Source: Presentation made by Bennie Lombard at the Workshop on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004),

Source: Presentation made by Bennie Lombard at the Workshop on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004),

Making progress implementing UNSCR 1540 in Africa

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According to the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)1, while many African countries present a transit or terrorist concern, the continent has not afforded significant attention to the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).2 NTI attributes this largely to a combination of conflicting priorities, lack of capacity, and reporting fatigue, but also because the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the region is not considered pressing.

While this may have been true in the past to a certain extent, it is no longer the case that African states are not paying attention to implementing UN Security Council resolution 1540 (hereafter referred to as UNSCR 1540). It is also an oversimplification to measure implementation by the number of states that have submitted their initial or subsequent reports to the committee established pursuant to UNSCR 1540, known as the 1540 Committee. As a subsidiary body of the UN Security Council, this Committee’s main function is to facilitate implementation of the resolution within the three primary obligations expected of UN member states, namely:

  • prohibit support to non-state actors seeking WMD and their means of delivery
  • adopt and enforce effective laws prohibiting activities involving the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery to non-state actors
  • enact and enforce effective measures to reduce the vulnerability of many legitimate activities to misuse in ways that would foster the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery to non-state actors

Deficient reporting in Africa does not necessarily mean that UNSCR 1540 is not being implemented on the continent. While submitting reports to the 1540 Committee is a requirement of the resolution, it can be argued that it is better to submit a quality report, which takes more time and contains accurate information and can guide dialogue with the 1540 Committee, than to submit a superficial report to check the block on a to-do list. In fact, the key value of such reports is to enable the Committee and the state to identify where assistance may be required.

Importantly, UNSCR 1540 also reiterates that none of the obligations contained within it shall conflict with or alter the rights and obligations of parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), or the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). All African states are party to the NPT, 32 are party to the BTWC, and only Angola and Egypt have yet to ratify the CWC.

In addition, implementing any global nonproliferation regime at the local level — whether a UN Security Council resolution or indeed a treaty or convention—needs to undergo a number of processes. These include a process of “ownership-taking” or “buy-in,” a process of “cultural insertion,” and a process of domestic policy and legislative formulation.

The 1540 Committee engages in various types of outreach activities to promote full implementation of UNSCR 1540. It shares experiences and lessons learned, helps with capacity building, and provides technical assistance in the areas covered by the resolution. Since its establishment, the Committee, including its members and experts, have hosted and participated in various conferences, workshops, seminars, and relevant international, regional, subregional, or country-specific meetings in Africa.3

Many of these events were organized by member states in cooperation with the 1540 Committee, as well as by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and other UN bodies. Some have been arranged by African civil-society organizations active in working towards identifying and enhancing Africa’s role in international efforts to strengthen WMD disarmament and nonproliferation. Such efforts unfold in the context of Africa’s developmental and security imperatives through the provision of primary research, policy formulation, and implementation activities.

Besides specifically arranged workshops on UNSCR 1540, the Committee has also made extensive use of opportunities presented by seminars. Such gatherings, for example, help empower states to implement conventions such as the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and to counter illicit trafficking and terrorism in general.

From 2006-2013, some twelve UNSCR 1540-related seminars and workshops took place in Africa. Of these, however, it should be noted that only six focused specifically on UNSCR 1540 (one apiece in 2006, 2007, and 2009; two in 2012; and one in 2013). These events brought together national representatives, regional organizations, and experts from the international community. The purpose of the events ranged from raising awareness about the resolution, sharing implementation experiences, and identifying potential gaps in legislation, to providing guidance on reporting and effective implementation and presenting the many opportunities on offer for assistance. Meetings in Ghana in 2006 and in Botswana in 2007, for example, raised awareness of UNSCR 1540 and initiated a process to identify the means by which African states could begin to put in place appropriate mechanisms preventing non-state actors from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring, or using nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or their means of delivery. These meetings also examined how best to establish domestic controls over related materials (equipment, technologies, and materials which could be used for weapons-of-mass-destruction purposes).

It was not until 2012, however, that an “All-Africa” approach was taken. This came partly from recognition that Africa was lagging behind other regions in the world with respect to implementation efforts. A growing number of intergovernmental as well as civil-society organizations, moreover, had recently launched specific support programs, including those developed within the framework of the G-8’s Global Partnership Working Group.

