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UN Security Council Resolution 1540


In April 2004, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 1540 , which establishes obligations[1] on all States to have and enforce a range of appropriate and effective measures against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their means of delivery, and related materials, especially to non-State actors.[2] UNSCR 1540 augments the international framework of nonproliferation treaties and conventions to help prevent proliferators, terrorists, and criminal organizations from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons.

UNODA’s Michael Douglas video on UNSCR 1540  (Copyright of the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs)

All UN Member States have three primary sets of obligations under UNSCR 1540 (2004), to:

  • Refrain from supporting non-State actors seeking WMD and their means of delivery;
  • Adopt and enforce effective laws prohibiting non-State actors from engaging in activities involving the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery; and,
  • Take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery.

These obligations complement and strengthen the many treaties, conventions, and protocols  that address WMD proliferation.

The resolution created a Committee of the Security Council, commonly referred to as the 1540 Committee , to monitor the status of implementation of the resolution, with a two-year mandate. The UN Security Council has extended the mandate of this subsidiary body of the Council through UNSC resolutions 1673 (2006), 1810 (2008), and 1977 (2011). The current mandate of the 1540 Committee runs through April 2021.

Since April 2004, many governments have taken steps to adopt new or strengthened measures in line with their obligations under UNSCR 1540. To examine what measures each State has taken to meet its obligations under the resolution, the 1540 Committee gathers information on each State and reports that data in a matrix for each State, posted on the Committee website . Despite finding marked progress in implementation by many States, the Committee’s reports , reviews , and briefings  continue to show that gaps remain in the national legal frameworks of many States. To close these gaps, and to help States continually adjust their efforts to evolving proliferation risks and vulnerabilities they face, the Committee works closely with many States and international bodies to coordinate assistance, raise awareness, identify effective practices, and otherwise facilitate implementation of the resolution.

The Security Council specifically calls upon countries in a position to offer capacity-building assistance to States seeking to implement the resolution to do so in response to requests by such States, and the 1540 Committee engages in match-making and other actions  to foster assistance partnerships. For many governments, implementing the resolution and receiving such assistance offers multiple benefits, helping to prevent proliferation and terrorism as well as fulfilling fundamental development goals in fields as diverse as border control, environmental protection, public health, and supply-chain security. Each country’s implementation of UNSCR 1540 will help protect all countries from proliferators, terrorists, and black-market networks, ensuring that malicious actors do not have access to the world’s most dangerous weapons and related materials.

IMPLEMENTING UNSCR 1540 AT HOME

The United States has two primary and ongoing responsibilities in implementing UNSCR 1540. First, the U.S. Government must coordinate its own activities to ensure that its laws and regulations meet the requirements of the resolution, helping to keep sensitive materials out of the hands of terrorists and other criminals while preserving legitimate commercial and peaceful uses of related materials. Second, the United States helps other States implement their 1540 obligations through bilateral cooperation and assistance partnerships and through U.S. support to or work in international, regional, and sub-regional bodies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency , the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons , the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe , Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction , and the Organization of American States .

The United States periodically submits reports  to the 1540 Committee that integrate a wide range of data from multiple U.S. Government departments and agencies, reflecting a “whole-of-government” approach to U.S. implementation of the resolution. These reports provide a comprehensive update of U.S. laws, regulations, policies, projects, initiatives, and effective practices to protect the international community from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As of 2013, the United States reported measures in place to implement all of its obligations under UNSCR 1540. The United States has also identified more than 100 effective practices  and shared these with the 1540 Committee.

In addition to sharing information with the 1540 Committee through national reports and additional submissions, the United States has promoted further transparency by hosting visits of the 1540 Committee and its Experts to see how the United States fulfills its national obligations under UNSCR 1540. The visits have allowed U.S. officials to demonstrate good practices and offer lessons learned to share with other States seeking to implement UNSCR 1540 more fully. The Committee’s visits to the United States set a model for visits to other Member States, and the Committee has since made similar visits to other countries.

