UN Security Council resolution 1977 (2011) instructs the 1540 Committee to conduct its comprehensive review on the implementation status of UNSCR 1540 by December 2016. The review will come at the midway point of the ten-year extension of resolution 1540 authorized in 2011. In all likelihood, the reviewers will recommend adjusting the resolution’s mandate to keep pace with a rapidly evolving threat environment. Sub-state actors remain intent on obtaining WMD capabilities, and they adapt to nonproliferation and arms-control measures. The international community must innovate as well to counter them.
The latest advancements in science and technology have the potential to yield conventional armaments just as devastating as WMD, blurring the line between conventional and unconventional terrorism. Will this progress drive us to redefine our concept of WMD?
The Compass invites readers to share their vision of such emerging dangers and ways to combat them. For example, we welcome your ideas about the potential impact of biotechnologies such as biocatalysis, synthetic biology, and biopharming. What risks do misuse of exotic technology pose, and where should we strike the balance between academic freedom and prudent control?
Further, molecular manufacturing could prove to be a breakthrough on par with the Industrial Revolution—but compressed into a far shorter period of time. A revolution hurtling along at such velocity could overtax effective control and regulation. Such a prospect warrants careful forethought.
Similarly, do you think improvements in drone technologies and their mass production should be a concern of UNSCR 1540? Since 2005, the number of countries that possess drones has risen to over 80, while over 50 countries are developing more than 900 different UAV systems. Here, too, the hazards as well as the benefits are worth pondering.
And lastly, how should we characterize cyberterrorism, and should it fall under the 1540 imprimatur? Some experts see cyberterror as a new, high-tech weapon of mass destruction that could prove more devastating than traditional WMD. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Defense has called for urgent measures against cyberattacks, warning that increasingly sophisticated assaults in cyberspace could culminate in a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”
These are some challenges that the UNSCR 1540 review process must address. We can do no less if we want to stay ahead of individuals and groups determined to inflict catastrophic harm.