The first such workshop was held in Pretoria, South Africa, from November 21-22, 2012. The government of South Africa hosted the event in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and with support from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) facilitated logistical arrangements and acted as the “implementing agency” for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO). This approach was instigated to a large extent by Baso Sangqu, then the chairperson (2011-2012) of the 1540 Committee and South Africa’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He underscored South Africa’s position that “the threat that non-State actors may acquire materials that could be used for nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or their means of delivery is a danger for all States.” At the same time, however, he expressed his concern about the lack of concrete and sustainable progress in the area of disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).4 For Sangqu:

the commitment of African States to prevent non-State actors, including terrorists, from acquiring WMD or their means of delivery has been well established. In 1999, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. In the broader context of disarmament and non-proliferation, the status of acceptance of legal obligations by African States with respect to international instruments on disarmament and non-proliferation is high, for example, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). Furthermore, through the Pelindaba Treaty, African States have established an African nuclear-weapon-free zone.5

At the same time, he recognized that delays and challenges to the full implementation of these instruments at the national level remained. Governments still needed to set up national authorities and bodies, enact legislation, and report to the agencies administering these instruments.

Participants included officials from 36 African states.6 Each state nominated representatives from the following institutions or their equivalents: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs, Policing and National Security Authorities, Radiation Protection Authorities, Ministry of Science and Technology, Atomic Energy Commission, Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, and Customs Department.

Three members of the 1540 Committee—the then-chair, Ambassador Sangqu, and two members of the UNSCR 1540 Group of Experts—participated in the workshop. In addition, the following multilateral and international organizations were present: the African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit (BTWC—ISU), World Health Organization (WHO), World Customs Organization (WCO), UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations such as the Stimson Center and the Institute for Security Studies also participated. The workshop agenda included presentations and plenary discussion sessions, as well as an opportunity for informal bilateral discussions between the 1540 experts and fellow participants.

It became clear from these discussions and debates on how best to meet the obligations of UNSCR 1540, given the limited capacities and resources of African states, that there are synergies between implementing UNSCR 1540 and advancing African states’ socioeconomic and developmental objectives. Participants in this first all-Africa workshop noted that while a one-size-fits-all approach is inapplicable, some similarities have emerged between states’ UNSCR 1540 implementation efforts. These include the adoption of domestic laws and regulations, adherence to international treaties and conventions, cooperation with international organizations, interministerial and interagency coordination, training and outreach, and analysis of how 1540 implementation coincides with the state’s other socioeconomic objectives. It was further noted that the African Union, which has a 1540 Focal Point, as well as regional economic communities (RECs) such as SADC, ECOWAS, and IGAD, could bring added advantages through such measures as sensitizing member states, identifying gaps, mobilizing resources, developing model legislation, and providing technical support.

Importantly, the workshop emphasized that Africans should drive the process of implementing 1540 in Africa and that, as Africans, we need to find linkages between national developmental processes and obligations under UNSCR 1540. Participants also recognized that it was incumbent on all to encourage leaders to see UNSCR 1540 within the context and importance of other international disarmament and nonproliferation regimes—including the Treaty of Pelindaba, the continental agreement establishing Africa as a nuclear weapon-free zone.

This view was echoed in a recent EU Institute for Security Studies Policy Brief that points out: “Supporting national implementation of UNSCR 1540 has made it possible to increase international co-operation towards an objective—preventing WMDs from falling into the hands of non-state actors and terrorists—that per se complements and reinforces the existing non proliferation and disarmament regimes…in essence, UNSCR 1540 partly draws on existing obligations already present in the NPT, BTWC and CWC: the obligation to prevent WMD proliferation by non-state actors and the obligation to adopt measures at both the legislative and operational levels. UNSCR 1540 is now considered by most implementing actors as a nexus to enhance both universal participation to these three main treaties and the effectiveness of national implementation.”7

The Pretoria workshop concluded with the African Union Commission’s (AUC) undertaking to further promote and enhance the implementation of resolution 1540 in Africa. The Commission pledged to communicate the outcomes of the workshop to member states, request the AU Executive Council to express its commitment to resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1977 (2011), and authorize a structured, formal mechanism for follow-up at the political level. Subsequently, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), in the Report on Its Activities and the State of Peace and Security in Africa [Assembly/AU/3(XX)]—a document considered by the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, held on January 27-28, 2013 in Addis Ababa—stressed the relevance of resolution 1540 (2004) and highlighted the challenges to its full and effective implementation in Africa.

