Nonproliferation
Policy Paper

“Well, Somebody Has to Arrange the Matches”

Understanding the Shortcomings of the 1540 Nonproliferation Assistance Process
Challenges in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process result in unmatched formal assistance requests despite hundreds of nonproliferation assistance activities on offer across the globe

The 1540 nonproliferation assistance process was created and has been operated with the best and most important intentions – to ensure all UN Member States are able to contribute to preventing the spread of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery to nefarious non-state actors. Despite that, the process is not effective in facilitating assistance partnerships that actually aim to address the nationally identified needs by governments. Consequently, States and the international community at large remain vulnerable to terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous actors that seek to inflict serious damage, destruction, and fear. This paper presents findings on how formal requests for nonproliferation assistance to the 1540 Committee “match” with existing nonproliferation assistance programs and projects on offer around the world to demonstrate some of the key and persistent challenges in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process. The paper also provides recommendations for assistance requesters, assistance providers, and the 1540 Committee as they each work to prevent dangerous weapons from falling into dangerous hands.

Title credit: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” music by Jerry Bok, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Fiddler on the Roof, 1964 original cast recording, RCA Victor.

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Executive Summary

The nonproliferation assistance process related to implementing UN Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) has not established effective partnerships between UN Member States requesting assistance and UN Member States and international and regional organizations providing such assistance. This problem is not new, but it is persistent. In 2016, the UN Security Council and the 1540 Committee formally identified key gaps within the Committee’s nonproliferation assistance process, such as a lack of specificity in both requests and offers for nonproliferation assistance. Ultimately, these challenges and others have resulted in unmatched formal assistance requests in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process; and yet, hundreds of nonproliferation assistance activities are on offer across the globe.

To demonstrate and quantify some of the key gaps in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process, this policy paper first underscores important trends in UN Member States’ nonproliferation needs. By reviewing formal nonproliferation assistance requests submitted to the 1540 Committee over a 10-year period, this policy paper offers quantitative and qualitative findings about UN Member States’ nonproliferation needs related to region, types of requested assistance, and types of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) risks identified.

After outlining these key national nonproliferation needs, this policy paper then shares findings on the Stimson Center’s sample study related to matching nonproliferation assistance requests with known nonproliferation assistance programs and projects. The sample study compared formal 1540 assistance requests to assistance activities found in the Stimson Center’s Assistance Support Initiative (ASI) Database. The results of this sample study reveal important trends and gaps related to where assistance is actually going, what types of assistance are prioritized, and what kinds of CBRN risks are targeted. Ultimately, there are major shortcomings in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process. In its current form, the process is not effective in facilitating assistance partnerships that actually aim to address the nationally identified needs by governments to implement resolution 1540.

To mitigate this disparity and to prevent unaddressed WMD proliferation vulnerabilities, this policy paper concludes by offering several recommendations for requesters, providers, and the 1540 Committee. These recommendations focus on efforts to enhance how stakeholders contribute to the 1540 assistance process by being more intentional in their assistance-related efforts. UN Member States that are requesting assistance should develop more detailed requests, consider partnering with NGOs to develop those requests, and regularly engage with the 1540 Committee and assistance providers. Governments and international and regional organizations that provide assistance should better articulate their 1540 priorities and actively listen to formal requests (as posted on the 1540 Committee website). Finally, the 1540 Committee should consider revamping its role from a “matchmaker” to a guide in the assistance process by enhancing and developing resources for stakeholders to use to develop more actionable assistance requests and offers.

Significant progress has been made in implementing resolution 1540 across the globe, but there is more to be done. Doing it effectively is the challenge. 

The Road to Resolution 1540

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the international community saw a rise in extremism, ungoverned spaces, and the globalization of trade, and it experienced watersheds including the Gulf War, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the discovery of the AQ Khan network. These emerging trends and major events pressed governments and international organizations to consider the viable and dangerous threat that nefarious non-state actors pose to States and the international community at large, especially if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) play a role.1“Resolution 1540 (2004) Training Course” (United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, 2019), https://www.disarmamenteducation.org/index.php?go=education&do=training-1540. As a result, in 2004 under the auspices of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the United Nations Security Council enacted resolution 1540, which expanded the historical focus of WMD nonproliferation efforts on State actors to also recognize the threat posed by dangerous non-state actors. The resolution obligates all UN Member States to take specific measures to prevent the spread of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. Ultimately, States must refrain from providing any support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer, or use WMD; they are also required to adopt and enforce effective laws and establish domestic controls to prohibit non-state actors from exploiting legitimate activities.2Security Council resolution 1540/2004, S/RES/1540 (2004) (28 April 2004), available from undocs.org/en/S/RES/1540(2004).

