Improving capacity, communication, and civil society engagement
Discussions at the Vienna Forum, along with almost ten years of civil-society engagement in support of UNSCR 1540, provide abundant material to reflect on the lessons learned from past experience.
A number of civil-society groups—think tanks, academia, and private foundations—have embraced the goals of UNSCR 1540 since its inception in 2004. They first became awareness-raising agents of the resolution, brainstormed implementation paths and reporting requirements, delivered training programs, and performed assessments of national 1540 reports. The variety of forms and contributions spans from organizing international and regional conferences and seminars, to helping draft national export control legislation, to producing a documentary to promote UNSCR 1540.
In his message to the Vienna Forum on UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) and Civil Society: Opportunities for Engagement, held on January 8-10, 2013, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon noted the significance of the civil-society contribution to the activities of the United Nations in disarmament and many other critical areas. He expressed confidence that “the positive impact of civil society will move the world closer to meeting the objectives of resolution 1540 and a world without weapons of mass destruction.” A number of international organizations and national governments share an understanding and expectation that civil society has a much greater and broader role to play, working with national and international stakeholders in support of 1540.
The understanding that civil society must strengthen and expand its engagement guided the decision to organize the first-ever international forum dedicated to the role of civil society in UNSCR 1540 implementation. As noted before, the gathering convened in Vienna in January 2013. Discussions at the Vienna Forum, along with almost ten years of civil-society engagement in support of UNSCR 1540, provide abundant material to reflect on the lessons learned from past experience and assess future directions, address concerns, and highlight opportunities.
This approach requires an assessment of the current status, scope, and capacity of civil-society groups in various regions; examination of challenges such as national governments’ reluctance to acknowledge the role of civil society in 1540 implementation; and funding and communication shortfalls. Another important challenge is to align civil-society contributions in support of UNSCR 1540 more closely with national and international needs. At the same time, this work must go beyond the needs already recognized. Neglected or overlooked issues must also be addressed, and civil society can bring them to the attention of fellow stakeholders.
Bryan Finlay of the Stimson Center undertook a thorough analysis of how civil society supports 1540 goals. Finlay entitled his report “Meeting the Objectives of UN Security Council Resolution 1540: The Role of Civil Society.” The Stimson report provides an excellent overview of various avenues whereby civil-society groups already advance the efforts of national governments and international organizations. A summary of key areas of civil-society engagement in 1540 issues is provided below. It provides a canvas for further discussion, and as a good starting point to examine areas that require additional attention from civil-society groups.
Key Roles of Civil Society Engagement in UNSCR 1540
- Awareness raising, advocacy, and outreach directed at national governments, legislators, educational institutions, other civil-society groups, and the public at large;
- Providing legal, policy, technical, and scientific expertise across many issue areas, countries, and stakeholders;
- Delivering or facilitating implementation assistance, from specific projects to helping with reporting requirements and development of 1540 national action plans;
- Bringing emerging CBRN issues to the attention of the international community and the 1540 Committee and identifying gaps;
- Developing and conducting educational and training activities and programs aimed at a variety of audiences, including but not limited to practitioners, diplomats, legislators, government officials, law enforcement, students, and the general public;
- Collecting, analyzing, and disseminating best practices and developing implementation guides and tools;
- Monitoring and conducting assessment of national implementation efforts, holding governments accountable for non-compliance or slow implementation;
- Fostering better communication, coordination, and networking among 1540 stakeholders.
The discussion below examines several categories that require additional attention from civil-society groups and from other stakeholders. It also offers a number of observations and recommendations that cut across these broad categories and underpin the overall effectiveness of civil-society engagement in 1540 matters.
Responding to Needs
In all likelihood, civil society can contribute most effectively in areas national governments and international organizations have identified as priorities, and on which they have sought external input. At the Vienna Forum, for example, experts from the 1540 Committee pointed out that drawing up training programs, compiling effective practices, and developing templates and implementation guides are some areas in which civil-society involvement is highly desirable. The “Guide to National Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004)” published by VERTIC and the “Africa Guide to UNSCR 1540” issued by the Institute of Strategic Studies are illustrations of prior work in this area.
