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What is UN Security Council Resolution 1540?

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 was adopted in 2004.  The first resolution that identifies the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons proliferation as a threat to international peace and security, with a particular focus on the role of non-state actors, especially terrorists, in proliferation. Resolution 1540 creates a wide range of legally binding obligations to prohibit or control activities related to proliferation, along with several recommendations.  The resolution also established a Committee as a subsidiary body of the Security Council, known as the 1540 Committee, to monitor and facilitate implementation of the resolution.  A family of subsequent UNSCRs, i.e., 1673 (2008), by member states, coordinating assistance requests and offers related to national implementation, and communicating with states and organizations regarding their nonproliferation efforts.  A family of UNSCRs, i.e., 1673 (2006), 1810 (2008), 1977 (2011), 2055 (2012), and 2325 (2016), have extended the mandate of the Committee to April 2021, along with adding to its tasks from assistance match-making to cooperation with other international or regional bodies to public outreach.

More specifically, UNSCR 1540 obligates UN Member States to:

  • Refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt any of the following actions involving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery: Develop, Acquire, Manufacture, Possess, Transport, Transfer, and Use.
  • Adopt and Enforce appropriate and effective laws which prohibit any non-state actor from engaging in similar activities involving such weapons and their means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, and including prohibitions on attempting, assisting, or financing them.
  • Establish and enforce domestic measures by establishing and enforcing relevant controls over related materials, covering measures to account for, secure and physically protect such items and having border and export controls.

UNSCR 1540 also encourages UN Member States, if they are in a position to do so, to convey offers of assistance in response to specific requests by Member States.  Member States have both submitted requests and offers of assistance to the 1540 Committee. The Committee has made available an assistance template and encourages States in need of assistance to use the template to submit their assistance requests. Resolution 2325 (2016) encourages States to provide the Committee with specific details of their assistance needs.

UNSCR 1540 is important because it:

  • Establishes obligations not originally covered under existing nonproliferation legal instruments like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC).
  • Is relevant for States that do not possess CBN weapons as every State has some relevant goods, technologies, or services of concern (e.g., dual-use items) that proliferators.
  • Persons or entities engaging in or providing support to proliferation activities operate across national boundaries and can exploit countries without effective measures in place.
  • CBN weapons and their means of delivery are recognized by the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security, which affects all States.

Types of Assistance available

Nonproliferation assistance can take many forms and involve an array of activities. The Stimson Center has identified 10 types of assistance activities and defined them within the context of the ASI Database.

Type Description Quant
Border/Export Control Activity to control CBRN-related and other dual-use items traded and/or transported around the world via sea, air, and/or land. 186
Conference/Workshop Assistance through conferences, workshops, seminars, and roundtables related to mitigating the threat of CBRN proliferation. This type of activity is different than Technical Training because this activity is about providing information and facilitating discussions. Technical Training is about teaching skills. 290
Emergency Preparedness/Response Activity for a region, state, or agency to better prepare for and/or respond to CBRN emergencies resulting from deliberate and/or accidental incidents. 186
Funds monetary assistance from a country, inter-governmental organization, foundation, or university for CBRN nonproliferation efforts. 264
Infrastructure/Equipment Support Activity to provide or improve tangible equipment and/or infrastructure. This type of support includes items like hazmat suits, radiation detection equipment, and modeling software. It includes changes to physical spaces, such as biological laboratory renovations to enhance biosafety and security and conducting services to enhance safety/security of equipment and infrastructure, such as calibrating radiation equipment. 439
Knowledge Sharing/Best Practices Includes two types of assistance activities. One activity is raising awareness and increasing knowledge on matters related to CBRN nonproliferation initiatives. The other activity is discussing and exchanging best practices to improve behaviors, systems, and procedures for CBRN nonproliferation. 414
Legislative/Regulatory Assistance Assistance that develops, implements, enforces, improves, and/or supports measures to legislate and/or regulate CBRN-related materials, equipment, personnel, software, and services. This type of assistance also includes activities related to inspections, surveillance, monitoring, and reporting. 485
Network Development/Outreach Includes two types of assistance activities. One activity is establishing, expanding, or discussing lasting partnerships amongst CBRN nonproliferation/dual-use stakeholders to foster effective collaboration and coordination. The other activity is engaging with stakeholders to garner specific insights into a CBRN nonproliferation issue. 273
Other Assistance that does not fit under any of the defined assistance activities. 88
Technical Training Activity to train stakeholders on technical skills related to CBRN nonproliferation. This assistance type involves educating and training stakeholders to develop and/or improve skills. 486

How to Build Assistance Partnerships

In general, the nonproliferation assistance process includes several necessary steps to build an assistance partnership.

