1540 International Student Essay Contest Winners Announced

Stimson Spotlight

1540 International Student Essay Contest Winners Announced

The Stimson Center announced today Enrique de Vega Gonzalez of Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid, Spain, is the winner of the first ever United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 International Student Essay Contest. Resolution 1540 obligates U.N. Member States to develop and enforce legal and structural measures to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). De Vega Gonzalez won for his essay on Tunisia. Kyle Pilutti of Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in Monterey, California, came in second place for her essay on the United States. The contest drew submissions from students in 44 countries around the globe on how best to implement U.N. Security Council resolution 1540. These top winners presented their ideas to U.N. officials, experts, and media at an award ceremony at Harvard University today. Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Chair of the 1540 Committee and Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, presented the awards at the luncheon discussion with proliferation experts and students from many Boston-area universities.

Below are Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi
Chair of the Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1540 (2004)
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, New York
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery, Harvard University — September 30 2016

“Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to the Stimson Center for its successful conduct of the 1540 international essay competition.  It has captured the attention of a world-wide audience of students, a welcome sign of the importance attached to implementation of the resolution.

I congratulate the winners of the competition as well as those whose essays warranted honourable mention.  I also offer my sincere thanks to all of those who submitted essays.

I commend Stimson for its efforts and thank the Governments of Finland and the United States for their voluntary contributions that made this competition possible.

The 1540 Committee is now engaged in a Comprehensive Review of implementation of the resolution.  It is to be sent to the Security Council before December of this year.  I cannot speak now of the contents of the report, it is yet to be completed, but I would like to share with you  several ideas on the conduct of implementation of the status of resolution 1540 (2004).

Twelve years after its adoption, resolution 1540 (2004) has become one of the key components of the international regime to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery.  It is intended to prevent non-State actors, in particular for terrorist purposes, from taking any step that could be a prelude to their use.  It doesn’t stand alone in this regard.  The NPT, Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, numerous counter-terrorism conventions, other international instruments, and other arrangements work towards non-proliferation.     

Resolution 1540 decides that all States shall take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials.

Attempts of international terrorists to acquire WMD makes the full implementation of resolution by all States even more important.

Let me first describe where we are. This year in accordance with SC resolution 1977 mandate a comprehensive review process is being carried out.

National States bear the responsibility for resolution 1540 implementation. The first point I would make is that the status of implementation is improving. More improvement is needed, but I expect to see it happen at a steady pace.  One reason for my confidence is that I observe that many States consider effective implementation of the resolution as an important national objective.  All but [17] States have submitted status reports to the Committee, and many have submitted more than one.  The development and adoption of voluntary National Implementation Action Plans is on the increase. It is important to allocate necessary resources for their implementation.

Of importance is that States are benefitted in these efforts by the support available from a wide array of assistance programmes implemented by Member States and regional organizations.  Many international and regional organizations also provide important political and technical support.  For example, the decision by the African Union in 2013 to request the Commission of the African Union “to further promote and enhance the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) in Africa” was quickly followed by a significant increase in the participation of States in Africa in 1540 events and, as well, in implementation.  This is an excellent example of the valuable role that regional “champions” of 1540 can play in promoting and facilitating effective implementation.

While I recognize the progress that has been made, let me not be seen to be looking through rose-coloured glasses.  Due in part to the varying capacities of States, accomplishing the objective of full implementation of the resolution is a long-term task that will require continuous attention at national, regional and international levels along with sustained and intensified support from the Committee.

Let me turn to the way forward.  Whilst the main responsibility of the implementation of resolution 1540 lies with States, other sectors also have a role to play if we are to attain world-wide, effective implementation: parliaments, international and regional organizations, and civil society, including, in particular, industry.

Since the competition was open only to students and, here we are in what with no doubt is a “leading” academic institution, let me focus on the role of academia. 

Universities and colleges are drivers of advances in science and technology.  Over the past twelve years since the adoption of resolution 1540, scientists and engineers have made breakthroughs in many areas. For the most part, the rapid progress is being driven outside the realm of governments in research, development and application in academia and industry. These and other developments have a continuing impact on the implementation of the resolution that requires constant attention by Member States to assure effective implementation of the obligations under the resolution. 

Recognizing these roles, as an integral part of the Comprehensive Review, a forum was held in April in New York with academics from around the world. This event not only covered ideas from the academic community on how to enhance implementation and how to encourage academic research on resolution 1540 and the fight against proliferation of WMD by non-State actors.

We value the advice we receive from the academic community as well as the research that will identify means to encourage and facilitate implementation of resolution 1540, and look to academia for new and innovative ideas and proposals.

And we did not have to look very far.  The reviewers of the essays submitted to this competition were struck by the richness and wealth of ideas and proposals contained in the essays.  As brief as they are, they provided those of us engaged in implementing resolution 1540 with food for thought.

Several features of the essay competition are worth noting.  For one, it has raised awareness around the world of the importance of resolution 1540. Secondly, it will encourage a “next generation” of scholars to focus on ways to enhance its implementation.  Finally, I trust that the participants will use the insights they gained in whatever career path they follow to join in our efforts to prevent proliferation and make it impossible for non-State actors to threaten us with weapons of mass destruction.”