Though these international obligations are integral in mitigating vulnerabilities to dangerous non-state actors, national implementation remains a persistent challenge for many UN Member States. Importantly, the UN Security Council and the 1540 Committee – the UN body charged with monitoring implementation of the resolution – do recognize that resolution 1540 is a relatively demanding international instrument for UN Member States to implement. Consequently, resolution 1540 calls on States that are in a position to do so to provide nonproliferation assistance to States that may need additional support in meeting their 1540 obligations, ultimately laying the groundwork for a 1540 nonproliferation assistance process that would evolve over time.3Ibid.

Resolution 1540’s Assistance Mechanism

Presently, the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process is a formal process in which UN Member States can submit a request for assistance related to implementing their obligations under the resolution to the 1540 Committee. In parallel, UN Member States and recognized international and regional organizations can submit formal offers of assistance to help implement the resolution’s obligations to the 1540 Committee. These offers of assistance can be in direct response to requests or can be more general offers to the international community as a whole. Requests and offers for assistance are posted on the 1540 Committee website. The 1540 Committee can act as “matchmaker” by engaging in the assistance process to match requests with offers for assistance.4United Nations, Security Council, Final Document on the 2016 Comprehensive Review of the Status of Implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), S/2016/1038 (9 December 2016), available from undocs.org/en/S/2016/1038.

Despite the best intentions of the Security Council, the Committee, UN Member States, and international and regional organizations, the formal nonproliferation assistance process through the 1540 Committee does not facilitate effective partnerships between governments that request assistance with governments and international and regional organizations that offer assistance. This persistent problem was a major theme explored in the Second Comprehensive Review of resolution 1540 in 2016. It was noted that the 1540 Committee’s assistance mechanism is underused given “the limited number of responses received and lack of assistance delivery.”5Ibid., 38. In 2016, the UN Security Council and the 1540 Committee identified key gaps within the Committee’s formal nonproliferation assistance process. Specifically:

  1. Formal requests for assistance by UN Member States lack specificity and/or appear unrelated to implementing resolution 1540;
  2. Offers to provide assistance from UN Member States and international and regional organizations are general and do not address specific formal requests; and
  3. UN Member States that have requested assistance are not always able to accept offers of assistance made from UN Member States and international and regional organizations.6Ibid., 28–29.

In its current form with these three critical challenges, the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process is not effective in facilitating assistance partnerships that actually aim to address the nationally identified needs by governments. These identified needs go unaddressed, and UN Member States remain unable to fully and comprehensively implement measures to prevent the spread of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery to nefarious non-state actors as obligated under resolution 1540.

Nationally identified nonproliferation needs persistently go unaddressed by the international community.

And yet, nonproliferation assistance activities still take place around the world. Numerous robust nonproliferation assistance programs and projects have been offered by governments, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, and industry. The Stimson Center has a record of approximately 1,500 such nonproliferation assistance programs and projects from the 1980s to present day.7“Assistance Support Initiative: Supporting UNSCR 1540 Implementation,” Stimson Center, accessed 29 January 2021, https://1540assistance.stimson.org. It is also important to note that there are other nonproliferation assistance processes beyond the 1540 Committee’s, such as those offered by multilateral organizations (e.g., G7 Global Partnership), individual governments (e.g., United States), and international organizations (e.g., Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, International Atomic Energy Agency). However, despite the hundreds of assistance activities on offer and the various ways in which governments can seek assistance, the assistance that is given does not appear to be developed and executed with a specific purpose of addressing (or “matching”) nonproliferation needs as identified by governments in their requests to the 1540 Committee. This contributes to the lack of comprehensive implementation of nonproliferation obligations, including those under resolution 1540, around the globe. These challenges in the 1540 assistance process can be demonstrated through quantitative and qualitative data analysis of formal 1540 requests for assistance compared to known nonproliferation assistance activities. Ultimately, nationally identified nonproliferation needs by UN Member States persistently go unaddressed by the international community.