As part of efforts to bring all countries into full compliance with UNSCR 1540, civil-society groups can promote the resolution and its goals in regions where other priorities take precedence.
Additional possible areas for engagement include preparing for the next UNSCR 1540 Comprehensive Review (2016), further developing the 1540 matrix, and executing implementation assessments that go beyond legislative actions reported by national governments to provide analysis of actual implementation efforts. The 1540 Committee has identified these and similar needs in its program of work for 2013-2014. Nongovernmental experts, academia, and industry could also help member states and international organizations by contributing to areas that have received less attention from governments in the 1540 context, such as biological weapons, means of delivery, and national export control lists. This list is not exhaustive, but it does indicate certain opportunities and real demands that civil society could meet.
Making 1540 Relevant
As part of efforts to bring all countries into full compliance with UNSCR 1540, civil-society groups can promote the resolution and its goals in regions where other priorities take precedence. They can demonstrate the benefits of aligning 1540 implementation with developmental goals and socioeconomic objectives, and also in relating 1540 issues to the larger picture of safety and security, preparedness for incidents involving hazardous materials, and efforts to enhance border security, human and animal health, agricultural security, and industry development.
Training and Capacity Building
Capacity building in the UNSCR 1540 context generally involves civil-society bodies’ providing national governments or private groups with training or similar programs on CBRN matters. This is an important and significant part of civil-society contribution to 1540 work, and it should be continued and strengthened. However, there is also ample room for capacity building within civil society itself. Training programs for international civil-society representatives can be extremely useful for strengthening the capacity of local civil-society groups in Africa, the Middle East, and other regions where such expertise is still wanting.
In this regard, more could be done to pool expertise, know-how, and tools among civil-society groups. Newcomers to the field could learn through train-the-trainer programs presented by those who already have experience. Such training could be offered in a number of areas, from legislative assistance, to efforts to promote the relevant treaties and conventions, to export controls, biosafety and biosecurity, security culture, and ethics.
Train-the-trainer workshops and programs for university professors and researchers could propagate national expertise in regions and countries where few cadres specialize in CRBN and 1540 issues. These programs could also include preparing and sharing training materials and curricula, discussing emerging issues, and refining methodology.
Critical to capacity building aimed at civil-society groups and other 1540 stakeholders are quality training materials, including online resources on CBRN threats, security culture, and other 1540-relevant topics. With effectiveness and sustainability in mind, these programs and materials must be customized to specific regions and translated into stakeholders’ languages. Civil-society organizations can help translate such materials and adjust them to particular national and regional circumstances.
Fostering Security Culture and Social Responsibility
In science and research, strong ethics and security culture are the best insurance against threats from new, overlooked, or emerging technologies, particularly in the biological and chemical fields. Civil society has already pioneered critical work on fostering security culture as it pertains to nuclear materials and technologies. In the chemical and biological domains, nongovernmental groups have fostered codes of conduct and stronger ethics for scientists and researchers. Technical, scientific, and academic groups are critical to promoting CBRN security culture and ethics, the further development, promotion, and adoption of codes of conduct, and self-regulatory mechanisms. This role is widely recognized and warrants continued support and reinforcement.
Nurturing Constructive Dialogue with Governments
In addressing the capacity of various civil-society groups and their relationship with national governments and international organizations, one cannot avoid discussing the relationship between governments and civil society. This relationship defines the spectrum and the scope of civil society’s involvement in 1540-related matters to a major degree. In some countries, think tanks, academia, or charitable organizations are already integral to the community of 1540 stakeholders. Other governments choose not to involve civil society in national initiatives as standard procedure owing to mistrust of nongovernmental actors. Still others view 1540-related activities as part of national security strictly defined. Governments of such leanings exclude civil society from the process as a precautionary measure.
The 1540 Committee work program for 2013-2014 notes that the Committee will “consider and seize opportunities, as appropriate, for direct interaction, with their States’ consent, with relevant industry groups, academia and civil society.” This statement recognizes that civil-society involvement varies from state to state, and that different governments take different approaches to civil-society engagement. Widening the circle of countries that accept counsel and help from civil society is extremely important. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN High Representative for Disarmament Angela Cane, and other key figures have used their bully pulpit to raise the credibility of civil-society groups and facilitate their constructive impact.
