1540 Committee state visits provide tailored engagement

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When adopting resolution 1540, the Security Council recognized that states might need assistance to fulfill their obligations deriving from the resolution. In fulfilling that mandate, the 1540 Committee has been engaging directly with member states to facilitate 1540 implementation.

At the time of the adoption of resolution 1540, most member states were already parties to the three main disarmament and WMD nonproliferation treaties. However, although some obligations derived from these treaties coincide with those of resolution 1540, they do not cover some of its specifics, in particular those related to non-state actors. These treaties do not contain, for example, obligations regarding comprehensive export controls or provisions prohibiting the financing of proliferation-related activities.

Consequently, the Committee acknowledged the need to perform outreach activities to help states better understand and implement their 1540 obligations. In the first seven years of the life of the resolution, these activities took place primarily in the framework of international conferences and regional workshops.

Today, however, resolution 1540 is a much better-known instrument. Within the disarmament and nonproliferation community, resolution 1540 has become a legally binding reference similar to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the CWC, and the BWC. Its objectives

and obligations are much better understood. In 2011, in this regard, the Security Council enacted resolution 1977, encouraging the 1540 Committee to engage actively with states striving to implement resolution 1540. It urged the Committee to undertake visits to such states at their invitation.

This Security Council decision constituted a recognition that a more tailored approach was needed to engage with states on their implementation of resolution 1540.

State-specific activities and visits to states offer an opportunity not only for the Committee to engage directly with states on the implementation of the resolution, but also for states to better understand how to draw on the opportunities offered by resolutions 1540 and 1977 to assist in capacity-building and to benefit from collaboration with other member states and international organizations.

The first 1540 Committee visit to a state took place in September 2011, just a few months after the adoption of resolution 1977, when the government of the United States invited the Committee to its country.

Since then, an increasing number of states have invited the 1540 Committee to make use of this “new tool.” In 2012, visits took place to Albania, Madagascar, and the Republic of the Congo. In 2013, the Committee visited Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Burkina Faso, and the Republic of Korea. In early 2014, the Committee visited Niger. Invitations to the Republic of Moldova and Mozambique have also been received.

These visits provide a unique opportunity for the participating members of the Committee and its experts to engage a wide range of stakeholders responsible for the implementation of resolution 1540 and to obtain firsthand information about legislative and enforcement measures taken in accordance with the resolution.

Generally, these visits include three segments: high-level meetings, working sessions, and on-site visits. The details of the programs for these visits are worked out by the host country in close cooperation with the 1540 Group of Experts.

During the high-level meetings, ministers or other high-ranking officials reaffirm the political commitment to implement resolution 1540 and identify key areas in which more progress or assistance is needed. For example, in the case of the visit to Trinidad and Tobago, the 1540 Chair met with the acting prime minister and minister of foreign affairs as well as with the ministers of national security and health.

In the course of the working sessions, officials from the host state make presentations about the measures taken or planned in accordance with the resolution. Committee representatives present on the obligations under the resolution and explain the work of the Committee, including its assistance mechanism. During these sessions, both stakeholders and Committee representatives carefully examine the 1540 matrix of the host state. These sessions enable the Committee and state to exchange a significant amount of information.

The on-site visits take place in facilities where states are enforcing the provisions of the resolution. Such sites may include ports, border posts, hospitals, laboratories, or research institutes. In the case of the first two, the officials in charge give the visiting delegation a detailed briefing regarding the procedures that are in place, for instance for control of incoming and outgoing cargo. In the case of hospitals, laboratories, and research institutes, the responsible authorities usually brief the 1540 delegation on, for example, measures related to physical protection of CBRN materials and background checks on their personnel.

These three segments complement one another and provide the 1540 delegation a very broad and complete perspective of progress toward and challenges stemming from 1540 implementation.

In general terms, visits to states offer the opportunity for the Committee and the state visited to jointly identify achievements and gaps, as well as possible assistance needs. In instances when a visited state identifies specific areas for further work, an assistance request is forwarded to the 1540 Committee. The priority then is for the Committee and its experts to match the requests with offers of assistance by States and relevant international organizations. These visits are also an occasion to further reflect on future steps to be taken, including the development of a “National Implementation Action Plan” (NIAP) and the establishment of a national 1540 interministerial mechanism.

Since all relevant national agencies have to work together while they prepare for and host such visits, they have spurred those states that do not have interagency coordination systems for 1540 implementation to establish such mechanisms. This constitutes a key element for future activities that will enhance the implementation of the resolution, since 1540 implementation requires a whole-of-government approach.

The 1540 Committee visits have also served to reach out to a wider national audience, since most of these visits have been the object of media coverage—coverage that in some cases has been extensive.

In the almost ten years since the Committee was established, the nature of its engagement with states has evolved. Visits to states are a clear example of this evolution. This new tool has enabled the Committee and states to maintain a much deeper dialogue and strengthened states’ capacity to implement resolution 1540.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of the 1540 Committee.

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