Notes from the 1540 Civil Society Forum

Posted by Scott Spence (scott.spence) on Jan 16 2013
VERTIC Blog >> National Implementation Measures

Scott Spence, VERTIC’s Senior Legal Officer, attended the ‘UNSCR 1540 Civil Society Forum - Opportunities for Engagement’, which took place in the Vienna International Centre (the VIC) during 8-10 January. He reflects on this important event in this week’s blog post.


The Civil Society Forum (Forum) on UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540) was organized with the objective of bringing together members of civil society, with varying levels of engagement with UNSCR 1540, to share experiences and ideas to broaden participation, and to broaden support for and build upon previous efforts to engage civil society in support of full implementation of the resolution. More than 50 NGOs from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East – including representatives from academia, think tanks, and industry – participated in the Forum. VERTIC had the honour of serving on the Steering Committee, which has since been tasked to continue building on the outcomes and success of the Forum.

The Forum was addressed in a video message by Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who stated that she “…looked forward to our strengthened cooperation and interaction in moving forward, together, towards the objectives of resolution 1540”. Ms Kane also shared a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who recognized that “Civil society has contributed significantly to the activities of the United Nations, including in disarmament, human rights, development and many other critical areas. I have no doubt that the positive impact of civil society will move the world closer to meeting the objectives of resolution 1540 and a world without weapons of mass destruction”. These two statements got the Forum off to a good start with clear support from the highest levels of the United Nations and its disarmament and non-proliferation office.

The Forum took place over three days with a rich agenda, which of course included discussions on the resolution (and subsequent related resolutions) and its objectives, mandate, status of implementation and challenges; an overview of civil society and UNSCR 1540 and the contributions civil society has made; the role of civil society in raising awareness about the resolution; civil society’s experience gained and lessons learned in implementing the resolution; and the WMD threat posed by non-State actors. I presented on VERTIC’s activities in the area including the expanded NIM Programme on CBRN legislative assistance and the production of our 'Guide to National Implementation of UNSCR 1540'.

On the second day, there was a dynamic three-hour roundtable where most of the NGOs present at the Forum had the opportunity to provide some ideas on how they could contribute to the implementation of UNSCR 1540. It was reassuring as a co-chair of this roundtable to see that there are many initiatives underway around the world, even though many of them may not necessarily be labelled as 1540 activities. For example, some institutions are actively engaged in raising awareness among life scientists about the dual-use nature of their work with dangerous pathogens or toxins, even though they may not make an explicit link between their work and UNSCR 1540. The roundtable was largely successful in getting a lively discussion going on how to interact with national governments in the implementation of the resolution; how to foster cooperation between national, regional and international stakeholders; and how to promote a culture of non-proliferation.

The third day was marked by several presentations by international and regional organisations, including the IAEA, OPCW, UNODC, CARICOM and the EU. They discussed how they viewed collaboration with civil society partners on the implementation of UNSCR 1540. The speaker from UNODC, for example, described their participation as a partner in an EU Centres of Excellence project – on CBRN legislation in certain Southeast Asian countries – along with the German export control agency, BAFA, and VERTIC as the lead partner. She noted how this was an excellent example of NGO-government-international organisation collaboration on a project that contributes towards the implementation of UNSCR 1540. We agree and look forward to working with our partners under the auspices of this and other EU Centres of Excellence projects.

An invaluable opportunity has opened up for civil society actors to greatly enhance our work with international and regional organisations and the UNSCR 1540 Committee. Ideally, the momentum that we achieved at the Forum in Vienna will continue to grow and our collaboration will tie in more firmly with the increasing maturity and institutionalization of the 1540 process.

More information about the event can be found here.

Scott Spence is the Senior Legal Officer at VERTIC, where he co-ordinates the strategic vision and technical delivery of the National Implementation Measures (NIM) Programme.

Last changed: Jan 16 2013 at 2:59 PM

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