Networking and Partnerships
In some countries, attitudes toward cooperation might be favorable, but civil society is underdeveloped or has limited expertise and capacity. In such cases the capacity-building efforts discussed above play a crucial part in strengthening expertise and skills. This approach is particularly important for broadening the geographic diversity of civil-society actors. In addition to training programs, support from civil-society networks—including networks at the regional and subregional levels—could measurably improve the practices of civil-society organizations while buttressing their individual and collective capacity. It could also help build lasting relationships based on trust and recognition with their respective governments.
Successful models of such coalitions and networks in the WMD area include the CWC Coalition, which formed around CWC implementation, and the Fissile Materials Working Group, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and experts established in 2009 to promote the nuclear-security agenda. Both organizations have a strong record of setting the agenda, providing critical analysis of governments’ policies and implementation records, facilitating implementation, and ensuring transparency and accountability.
Communication and Coordination
Establishing regular communication among international organizations, national governments, and civil society groups is of the utmost importance. Such communication should encompass consistent and reliable means for providing and finding information about activities, needs, and modes of civil-society involvement. This is relevant for communication and information-sharing between civil-society groups and other stakeholders, as well as among civil-society groups themselves. Designating a point of contact—for example, an expert from the 1540 Committee—for communication and coordination with civil-society groups is one possible solution. Establishing a 1540 civil-society working group or coalition that represents the larger civil community and serves as a coordinating body and interlocutor with other stakeholders should be considered as well.
Communication among civil-society groups and other stakeholders could be facilitated by a number of means, including web-based platforms or social media. Traditional means of information dissemination and sharing, such as printed media and workshops, should also continue to be employed. Publications such as the 1540 Compass represent a welcome development. At the same time, periodicals and reports that cover a broader set of issues related to WMD security and nonproliferation, including the Nonproliferation Review and BioWeapons Prevention Project Monitor, need to be better utilized to promote 1540-related issues and goals.
An often-cited limiting factor on expanding civil-society involvement in 1540 matters is insufficient funding. The global economic situation remains unfavorable, particularly in countries that have traditionally provided the bulk of financial support to civil-society groups. Still, several international organizations, including the European Union, the 1540 Committee, and the OPCW note that funding often is not the major roadblock to financing civil society work. Rather, the problem is a mismatch between governments’ needs and offers of help. Civil-society groups and organizations must communicate their expertise and capabilities to organizations and governments more clearly, focus their proposals on concrete, specific ideas and initiatives that are directly linked to 1540 issues, and be proactive about learning about funding opportunities and implementation priorities.
A comprehensive and successful response to WMD threats, including those UNSCR 1540 is designed to combat, requires a whole-society approach, including more robust contributions from civil society. This could be achieved through steps and strategies taken by civil-society groups themselves, as well as by other stakeholders. Several recommendations below could prove useful:
- Focus on capacity building via training, networking, and communication. Strengthening capacity and expertise among civil-society groups active across an array of geographical regions and issue areas is critical to building overall national and regional capacity.
- Civil-society groups should be proactive about offering their expertise to relevant international organizations and governmental actors, align their offers more closely with governments’ current priorities and long-term goals, and take the initiative in communicating with the 1540 Committee, with other stakeholders, and among themselves.
- Civil-society groups should also consider establishing a working group or coalition of groups working on 1540-related topics to facilitate networking, communication, and coordination efforts. They should also coordinate and cooperate with existing networks engaged in WMD security and other relevant fields.
- Civil-society groups should also promote UNSCR 1540 and their role in implementing the resolution when they take part in gatherings dealing with WMD threats. For example, they could deliver a “gift basket” from civil society on 1540 implementation issues at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
- The 1540 Committee and its experts should take full advantage of civil-society groups’ expertise, experience, and interest in 1540 issues. It would be beneficial to regularize interaction and coordination between the Committee and civil society, including appointing a Committee expert as a liaison with civil society and inviting representatives from civil society to working-group meetings and other forums.