Remarks by Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, during the Comprehensive Review of Resolution 1540

Alejandro Wolff
Deputy U.S. Ambassador 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
September 30, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Last week, President Obama presided over a historic session of the Security Council with heads of state coming together to adopt a strong resolution committing to work toward a world without nuclear weapons and endorsing a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.

We meet today to continue this essential work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery. The stakes could not be higher.

The threat from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons affects the security of all nations and all peoples. The danger they pose did not end with the Cold War, but it has changed in significant ways. The Cold War-era specter of global nuclear annihilation has receded. Nonetheless, the risk of use of weapons of mass destruction has risen.

We must work together to prevent more states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and related technologies. And we must work together to minimize the risk that such weapons or the materials to make them could fall into the hands of terrorists.

In this environment, our efforts to implement Resolution 1540 are crucial. Resolution 1540 was adopted to address the potential convergence of two serious threats: violent non-state actors and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Since the adoption of this resolution in 2004, countries on every continent have crafted national legislation making it harder for criminals and non-state actors to acquire WMD-related material. In addition, using the expertise of the 1540 Committee and multilateral funding mechanisms, countries have improved their export-control regimes to limit the spread of WMD-related material.

As President Obama’s presence last week made clear, my government—at the very highest level—sees the Security Council’s efforts in this regard as vital to our common efforts to prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy and bio-science are shared throughout the world.

The Security Council resolution that was adopted at the Summit level last week affirms the need for full implementation of Resolution 1540, welcomes the work that the 1540 Committee has done to date on funding mechanisms, and reinforces the Security Council’s commitment to ensure effective and sustainable support for the Committee’s activities, including capacity building. The United States is strongly committed to establishing a voluntary fund to help provide the technical support and expertise to support implementation of Resolution 1540. We will seek to make a meaningful contribution to such a trust fund once it is established, provided it contains effective transparency and accountability mechanisms. We are prepared to work with the 1540 Committee and others to make that happen.

A voluntary UN trust fund could mobilize donors to help strengthen national export laws and detection systems to prevent materiel, technology, and financial resources from making their way to governments and terrorists seeking to build these weapons. A number of nations, including the United States, provide bilateral assistance to countries to combat WMD and missile proliferation. This assistance is vital. But more work is needed. Expanding the multilateral efforts at the United Nations through a voluntary trust fund should inject more coordination, cohesion, and effectiveness into the many diverse national assistance efforts.

Full implementation is essential for a simple reason: proliferators seek out the weakest links, be they poorly secured materials, unguarded borders, or judicial systems too frail to prosecute perpetrators. In our interconnected world, a single gap in our common defense can threaten us all. So we urge all states to fully shoulder the responsibility of assessing and addressing areas where they might be vulnerable to proliferation-related activity.

UN member states have the sovereign responsibility to regulate their own national commerce; to inspect cargoes transiting their borders and territories; to maintain and oversee their own financial systems; and to monitor and control their own exports. But as states undertake these important functions, they must ensure that they are complying with the obligations established by Resolution 1540 as an operating standard.

In a globalized age, the importance of the vigorous implementation of Resolution 1540 becomes more evident by the day. When we craft and implement effective laws and customs controls, we address not only the threats posed by WMD proliferators but also those posed by terrorists and criminal organizations.

The feedback from member states at regional workshops on follow-on efforts demonstrates a broad international commitment to Resolution 1540’s nonproliferation goals. We are committed to building on this support and to welcoming new ideas during the Comprehensive Review.

Mr. Chairman, our goal is to have this Comprehensive Review strengthen the resolution’s tools and mechanisms—such as a voluntary trust fund—for building national capacity and international coordination to fighting proliferation, even as we recognize that a “one size fits all” approach to capacity-building will not suffice.

We are greatly heartened that regional outreach efforts are part of this mechanism, and we are further encouraged to see that effective nonproliferation cooperation has been embedded in more than two dozen regional and intergovernmental organizations because of Resolution 1540. Important work is being undertaken by the EU, the OSCE, NATO, the OAS, the Caribbean Community, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and others.

To further demonstrate our commitment to matching support with action, the United States backs efforts to expand the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction to include activities that count toward 1540 objectives. To this end, we support extending this Partnership beyond 2012 to address global WMD threats.
We have also designated a full-time coordinator for our 1540 Committee work, and we urge other nations and intergovernmental organizations to do the same.

Our efforts to implement Resolution 1540 have supported several U.S. nonproliferation priorities that encompass our work in treaty-based activities such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as our efforts in the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and other nonproliferation multilateral arrangements such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the G8 Global Partnership, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

We need to consider ways to make this Committee’s work more inclusive and allow it to benefit from the input of others, even as we maintain the independence and distinctiveness of the nonproliferation treaties and regimes that mesh with Resolution 1540. We welcome your thoughts on how the 1540 Committee’s experts can work independently but effectively with the two Security Council counterterrorism committees, as well as with such important partners as the IAEA, the OPCW, and the BWC Implementation Support Unit.

Today’s Comprehensive Review helps us recognize the complexities of having states fully meet the provisions of Resolution 1540 and underscores the Security Council’s readiness to support this process. The United States believes that Resolution 1540 can become a centerpiece of renewed global cooperation on nonproliferation, and this is why we believe financial investments to provide full implementation are needed.

Let a better coordinated, better resourced 1540 Committee stand as a demonstration of our shared commitment to a safer and more secure world. Only by acting together can we prevent the spread and use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery. Only through cooperation and concerted action can we tackle the global threats of this new century. We must act swiftly, and we are committed to acting together. Thank you.


PRN: 2009/193