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National statements

Open Debate on Non-Proliferation: Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Resolution 1540 and Looking Ahead

Thematic issues

  • Chemical weapons
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Kenya
  • Sanctions
  • Small arms
  • Terrorism


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President,

Thank you to the Republic of Korea – and to you personally – for holding this high-level debate, and for the ROK's leadership on Resolution 1540 and efforts to promote global non-proliferation. And thank you to the Deputy Secretary-General for his statement.

As we all know – only too starkly – the threat of terrorist groups acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is not a hypothetical or abstract one.

In the years leading up to our adoption of Resolution 1540 in 2004, international terrorist networks, and particularly, of course, Al Qaida, had unmistakably shown their intent and their ability to commit mass-casualty attacks and had signaled their intent to acquire WMD. Clandestine networks had significantly increased the prospect of non-state actors acquiring the materials and means to follow through on their intent.

The Security Council's response to this threat through Resolution 1540 is still decisive for the international non-proliferation regime.

Our adoption of Resolution 1977 in 2011 in order to further instrumentalise the global norm against the proliferation and use of such weapons was essential. And we have made progress towards the universal implementation of Resolution 1540. But the threat persists and in new forms.

Between 1993 and 2013, almost 2,500 incidents were reported to the IAEA's nuclear and radioactive material Incident and Trafficking database, including 16 incidents of illegal possession or attempts to illegally trade highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Others may have gone undetected.

With today's increasingly complex landscape of international trade, technology and financial linkages, new avenues for non-state proliferation are opening daily. Measures to prevent deadly pathogens from falling into the wrong hands must keep pace with expanding medical research and biotechnology. Control regimes and multilateral counter-proliferation efforts must remain relevant, capable and equipped to succeed.

As we reach the ten year milestone, we face important questions about what lies ahead. How can we continue to strengthen implementation of the resolution? And tackle existing and emerging gaps?

There are a number of steps we should take.

First, in an environment where funding and resources are hard to come by, it will become ever more vital to leverage links with other UN instruments and multilateral non-proliferation and export control regimes.

By inviting the 1540 Committee to participate in the workshop for Pacific Island States that Australia is co-hosting with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in May, the Pacific region is strengthening CWC implementation as well as controls on other WMD materials and technology more broadly.

As Chair of the multilateral export control regime the Australia Group we welcome closer engagement between the 1540 Committee and the Group. The Group has now formally offered to the 1540 Committee assistance to interested States on the implementation of export controls related to dual use chemical and biological agents and related equipment.

Second, leveraging the role of industry and the private sector in preventing proliferation is crucial. Relevant sectors of industry must be made aware of the threats surrounding the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Industry must be genuine partners in our efforts to inform and strengthen export controls, in controlling access to intangible transfers of technology that could be used for WMD proliferation, and in helping prevent proliferation financing.

Together with Germany we have submitted an effective practices paper to the 1540 Committee on our common strategic approach to engaging industry in national export controls, which we hope will be useful to others looking to strengthen their own export controls.

Third, we need to overcome the challenges faced by developing countries in implementing Resolution 1540. We need to ask ourselves: How can we best target our assistance under the 1540 regime to ensure it is practical, coordinated, and coherent for partner countries in the developing world?

Part of the solution is better harnessing the link between security and development.

For instance, export and border controls to detect and combat illicit trafficking in WMD can also aid the prevention of small arms, drugs and wildlife trafficking. It can enhance a State's disease surveillance network, and can support trade expansion and generate government income.

The case of Kenya leveraging 1540 assistance to develop a comprehensive border management plan to prevent WMD proliferation as well as arms and wildlife trafficking is an example of establishing synergies that will reinforce the relevance and sustainability of non-proliferation programming.

There are also opportunities to better coordinate 1540 implementation with other Security Council obligations. Developing States, especially small developing States, need more coordinated guidance from the Security Council so that efforts to enact legislation and improve law enforcement helps them fulfil the range of related Security Council measures to prevent terrorism, strengthen non-proliferation and implement relevant sanctions.

Today's Presidential Statement recognises the need to enhance cooperation between the non-proliferation and terrorism Committees. And there is certainly an appetite among States for this, as shown by the first open briefing held in 2013 of these Committees with the Financial Action Task Force on counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism financing issues.

Regions are themselves driving better coordination – and benefiting from it. CARICOM's focal point for Resolution 1540 is now supporting Caribbean States to identify and fill gaps in their legislation to be able to implement all of the Security Council non-proliferation, terrorism and sanctions obligations.

To conclude, Mr President,

We have identified just a few proposals to realise universal implementation of resolution 1540 in the years ahead. These are not new, or comprehensive or easy options to pursue. This is why the Committee – as called for in today's Presidential Statement – should develop a precise strategy for effective implementation as part of the Comprehensive Review due in 2016.

It is essential that we both close gaps in implementation, and stay ahead of technological advances, to ensure that WMD materials do not end up in the wrong hands.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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