMD regime, more specifically, to address the potential of WMD acquisition by non-state actors. The resolution calls upon all Member States to enact national legislation criminalizing the development, acquisition, manufacturing, possession, transport or transfer of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery by a non-state actor.

All Member States of the United Nations are obliged under this resolution to report to the Security Council subcommittee on 1540 ("the 1540 Committee") on their progress implementing this resolution.

On 17 April 2006, the Security Council passed resolution 1673, which extends the mandate of the 1540 Committee for two years and calls for the intensification of efforts to promote the full implementation of resolution 1540.

Open Debates in the Security Council

While action on nuclear weapons by the 15 member council is a welcomed move by some, the resolution was not easily adopted.

On 22 April 2004 the Council held an open debate on the resolution. Over a third of all UN Member States made statements during the open debate, including:
Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, BeninBrazil, Canada, Chile, ChinaCubaFrance, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, JapanJordanKazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lichtenstein, MalaysiaMexicoNamibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, PakistanPeru, Phillipines, Republic of KoreaRomaniaRussian FederationSingapore, Spain, South Africa, SwedenSwitzerlandSyria, Tajikistan, Thailand, United KingdomUnited States.

On 23 February 2007, a second open debate was held in the Security Council on Cooperation Between the UN Security Council and International Organizations in the Implementation of Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006).

Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Nobukai Tanaka
Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Mr. Rogelio Pfirter
Representative of the Director-General of the IAEA to the UN, Mr. Gusavo R. Zlauvinen
Director of Compliance and Facilitation of the World Customs Organisation, Mr. Michael T. Schmitz
Russian Federation
United Kingdom
United States, Ambassador Jackie Sanders
Republic of Congo, Mr. Luc Joseph Okio (French only)
South Africa, Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo
Peru, Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales (Spanish only)
Indonesia, H.E. Mr. Rezlan Ishar Jenie
Italy, Ambasador Aldo Mantovani
Slovakia (President), H.E. Mr. Ján Kubiš
Germany (on behalf of the European Union), H.E. Mr. Thomas Matussek
Cuba, Ambassador Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz
Belarus (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas
Norway, Ambassador Johan L. Løvald
Australia, H.E. The Hon Robert Hill
El Salvador
Pakistan, Ambassador Munir Akram
Argentina, Ambassador César Mayoral (Spanish and English)
Republic of Korea, H.E. Ambassador Joon Oh
Japan, H.E. Mr. Takahiro Shinyo
Uruguay, Ambassador Elbio Rosselli (Spanish only)
Brazil, Ambassador Piragibe Tarragô
Viet Nam
New Zealand, Ambassador Rosemary Banks

On 23 February 2007, the Security Council held an open debate on the "Cooperation Between the UN Security Council and International Organizations in the Implementation of Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1673 (2006)." Resolution 1540 calls upon all member states to enact national legislation criminalizing the development, acquisition, manufacturing, possession, transport, or transfer of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery by non-state actors. It also established the 1540 Committee, to which all member states are obligated to submit national progress reports on their measures to implement 1540. Resolution 1673 extends the mandate of the 1540 Committee for two years and encourages it to cooperate with other organizations and increase its assistance to national governments.

In his presidential statement, Ambassador Ján Kubis of Slovakia described 1540 as a "landmark contribution" to strengthening WMD non-proliferation efforts. He accredited 1540 with complimenting rights and obligations under existing international non-proliferation treaties, and with translating commitments to these treaties into national norms and laws. He also called for governments to prioritize 1540 and to seek or donate assistance and expertise where needed.

Many participating states called for increased national reporting, though South Africa, Indonesia, El Salvador, Pakistan, and Peru argued that reporting can be difficult for small states. On behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, New Zealand pointed out that small states require assistance in overcoming capacity and resource challenges. Some states also expressed concern over the level of assistance the 1540 Committee has provided during the last three years. Japan and Pakistan believe the Committee has reached its capacity for assistance and expertise.

Representatives from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the World Customs Organization offered technical assistance to states. They have experience promoting the implementation of resolutions and treaties, which is applicable to ensuring the universalization of 1540. France, Italy, Japan, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, and Viet Nam advocated cooperation between states, the 1540 Committee, and relevant international organizations.

Argentina, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the European Union, Guatemala, South Korea, Uruguay, and Viet Nam proposed enhancing regional cooperation through workshops and seminars. South Korea believes "regional and sub-regional initiatives for implementation would not only spur national governments to action, but also provide positive examples for nations in other regions."

However, some states voiced concerns about the legitimacy and mandate of 1540. Indonesia expressed trepidation over the legislative role the Security Council assumed during the adoption of 1540, while Cuba is worried about the "deliberately ambiguous provisions" of 1540 that potentially allow for actions that undermine the UN Charter and existing multilateral agreements.

A crucial concern of some states, including Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, and South Africa, is that in pursuing non-proliferation initiatives such as 1540, the international community is forgetting about disarmament. They argued that the only guarantee against the proliferation of WMD is their complete elimination, for, as South Africa said, "as long as these weapons exist, the world will always exist under a threat of a nuclear catastrophe."

-Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will


UN General Assembly First Committee, 73rd Session

UN General Assembly First Committee, 73rd Session

08 October - 08 November 2018
New York, USA

CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties

CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties

21 - 23 November 2018
Geneva, Switzerland

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