UN Member States Nonproliferation Needs

Reviewing formal nonproliferation assistance requests submitted to the 1540 Committee between April 2011 and February 2021 reveals important trends in UN Member States’ nonproliferation needs. In the last 10 years, at least 31 requests for assistance were formally submitted to the 1540 Committee from 23 UN Member States; seven governments submitted more than one assistance request.8Data retrieved from: United Nations, Security Council, 2016 Comprehensive Review, Annex XIX; and “Requests for Assistance,” 1540 Committee, accessed 1 March 2021, https://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/assistance/request-for-assistance/current-requests-from-member-states.shtml. Of these formal requests for assistance, almost half – approximately 48% – were submitted by UN Member States in Africa. The Latin American and Caribbean region ranked second highest for formal assistance requests, at approximately 23%. Overwhelmingly, UN Member States in Africa are using the 1540 Committee’s assistance mechanism to communicate to the international community their national nonproliferation needs to effectively implement resolution 1540.

Of these 31 requests to the Committee, 23 requests indicated needs for nonproliferation assistance related to laws and regulations, 21 requests identified needs for technical training opportunities, and 20 requests indicated needs related to border and export control support.9As will be discussed below, a single assistance request typically includes multiple types of assistance within it.

Typically, these types of nonproliferation activities involve robust efforts to:

  • Develop, implement, enforce, improve, and/or support measures to legislate and regulate CBRN weapons, related materials, equipment, personnel, software, and/or services;
  • Train stakeholders on technical skills and knowledge related to CBRN nonproliferation; and
  • Manage WMD-related and other dual-use items traded and/or transported around the world via sea, air, and/or land.10“Assistance Support Initiative,” Stimson Center.

Over the last 10 years, UN Member States have consistently requested these three types of nonproliferation assistance activities. States are clearly prioritizing types of assistance that will give them the legislative and technical foundation to actually implement resolution 1540 rather than to merely learn and share information on the resolution. Essentially, UN Member States need assistance in developing the skills to legislate and enforce measures to execute resolution 1540 effectively.

Notably, these 31 assistance requests identify national needs to target nonproliferation risks more broadly rather than specific types of risks. In other words, UN Member States more often want skills-based assistance that tackles nonproliferation risks as a whole (i.e., chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) or in combination with one or two other risks (e.g., chemical and biological) as opposed to zeroing in on only one type of risk (i.e., chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear).

Understanding how requesters frame and approach their national 1540 implementation challenges is important to ensure that nonproliferation assistance programs and projects on offer are actually addressing the needs identified by UN Member States. Formal requests to the 1540 Committee can also shed light on how requesting States prioritize their nonproliferation implementation efforts. Similarly, assistance programs and projects can indicate the 1540-related priorities of those offering assistance. Understanding how these two types of stakeholders prioritize 1540-related efforts is integral in understanding the lack of “matches” made between requests and offers of nonproliferation assistance.

Comparing Requests for Assistance with Known Assistance Activities: A Sample Study

To glean trends and gaps in the 1540 Committee’s nonproliferation assistance process, the Stimson Center conducted a sample study that reviewed 15 formal requests for assistance to the Committee (as posted on the website in January 2021) and compared them to relevant existing nonproliferation assistance activities that appeared to address or likely address the stated needs in each request.11Data retrieved from: “Requests for Assistance,” 1540 Committee; and “Assistance Support Initiative,” Stimson Center. The relevant assistance activities used in this sample study were found in the Stimson Center’s Assistance Support Initiative (ASI) Database (as of January 2021), which is currently the only comprehensive and publicly available online database of nonproliferation assistance activities related to CBRN weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. In order for requests to be compared with assistance activities, the nonproliferation programs and projects had to fit within the particular context of each request based upon specific criteria related to:

  • Geography – an assistance activity is offered either in-country or in-region of the requesting State;
  • Timelines – the timeframe in which an assistance activity is offered fits within the timeframe when a formal request was posted;
  • Assistance objectives – the purpose of an assistance activity is similar to a formal request’s purpose, e.g., improving border controls; and
  • Methods and means for assistance delivery – how assistance is delivered is similar to how it was requested to be delivered, e.g., training, workshop, conference.