On this occasion, the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, in its decision [Assembly/AU/Dec.472(XX)], welcomed the convening of the Pretoria workshop and requested the AU Commission to take all necessary steps, in collaboration with the 1540 Committee and the relevant partners, to implement the proposals and recommendations made at the workshop in support of member states’ efforts in implementation of the resolution.

As a result, from December 10-11, 2013, and as a follow-up to the Pretoria workshop, the AUC, with support of UNODA and in collaboration with the 1540 Committee organized a workshop at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa on implementation of UNSCR 1540. Thirty-five AU member states participated in the workshop.8

Partner states that also attended were Morocco (which is not a member of the AU) and the United States. Regional Economic Communities that participated in the workshop included the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The North African Regional Capability (NARC) also attended, as did various relevant regional and international organizations, including: the African Biosafety Association (AfBSA), the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization, and the Institute for Security Studies. The second workshop thus expanded the list of invitees to include RECs not present at the first All-Africa workshop, as well as professional associations and relevant continental networks.

UNODA, in its presentation, pointed out that it was planning to increase its activities in Africa in support of the implementation of resolution 1540. In particular, it undertook to facilitate reporting by states. The AUC reiterated that its role should be seen within the framework of the Common African Defence and Security Policy (CADSP) and the relevant decisions taken by AU organs to promote and supporting states in fully implementing multilateral WMD disarmament and nonproliferation regimes. It was emphasised that the African Union, working with the RECs, will continue to support strengthening the capacities of member states through providing platforms for sensitisation, dialogue, and sharing of experiences. Mobilization of technical assistance at both the regional and global levels for African states to meet their UNSCR 1540 implementation and reporting obligations was seen as a key task of the AUC in the future.

The workshop concluded with a series of recommendations, including:

  1. To further develop an African approach to implementation of resolution 1540, with a central coordination role by the African Union.
  2. To designate National Points of Contact if states have not yet done so.
  3. To continue to develop activities to further enhance the capacity of the Points of Contact and engage them in relevant initiatives and capacity-building programs.
  4. To emphasize to the RECs their important role in facilitating the implementation of resolution 1540, including designating a 1540 Point of Contact for each REC.
  5. To acknowledge the value of visits by the 1540 Committee to African states as an important tool to facilitate gap analysis, interagency coordination, awareness raising, identification of assistance needs, and overall implementation of resolution 1540.
  6. To promote an African approach to developing national export control lists.
  7. To take advantage of the assistance mechanism of the 1540 Committee, as well as assistance and capacity-building programs provided by relevant international and regional organizations and civil society.
  8. To put UNSCR 1540 into effect, thereby sending an important political message concerning nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

In 2014, in light of the above, the UNODA and its Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the ISS planned to co-host a series of three subregional (and language-based) African workshops focused mainly on national reporting capacities and methodologies. Two of these workshops have already taken place in Gabon and South Africa, with a third due to take place in Togo. In order to encourage a more open and frank discussion, the workshop organizers identified “champions” of UNSCR 1540. These are member states that have reported regularly over the past ten years and whose reports are perceived as being well-written. Champion states identified by organizers include Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Togo, and South Africa. The workshops create a safe space for these champions, as well as 1540 Committee members and experts to share their experience and effective practices with the non-reporting member states.


The full implementation of UNSCR 1540 is a long-term task. It is not surprising, then, that since the adoption of the resolution, states, including African states, have steadily increased their implementation efforts with growing support from international, regional, and subregional organizations and civil society.

The recent period has seen many important developments suggesting the emergence of a new momentum on the African continent: an increased African Union role in facilitating the implementation of UNSCR 1540; a more active dialogue between African states and the 1540 Committee, and visits of Committee members to African States9; more capacity-building activities in Africa from providers of assistance; and a growing role in UNSCR 1540-related matters by the Lomé-based UNODA Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa and nongovernmental organizations such as the Institute for Security Studies.


  1. NTI is an organization with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
  2. See: <>.
  3. See: <>. 
  4. Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, at the Joint Briefing to the Security Council on Counter-Terrorism, United Nations, New York, November 14, 2012.
  5. Benita Pavlicevic and Adèle Kirsten, “Africa Guide to UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004),” Institute for Security Studies, 2014.
  6. Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  7. Charlotte Beaucillon, “Multilateralism, the EU, and UNSCR 1540: Reinforcing National Responsibilities,” Policy Brief Number 10, European Union Institute for Security Studies, December 2012.
  8. Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Republic of Congo, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  9. Republic of the Congo (June 2012), Madagascar (May 2012), Burkina Faso (November 2013), and Niger (January 2014).

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