HELPING TO IMPLEMENT UNSCR 1540 ABROAD

The 1540 Committee maintains a dialogue with all UN Member States in the interest of assisting every Member State to fulfill its international obligations under UNSCR 1540. Many U.S. Government departments and agencies have assistance programs that further the implementation of UNSCR 1540, either bilaterally or in cooperation with international, regional, or sub-regional bodies and civil society. Some of these assistance programs can be found at the following links:

Department of State
Department of the Treasury 
Department of Defense 
Department of Justice 
Department of Agriculture 
Department of Commerce 
Department of Health and Human Services 
Department of Energy 
Department of Homeland Security 

The Security Council, in UNSCR 1673  (2006), invited the 1540 Committee to explore how it could enhance cooperation with international, regional, and sub-regional organizations to help countries implement UNSCR 1540, which prompted the Committee to engage and cooperate with a wide range of now more than forty such bodies.[3] Many regional and international organizations have adopted decisions, resolutions, and other measures to give their political and practical support to full implementation of UNSCR 1540, and have integrated the objectives of the resolution into their work programs. The United States supports efforts to augment the capacity of some regional organizations to help their members implement the resolution. In this regard, the United States supports a “regional UNSCR 1540 coordinator” position in several organizations, in recognition that they can contribute their understanding of regional dynamics and of opportunities for regional cooperation in ways that will help States implement UNSCR 1540. The United States also supports the 1540 Committee’s efforts to coordinate and match assistance requests submitted by States to those organizations and States offering assistance, as called for in UNSCR 1977 (2011)  and UNSCR 2325  (2016).

In addition, the United States worked with the 1540 Committee and the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs  (UNODA) to develop UNODA’s Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament Activities into a funding mechanism for projects specifically designed to further implementation of UNSCR 1540. To help the Committee in its work, the United States has contributed $4.5 million to this trust fund. The United States encourages other States in a position to do so to contribute to the trust fund.

For further information on the resolution and U.S. activities to support its implementation, see the U.S. State Department brochure [2 MB] and fact sheet.

ONGOING EFFORTS

Mindful of the ever-changing risks and vulnerabilities States face in combating the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery, including to terrorists and other criminals, the 1540 Committee conducted the second comprehensive review  of the implementation of the resolution (the first comprehensive review  took place in 2009) over the course of 2016 through a series of activities, highlighted by an open session of the 1540 Committee on June 20-22, 2016.

The comprehensive review took a retrospective and prospective view of national implementation measures and international efforts to foster such implementation, with a focus on four major themes (monitoring implementation, assistance, international cooperation, and outreach), as well as the overall functioning of the 1540 Committee. The 1540 Committee’s report  of the comprehensive review, adopted in December 2016, found that, while many States have taken important steps to strengthen prohibitions and controls on WMD and their means of delivery in fulfillment of their 1540 obligations, key gaps remain in areas that include biological and chemical security and proliferation finance. To address these and other issues, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2325  on December 15, 2016. The new resolution calls upon States to intensify their efforts to fulfill their 1540 obligations and gives the 1540 Committee a mandate to focus its work on major gaps where it can have the most value added.

UNSCR 1540 also featured prominently in the Nuclear Security Summit process, culminating in the 2016 Summit ’s recognition of UNSCR 1540 as an important  part of the legal infrastructure  for nuclear security. In testimony to the Senate, Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, stated that the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit will “hand over the important work accomplished over the last six years to five additional entities in five separate action plans. The work of the Summit will be taken up by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations, and its 1540 Committee, Interpol, the Global Partnership against WMD, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.”

(Note: Links to non-U.S. Government Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of those sites or the information contained therein.)

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1. The UN Charter was ratified by each UN Member State in accordance with its respective constitutional processes. Chapter VII of the Charter authorizes the Security Council to determine the existence of any threat to the peace and to take measures to restore peace and security. Article 48 provides that “the action required to carry out the decisions of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security shall be taken by all the Members of the United Nations or by some of them, as the Security Council may determine.” Article 49 states that “The Members of the United Nations shall join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures decided upon by the Security Council.” UNSCR 1540 requires action by all States, including those that do not possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or their means of delivery.

2. Definition of related materials in the resolution: “materials, equipment, and technology covered by relevant multilateral treaties and arrangements, or included on national control lists, which could be used for the design, development, production or use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery.”

3. The regional and sub-regional organizations also include, among others, the following: the Arab Maghreb Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the East African Community, the Economic Community of West African States, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, the League of Arab States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Oceania Customs Organization, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Economic Community of Central African States, the Southern African Development Community, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

U.S. Department of State

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