Using the above criteria, this sample study found only 23 relevant nonproliferation assistance activities that appear to address or likely address the needs identified by eight governments in formal requests to the 1540 Committee.12There are some limitations to Stimson’s sample study. First, Stimson’s ASI Database does not offer an exhaustive list of nonproliferation assistance programs and projects. Many nonproliferation assistance activities are conducted around the world, but such information is not made publicly available. Second, four of the 23 assistance activities deemed relevant in the study were directed at relevant regions that a requesting state is a part of (as opposed to being directly provided to the requesting state). These four assistance activities were included in the sample study because they offer information on the kinds of programming opportunities that are available in regions where states are requesting assistance. Seven formal requests for assistance by seven governments went completely unaddressed by any nonproliferation assistance activity found in the Stimson Center’s database of more than 1,500 nonproliferation assistance programs and projects. This sample study reveals some important trends and gaps related to where assistance is actually going, what types of assistance are prioritized, and what kinds of CBRN risks are targeted. Importantly, the trends and gaps demonstrated through this study align with and lend greater weight to the challenges in the assistance process identified by the 1540 Committee in 2016.

By Region

In the 2016 Comprehensive Review of resolution 1540, the Committee underscored a trend in the assistance process: “Assistance programmes ofwhich the Committee and its experts are aware…are concentrated in a few States, and a significant number of developing States that have requested assistance have received only limited support.”13United Nations, Security Council, 2016 Comprehensive Review, 28. The Stimson Center’s sample study offers quantitative analysis that substantiates this finding and demonstrates how it actually plays out in the international space. This sample study indicates that nonproliferation assistance programs and projects are predominantly directed toward the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region (43.5%), despite the fact that nearly half of the total 15 requests reviewed in this study are from UN Member States in Africa.

What is more, of the seven formal requests for assistance that went unaddressed by any nonproliferation assistance activity, five came from UN Member States in Africa. The data indicates a severe mismatch between who is requesting nonproliferation assistance and who is actually receiving dedicated funding and resource support.

By Types of Assistance

This sample study also reveals an important pattern related to what types of assistance are prioritized in both requests and existing programs and projects. A comparison of how assistance activities appear to address formal assistance requests shows that the types of assistance most often requested are evidently the types of assistance most often provided in nonproliferation assistance programs and projects.

For instance, of the eight (out of 15) formal assistance requests the Stimson Center reviewed in this study, legislative and regulatory assistance, technical training, and border and export control support represented a large proportion of the types of support needed by UN Member States to meet national 1540 obligations. Notably, this prioritization in types of nonproliferation assistance is also reflected in the types of assistance offered by assistance providers. Of the 23 relevant nonproliferation assistance activities identified in the ASI Database, 15 of them involved border and export control support, 14 incorporated legislative and regulatory assistance, and 13 included technical training.14A single assistance request typically includes multiple types of assistance within it. Essentially, the types of assistance most often requested are being “matched” by existing nonproliferation assistance programs and projects.

However, nonproliferation assistance that provides or improves infrastructure and equipment related to the safety, security, and safeguarding of CBRN weapons, related materials, or delivery systems is not meeting requesters’ needs in this field. The sample study reveals that only one assistance activity incorporated this type of support. Yet infrastructure and equipment support assistance is often formally requested by UN Member States to the 1540 Committee. This disparity may be due to the nature of resolution 1540 itself as well as the 1540 assistance process.

Currently, the 1540 Committee’s assistance mechanism is not facilitating effective partnerships that are definitively working to address nationally identified nonproliferation needs. This may, in part, stem from the fact that resolution 1540 is not prescriptive in nature; it does not establish priorities for how its obligations should be implemented.151540 Committee Experts, Background Paper: Generate New Tools, Such as Sample Action Plans or Assistance Requests, and Develop Practical Means to Address the Most Commonly Found or Dangerous “Gaps” in Implementation. Supp. 2009, 3, https://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/documents/CR%20paper(Element%20D).pdf. This structure purposefully avoids the risk of generating “one-size-fits-all” solutions for UN Member States, who can determine for themselves what their national priorities will be in implementing resolution 1540. However, what a requesting State prioritizes and identifies as national needs may not align with what an assistance provider prioritizes to implement resolution 1540, nor can the 1540 Committee require matches to be made. This can result in unmatched assistance requests and unaddressed WMD proliferation vulnerabilities within the 1540 assistance process. Ultimately, providing infrastructure and equipment-related support to implement obligations under resolution 1540 may not be a priority for many nonproliferation assistance providers.

