The threat of non-State actors acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) emerged as a global concern following revelations about al-Qaeda’s nuclear ambitions in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The unraveling of the A.Q. Khan proliferation ring in 2004 provided a further cause of concern when Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, confessed to heading a black market network that aided the Iranian, North Korean, and Libyan nuclear programs. In response, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1540 (2004), which obliged all Member States to take appropriate and effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials to non-state actors, particularly for terrorist purposes.
Following brief extensions in 2006 and 2008, resolution 1977 (2011) extended by ten years the mandate of the 1540 Committee, which serves as an information and assistance clearinghouse and to oversee implementation of that resolution. The text also provided for two comprehensive reviews of the status of the implementation of resolution 1540, the first of which is to take place in 2016. And, acknowledging the value of involving all relevant stakeholders, the resolution encouraged the 1540 Committee “to draw also on relevant expertise, including civil society and the private sector, with, as appropriate, their State’s consent.”
It was in the context of the 2016 comprehensive review that the UNU Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR), in cooperation with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), convened the UNSCR 1540 Civil Society Forum: A Dialogue with Academia and Civil Society on 11-12 April 2016 at UN Headquarters in New York. The event was designed as an opportunity for civil society to provide input into the resolution 1540 review process. 26 internationally-renowned experts and scholars from academia and civil society around the world were invited to 1) assess the non-state proliferation threat in light of changing circumstance since 2010, 2) to discuss academia’s role in national, regional, and international efforts in 1540 implementation, and 3) to provide feedback to the Committee and its Group of Experts on transparency and outreach efforts.
In the rapporteur summary of the forum, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, speakers and participants called attention to:
Overall, participants expressed a positive outlook regarding the future of resolution 1540 and the role of academia in the process. Still, in light of resource limitations, they stressed the importance of coordination across the nuclear, biological, and chemical fields, as well as the need to integrate the principles and themes of resolution 1540 into existing instruments.