  1. County X understands its nonproliferation assistance needs and challenges (this step by itself may require assistance).
  2. Country X identifies potential nonproliferation Assistance Providers
  3. Country X engages with relevant Providers and submits a nonproliferation assistance request using Provider’s necessary documentation and budget information
  4. Country X informs the 1540 Committee of request submission
  5. Provider issues a funding decision on whether to provide funds to the assistance activity requested by Country X
  6. If Provider response is ‘No’, Country X can restart the assistance process
  7. If Provider response is ‘Yes’, Country X and Provider discuss implementation, budget, and relevant partners
  8. Provider with relevant Implementing Partner(s) execute nonproliferation assistance with Country X
  9. Regular engagement and reporting take place between Provider, Implementing Partner(s), and Country X over the course of the assistance activity

Challenges in the Nonproliferation Assistance Process

Despite UNSCR 1540 and other resolutions encouraging Member States in a position to do so to offer nonproliferation assistance, after more than a decade these assistance partnerships have proven difficult to develop for several reasons, including a lack of information on who offers what assistance, and capacity constraints on developing effective requests for partnerships.

To address part of this problem, the Stimson Center created the ASI Database. The database serves as a single source of valuable information on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) nonproliferation assistance projects and programs offered by States, inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental entities.

Additional Resources on Assistance

General Information

Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction

The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials ‍‍‍of Mass Destruction (the Global Partnership) is an international initiative comprised of 30 member states and the European Union aimed at preventing the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and their related materials. The Global Partnership helps coordinate the assistance efforts, such as conferences, conducts research, and assists with training, designed to bolster the ability of states and relevant organizations to reduce the risk of illicit acquisition of weapons of mass destruction or their component parts.

United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) works closely with the 1540 Committee and has its own mandate to conduct activities to promote nonproliferation.  It also offers several resources on Disarmament Education. This includes education activities, presentations, podcasts, films and videos, specialized courses and degrees in nonproliferation and disarmament, and a list of resources on civil society organizations active in the field of disarmament and nonproliferation.

Additional Assistance Databases & Compendiums

Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit’s (BWC-ISU) Article X Assistance and Cooperation Database

This database stores BWC State Parties’ requirements, needs or offers of assistance regarding the peaceful utilization of biological and toxin agents.  Offers of assistance are publicly accessible through this database; requests are only accessible for BWC State Parties with a password.  The BWC-ISU has provided a user guide for the database, which can be found here.

UNODC’s SHERLOC (Sharing Electronic Resources and Laws On Crime) Knowledge Management Portal

This portal is an initiative by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to facilitate the dissemination of information related to the national, regional and international efforts on countering terrorism and related crimes. The portal hosts seven databases and serve as an impactful technical assistance and information tool for policy makers, law enforcement and judiciary practitioners, academia and media.

Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction Programming Annex

This Programming Annex demonstrates how Global Partnership (GP) member countries work in all parts of the world to prevent terrorists, or those that harbor them, from acquiring or developing CBRN weapons. In 2018, a total of 295 projects were implemented by 18 GP Partners: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These projects are valued at close to $1.1 billion and were implemented in dozens of countries in every region of the world. This compendium offers a detailed breakdown of 295 nonproliferation assistance projects.

E-Learning Tools

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The OPCW offers online courses that individuals can register for free. These tools provide National Authorities and other stakeholders with the requisite tools and knowledge to perform their duties in relation to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  These e-learning tools consist of introductory courses regarding the CWC and National Authorities as well as information on verification regimes.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The IAEA offers e-learning courses addressing nuclear security, including on physical protection, radioactive sources, transport, and cybersecurity of nuclear facilities. There are also other courses on nuclear technologies, which could be useful for anyone seeking to learn more about the nuclear field.

The IAEA also has online booklets and publications covering a wide spectrum of nuclear and radiological-related issues from research practices to environmental sustainability.  Additionally, several booklets provide information on the global nuclear law frameworks and ways to secure nuclear material.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

The CTBTO offers an e-learning course on data collection and capacity building.  This course also serves as an introduction to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and its accompanying monitoring mechanisms.

EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium E-Learning

The EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium offers a course that covers all relevant aspects of the EU non-proliferation and disarmament agenda and aims to provide a comprehensive knowledge resource for practitioners and scholars interested in arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament of both conventional and unconventional weapons.

Next Generation Biosecurity: Responding to 21st Century Biorisks Online Course

This free online course covers several topics, including: an introduction on biosecurity and biological threats and challenges, how to respond to biological challenges inside the laboratory, how to respond to biological challenges outside the laboratory, and responsible conduct of science in the laboratory.