A second reason that may contribute to the disconnect between requests for infrastructure and equipment support and assistance activities that offer such support could be related to one of the main challenges of the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process: requests lack specificity and/or appear unrelated to implementing resolution 1540. As a result, these formal requests cannot be properly considered by assistance providers. Numerous formal requests that seek infrastructure and equipment support are broad and overly general. Broad requests include language such as “obtaining respective equipment for CBRN detection teams,” “developing a seaplane base to implement border controls,” and “technical support/technology to assist in detection of dual-use items.”16“Requests for Assistance,” 1540 Committee. The lack of details on what kind of equipment and infrastructure is needed and how such resources will specifically address resolution 1540 may prevent assistance providers from seriously considering infrastructure and equipment-related nonproliferation requests.

Another type of assistance that went completely unmatched in this sample study was financial support. Data indicates that if a request for assistance explicitly requests funds, that request may be completely unaddressed in the nonproliferation assistance process. In this study, four of the 15 formal requests specifically requested funding support, and all four went completely unaddressed by any nonproliferation assistance activity found in the Stimson Center’s database.

Notably, requests for this type of assistance are asking for financial assistance to implement a related effort, such as conducting a training or developing a law to implement a nonproliferation obligation. Examples include:

  • “Technical and financial assistance in the areas of development and implementation of national voluntary action plan”
  • “Request for technical and financial assistance to support…efforts to carry out…an assessment of existing laws governing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery…”
  • “Technical and financial assistance to organize regional…training course of customs officers in the field of border control, and brokerage controls”17Ibid.

A request for funding is rarely presented on its own. It is typically coupled with other types of assistance with an aim to provide the government the financial capacity to execute its international obligations. Nevertheless, such requests for assistance were the primary type of assistance most often unaddressed in this sample study.

Requests for funding are rarely presented on their own, but rather are coupled with other types of assistance to provide a government the financial capacity to execute its obligations.

By CBRN Risks

Finally, the Stimson Center’s sample study reveals an important trend related to what kind of CBRN risks are targeted by requesters and providers. In general, formal assistance requests to the Committee indicate national needs to comprehensively target CBRN risks as a whole. In this sample study, the 23 relevant nonproliferation assistance activities overwhelmingly aimed to address CBRN risks collectively (approximately 70%). Nonetheless, a notable proportion of these relevant assistance activities are also being directed toward risks and threats not explicitly teased out by requesters, such as activities that address nuclear and/or radiological risks (approximately 30%). 

Consequently, providers and implementers may play a role in driving what kind of assistance is being offered to requesters, irrespective of States’ stated nonproliferation needs. This may be another instance in which providers’ 1540 priorities could be superseding requesters’ 1540 needs. Although resolution 1540 does not dictate to UN Member States which obligations of the resolution to prioritize or how to actually implement the obligations, if assistance providers are prioritizing specific CBRN risks, they will likely align their assistance programming appropriately. This could result in UN Member States receiving more targeted nonproliferation assistance than what they initially identified, which could also result in their other implementation needs remaining unaddressed.

Overall, this sample study reveals some important trends and gaps related to where assistance is actually going, what types of assistance are prioritized, and what kind of CBRN risks are targeted. Having a better understanding of UN Member States’ nonproliferation needs as well as recognizing what nonproliferation assistance programming tends to prioritize can help mitigate gaps in the assistance process and address the limited implementation of resolution 1540 across the globe.

What’s Next? Recommendations for Key Assistance Stakeholders

UN Member States Requesting 1540 Nonproliferation Assistance

Though the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process has considerable challenges, it could be an important mechanism and resource for UN Member States to formally communicate to the international community where they need programming and funding support. Some of the considerable challenges that the 2016 Second Comprehensive Review revealed stem from requesting States’ role in the process. Specifically, formal requests for assistance tend to lack specificity and/or appear unrelated to implementing resolution 1540.

Partner with Experts to Generate Detailed and Technically Sound Requests

UN Member States should consider engaging with non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and academia (both nationally and abroad) early on in their processes for developing assistance requests to the 1540 Committee. Governments that seek to use the 1540 assistance mechanism need to make greater efforts to clearly define their nonproliferation needs as well as indicate how the requested assistance is directly related to nonproliferation obligations. NGOs, think tanks, and academia can be instrumental in developing clear, detailed, and technically sound formal requests based on their knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources (and potentially tap into their own nonproliferation networks). If UN Member States worked with these types of entities at the onset, governments could generate stronger assistance requests and thus increase their chances of creating an effective assistance partnership. What is more, these types of entities also play a prominent role in implementing nonproliferation assistance programming around the world. In the Stimson Center’s sample study, 38% of all assistance activities had an NGO, think tank, or academic organization involved in implementation. Utilizing their implementation experiences could be instrumental in developing actionable assistance requests and establishing effective assistance partnerships.

