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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
UN Renews Committee on WMD

Peter Crail

The UN Security Council April 25 adopted Resolution 1810 extending for an additional three years a council committee tasked with monitoring, facilitating, and promoting national efforts to prevent other states and terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Resolution 1810 also provides for potentially enhancing the role of the committee in providing assistance to states to carry out their obligations not to contribute to illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction (WMD), related materials, and delivery systems.

The committee was established in 2004, after the unveiling of the Abdul Qadeer Khan black market nuclear network, with the adoption of Resolution 1540. That resolution requires states to adopt a series of domestic regulatory measures to ensure that they do not contribute to the illicit trafficking of nonconventional weapons. (See ACT, May 2004. )

A sub-body of the Security Council, the 1540 Committee consists of the same 15 states that comprise the council. Unlike the council, however, the committee operates by consensus.

The council extended the committee while noting that the implementation of Resolution 1540's various obligations by states "is a long-term task that will require continuous efforts at national, regional and international levels."

The length of the renewal represents a compromise between the United States and other Western countries that desired a five-year extension and particular states that wished to extend the mandate for only two more years.

Due to uncertainty regarding the role of such a body and wariness of creating a new bureaucracy, the council originally gave the committee a two-year mandate in 2004, which it extended for an additional two years in 2006. (See ACT, June 2006. ) A source close to the committee told Arms Control Today May 14 that greater certainty about the value of the committee has led the Security Council to grant the panel a longer term.

The United States, one of the key drafters of the resolution, was originally resistant to establishing the committee as it was unsure that a follow-up mechanism would be needed to monitor implementation. Since that time, Washington's position appears to have shifted as it sought a longer-term mandate.

Explaining why the United States sought a more lengthy extension, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today May 21 that Washington has appreciated the "helpful role that the committee has provided in raising awareness" about the goals of Resolution 1540. The official added that those goals are to raise both "the level of expectations and the level of international norms regarding efforts to address WMD proliferation." U.S. officials also said they had grown convinced that the committee had a useful role to play in furnishing concrete implementation assistance, particularly because implementation continues to be slow.

In order to monitor implementation and determine where assistance may be necessary, the council required states to submit an initial report on efforts to implement Resolution 1540 in 2004 and has urged states to submit additional reports on this progress. Yet, at the time of the adoption of Resolution 1810, about 40 states, primarily in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, still had failed to submit their initial reports. Many states in the developing world have been slow in providing reports due to competing priorities and scarce resources.

In addition, only the United States has thus far submitted an implementation action plan, although a source close to the committee told Arms Control Today May 14 that additional states are preparing such plans for submission.

The resolution also tasks the committee with considering "options for developing and making more effective existing funding mechanisms" for the purpose of assisting states to identify and address needs for assistance in implementing Resolution 1540. Sources close to the committee explained to Arms Control Today that these options include the establishment of a UN 1540 assistance fund, from which money may be drawn to support assistance, outreach, or other Resolution 1540-related activities.

The State Department official said May 21 that a report that the committee plans to approve in July will contain recommendations for how this funding mechanism could operate.

The committee was originally required to submit a report by the end of April on how Resolution 1540 was being implemented. Although a source close to the committee told Arms Control Today in March that the report had been nearly concluded at that time, another source indicated May 22 that disagreements among the committee members has slowed the approval process. Resolution 1810 requires this report be submitted to the Security Council no later than July 31.

Resolution 1810 does not establish any additional requirements for states beyond those enumerated in Resolution 1540. Rather, it calls on and encourages states to cooperate with the committee in implementing the original resolution's requirements. These calls for cooperation include submitting reports on their implementation efforts, providing a national action plan for implementation, and relaying to the committee requests for and offers of assistance. Several sources close to the committee, including government members, indicated that Resolution 1810 represents a shift from focusing on outreach to focusing on implementation, in particular with regard to assisting states that lack the capacity to carry out the resolution's obligations.

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