UNODC e-Learning Module on the International Legal Framework Against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism

UNODC’s module is a technical assistance tool for training purposes that aims to familiarize policy and decision makers and counter-terrorism practitioners with the requirements of the relevant international legal instruments, and assist legislative drafters and criminal justice officials with their effective implementation. The target audience of the curriculum includes prosecutors and judges, investigators and other law enforcement officials, policymakers and government officials from concerned key departments (notably foreign affairs, justice and interior) who are involved in legislative drafting, international cooperation in criminal matters, investigation, prosecution and adjudication of terrorist crimes or have responsibilities in the ratification of international treaties.

Videos & Multimedia

INTERPOL Chemical Awareness Video for First Responders


An INTERPOL border operation to counter the smuggling of chemical explosive precursors across Southeast Asia.  More information on this project can be found in the UNSC Resolution 1540 Assistance Support Initiative Database here:  https://1540assistance.stimson.org/assist-programs/?_sf_s=CHASE.

OPCW’s The Fires Project

As describe on its website, this project consists of short documentary videos depicting the intersection of people and chemical weapons.  Video topics range from how to identify chemical substances in an unknown sample to the kind of explosives that may be useful in effectively and safely destroying dangerous chemicals weapons.

FBI’s Chemical Indicators: Laboratory Security Awareness Video

This video emphasizes the importance of maintaining awareness in the academic laboratory environment and reporting suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities.

IAEA’s Nuclear Safety and Security Video Page

The IAEA regularly posts videos related to nuclear security issues, including summaries of meetings and summits, interviews with prominent figures in the field, and public education videos about avoiding the dangers of radiation.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Brochures

The CTBTO has published several informational brochures on their activities, including region-specific breakdowns for Latin American, Southeast Asia, and Africa, as well as information about verification regimes and conference summaries.

Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Introductory Brochure

A 28-page brochure that gives an overview of the Convention and its history, goals, and operations.  It can be a good resource for understanding how the Convention functions and why it is important. It also includes the text of the Convention as an annex.

Regional UN Disarmament Offices Newsletters

UN regional centers periodically publish newsletters about their recent activities in their respective regions. The newsletters cover all topics related to disarmament, including things like small arms trafficking, but often include WMD nonproliferation and can provide states and organizations a window into what kinds of assistance is being provided in their area.

  • UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC)
  • UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC)
  • UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD)

Resources on Diversity Inclusion in International Security

General Information

Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy

Through Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, the leader of an organization or institution involved in any aspect of nuclear policy can become a Gender Champion.  To diversify panels and support a variety of perspectives in the nuclear policy sector, Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy offers a list of questions for individuals to ask when invited to participate on a panel:

  • What are you doing to ensure gender diversity at your event?
  • Are there any women, or equal numbers of women, speaking on the panel(s)?
    • (If not) Have the organizers reached out to female experts?
    • (If not) Can we share our evolving list of dynamic experts in the field that happen to be women?
  • Are conference organizers using the list to identify and invite expert women panelists?

Gender & Disarmament Resource Pack for Multilateral Practitioners

The International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group developed this resource packet to contribute to the goal of achieving gender equality in multilateral disarmament fora.  This packet includes basic information on gender equality and its relevance to arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament, as well as practical ideas that can support diplomats in applying a gender lens to their work.

United Nations Guidelines for Gender-Inclusive Language

The United Nations Guidelines for Gender-Inclusive Lanuage and its accompanying ‘Toolbox’ of training materials are designed to help United Nations staff communicate in a gender-inclusive way in the six official languages of the Organization. The Guidelines include a number of recommendations to help UN staff to use gender-inclusive language in any type of communication.  The Toolbox offers materials to help implement the Guidelines effectively.

Parliamentary Handbook on the Role of Women Parliamentarians in Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) developed this handbook to highlight why and how Women Parliamentarians can make decisive contributions in pushing back against the threat of WMD proliferation.

Time to Decolonise Aid: Insights and Lessons from a Global Consultation

Peace Direct, Adeso, and the Alliance for Peacebuilding and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security produced a report to share key findings on structural racism and the need to decolonize development/humanitarian aid and peace-building efforts.

Videos & Multimedia

ANSTO CEO Says There Are Real, Lasting and Meaningful Careers for Women in Nuclear

Adi Paterson, CEO of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), talks about his vision of the future of nuclear science and technology and what role women could play in it.

IAEA’s Women in Science:  Perspectives from Africa 

Two African women scientists—Sarah Nafuna from Uganda and Jane Mubanga Chinkusu from Zambia—present their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for women in Africa who would like to enter the field of nuclear science.

Infographic: Women’s Meaningful Participation Builds Peace

UN Women offers an infographic to demonstrate how to facilitate meaningful engagement of women in peace and political processes.

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