Avoid the Void – Network!

Submitting formal requests to the 1540 Committee requires a lot of effort on governments. In order to submit a formal request, a government has to stimulate and sustain enough political will and bureaucratic support (often through a formal interagency process) to reflect on national nonproliferation challenges, come to a consensus on those needs, generate a formal request for assistance, and then submit it to the Committee. UN Member States should avoid merely submitting formal requests into the void of the 1540 Committee’s receptacle of requests. To maximize their hard work, governments should follow up on their submissions by engaging and networking with the 1540 Committee and assistance providers.

This extra step of networking has likely benefited the Latin American and Caribbean region and may be a reason why it receives a large amount of nonproliferation assistance. This region has two regional organizations – Organization for American States (OAS) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – with specific 1540 regional coordinators. The Latin American and Caribbean region has two designated positions that can help UN Member States engage and network with the 1540 Committee and assistance providers before, during, and after they have submitted formal assistance requests.

Granted, for regions that do not have 1540 regional coordinators as of yet (Asia and, until recently, Africa), the onus of facilitating connections with the 1540 Committee and assistance providers does fall on individual UN Member States. However, as mentioned, submitting formal assistance requests requires substantial political will and bureaucratic support. Governments should capitalize on that to conduct their own national follow-ups after they have submitted their assistance requests. Creating and sustaining a dialogue with key players in the 1540 nonproliferation assistance process may be integral in securing nonproliferation assistance programming directed toward specific requests.

1540 Nonproliferation Assistance Providers

Nonproliferation assistance processes are dynamic and require important details from other stakeholders beyond just UN Member States that are requesting assistance. As a result, assistance providers have a role to play in the lack of “matches” made through the 1540 assistance mechanism. The 2016 Comprehensive Review indicated that assistance providers’ offers can be too general and unspecific. In addition, sometimes UN Member States are not able to accept offers of assistance because of additional provider requirements and expectations.  

Articulate What ARE Priorities

In order to make the 1540 assistance process more effective, assistance providers need to better articulate to requesting States what their own priorities are for 1540 implementation and what is required by these States to begin facilitating an assistance partnership. For example, assistance providers may prefer to engage with UN Member States that include a point of contact with their formal assistance request to the 1540 Committee. This kind of information is important for requesting States to know in order to increase their chances of “matching” with a provider. In other instances, assistance providers have offered assistance with the stipulation that it will be “subject to resources.”18United Nations, Security Council, 2016 Comprehensive Review, Annex XIX. UN Member States requesting assistance are not likely in a position to accept assistance activities that have resource-related conditions. By more clearly establishing what their expectations are for offering an assistance program or project, assistance providers can better support requesting States in effectively and efficiently navigating the 1540 assistance process.

Articulate What Are NOT Priorities

Assistance providers also need to better articulate what they do not offer in nonproliferation assistance. Generating formal 1540 assistance requests requires substantial national political will and bureaucratic support in a government, and governments may develop their assistance requests in response to offers of assistance posted on the 1540 Committee website. Therefore, the offers of assistance should more clearly indicate what is exactly on offer and what is not. Otherwise, UN Member States may waste their time and political will developing requests (and potentially proposals) that are essentially dead-on-arrival for providers who do not offer the kind of assistance the requesting State is looking for. For example, the Stimson Center’s sample study indicated that assistance providers do not provide significant support related to infrastructure and equipment support or funding. If assistance providers do not give specific types of assistance, it may be worthwhile for requesting UN Member States to know that at the outset.

Assistance providers need to better articulate what they do and do not offer in nonproliferation assistance.

Actively Listen to Requests

Moreover, rather than put forward general and unspecific assistance offers to the 1540 Committee, assistance providers should try to actively listen to requests. Providers should consider the national priorities teased out by the governments in need rather than allow their own objectives to take precedence. Though it is unlikely that assistance providers would completely disregard their own priorities, an effort should be made to identify objectives that are shared by those that provide nonproliferation assistance and those that need it. A majority of requests indicate needs for skills-based assistance (e.g., legislative and regulatory assistance, technical training, and border and export control support) that tackles CBRN risks as a whole. And yet, a quarter of assistance is geared toward knowledge- and information-sharing opportunities (networking, outreach, conferences, workshops, etc.), with a notable proportion focused on nuclear and radiological risks. By actively listening to stated needs, assistance providers could contribute to developing more effective partnerships that actually address nonproliferation challenges faced by requesting UN Member States, thereby enhancing 1540 implementation across the globe.

1540 Committee as “Matchmaker” and Guide

Finally, in light of the fact that the 1540 Committee’s mandate has been extended to February 2022 and the Committee will conduct a Third Comprehensive Review of the implementation of resolution 1540, it is important to consider the Committee’s role in the assistance process.19Security Council resolution 2572/2021, S/RES/2572 (2021) (22 April 2021), available from https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N21/101/37/PDF/N2110137.pdf?OpenElement. The 1540 Committee should consider how to use its match-making role in the assistance process to help guide UN Member States and international and regional organizations to make their requests and offers more actionable.

Develop an Assistance Offer Template

For instance, the 1540 Committee should consider developing a template for assistance providers to use to submit formal offers of assistance. Given the fact that 1540 assistance offers have also been found to be general and unspecific, UN Member States and recognized international and regional organizations could benefit from resources that provide greater structure to their roles in the assistance process. An assistance offer template could include its own list of guiding questions, which could include the following:

  • Is this offer submitted in specific reference to a posted offer of assistance? If yes, which one and by whom?
  • What is your government looking to specifically achieve from offering this nonproliferation assistance?
  • Are there regions your government prioritizes for nonproliferation programming?
  • Are there types of assistance programming your government is not looking to offer?
  • Is your government’s nonproliferation programming subject to additional resources (supplemental funding/resources, additional partnerships, etc.)? If yes, what kind of additional resources would requesters need to consider?
  • Has your government made other offers of assistance outside of the 1540 Committee process?

An assistance offer template could help assistance providers develop more detailed assistance offers that better indicate their 1540 priorities. Clearer offers for assistance could help the 1540 Committee and requesting States act upon those offers more effectively.

Update the Assistance Request Template

In addition, the Committee could consider revamping the voluntary 1540 assistance request template to include more guiding questions. Additional questions might cover these points:

  • Is this request submitted in specific reference to a posted offer of assistance? If yes, which one and by whom?
  • How will the requested assistance help your government implement resolution 1540 and/or other nonproliferation obligations?
  • What is your government looking to specifically achieve from this requested assistance?
  • Are there types of assistance programming your government is not looking for?
  • Has your government collaborated with other entities in the process to develop this request? If so, who?
  • If your government does not have a designated point of contact for this assistance request, briefly explain why (e.g., personnel turnover, bureaucratic structures/rules).

Incorporating these kinds of questions into the assistance request template could help UN Member States better use the resource to develop more clear and detailed assistance requests that indicate their 1540-related priorities and/or challenges. In addition, these questions may prompt UN Member States to consider additional aspects of their requests and possible actions to take, such as adding a specific point of contact or receiving input from other entities.

Ultimately, assistance stakeholders could greatly benefit from more guidance through the 1540 assistance process. Providing resources that help governments better frame their nonproliferation priorities within the 1540 lens could prove paramount in establishing more effective assistance partnerships.

Conclusion

The 1540 Committee’s nonproliferation assistance process has not established effective partnerships between requesters and providers of assistance. This has resulted in unmatched formal assistance requests despite the fact that hundreds of nonproliferation assistance activities are on offer across the globe. To mitigate this disparity and to prevent unaddressed WMD proliferation vulnerabilities, stakeholders should consider enhancing their contributions to the 1540 assistance process by being more intentional in their assistance-related efforts.

UN Member States that are requesting assistance should develop more detailed requests, consider partnering with NGOs to develop those requests, and regularly engage with the 1540 Committee and assistance providers. Governments and international and regional organizations that provide assistance should better articulate what their 1540 priorities are and are not, and actively listen to the formal requests that are posted on the 1540 Committee website. Finally, the 1540 Committee should consider revamping its role from a “matchmaker” to a guide in the assistance process. The Committee should consider developing additional resources (such as a 1540 assistance offer template) and enhance existing resources (such as the 1540 assistance template) to help UN Member States and international and regional organizations make their assistance requests and offers more actionable.

Stakeholders need to be more intentional in their assistance-related efforts.

Ultimately, the 1540 assistance process was created and has been operated with the best of very important intentions: to ensure that all UN Member States are able to contribute to preventing the spread of CBN weapons and their means of delivery to nefarious non-state actors. Significant progress has been made, but there is more to be done. Doing it effectively is the challenge.

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