The Stanley Foundation
Seeking a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on global citizenship and effective global governance.

(NNSA News)

UNSCR 1540: A Critical Tool for a Safe, Secure World
February 2011

Editor’s Note: A new series of feature articles in think. will examine the main themes of the three issue areas on which the Stanley Foundation focuses its programming—global leadership, nuclear material security, and genocide prevention. Each article will lay out the concerns, international trends and dynamics, and underlying reasoning on which our approach and advocacy are based. We will also strive to inspire you to learn more, take action, and work with us as we push for better US and global policies that lead to a secure peace.

With nine nuclear weapon states at present, and more nuclear material in the world than most of us think, the thought of material required to make a bomb being given to, bought by, or stolen by the “bad guys” is not only terrifying, it is highly probable.

The international community’s understanding of the threat of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has evolved over the years. Today we know that Al Qaeda is trying desperately to acquire nuclear weapons. Just this week, we learned that the terrorist group is seeking enough nuclear material to build a so-called dirty bomb and wreak havoc through such an attack.

Born out of the urgency of this threat, in 2004 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1540. When the Pakistani nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan confessed in 2004, a dangerous byproduct of an increasingly globalized world where porous borders and weak governments allow for the transit of dangerous materials, equipment, and know-how was revealed. A common misperception is that countries learn how to build nuclear weapons on their own. The Khan case showed that many of the newest members of the nuclear club have relied heavily on technological know-how, material, and equipment from outside of their borders and, as was the case with North Korea, Libya, and Iran, the sharing of state secrets.

The swift action by the United Nations Security Council obligated all nations to make sure that something like the A.Q. Khan network would not develop again. Resolution 1540 calls upon states to make it more difficult for terrorists to gain access to the material, equipment, and know-how required to develop WMD, whether chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear. Obscure in name and broad in its mandate, Resolution 1540 is a 21st-century tool put in place to manage an evolving threat. Not only does it address a wide range of capacity challenges that many nations face, it also levels the playing field in terms of requiring all countries to take the same preventive steps. Unlike the NPT, Resolution1540 is not a treaty, which is purely a voluntary commitment by countries. Instead, Resolution 1540 is a universal mandate. In our view, it is a logical multilateral mechanism that contributes to the Stanley Foundation’s vision for the world—a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on world citizenship and effective global governance.

The Security Council recognized that many nations would require assistance in implementing its mandate, so they encourage countries with the capacity to do so to support others' implementation efforts. In turn, Resolution 1540 urges nations in need to request any help that they deem necessary to comply with the demands of the resolution. Because the assistance provided under Resolution 1540 can be "dual-purpose," it provides a significant opportunity for poorer countries to tap into traditional security-related assistance available from wealthier countries. As a result, developing countries are able to meet their high priority internal development goals and human security priorities while simultaneously meeting international WMD nonproliferation obligations. It is our view that this sort of “dual-purpose” mechanism can help to break down the hurdles that exist in the current nonproliferation regime.

In upcoming editions of think., we’ll continue to demonstrate how, with full implementation of UNSCR 1540, the international community can thwart any possible WMD terrorist attack and how the multilateral tool Resolution 1540 is critical to keeping our world as safe and secure as possible.

Veronica Tessler

Share: Email Facebook Twitter
Receive Materials Receive Materials
The Stanley Foundation publishes policy briefs, analytical articles, and reports on a number of international issues. To reduce our carbon footprint and cut waste, we almost exclusively, use electronic distribution for our publications. Sign up to receive our resources via e-mail.

Employment Opportunities
Policy Program Associate, Nuclear Policy
The Stanley Foundation seeks a program associate to join its Policy Programming Department to contribute energy, creativity, and analytical skill to the design and implementation of programming on technology and nuclear policy. 

Operations Specialist
Seeking a dedicated, dynamic individual who has a passion for working in the field of event planning and prefers a small-business atmosphere with opportunities for international travel. This full-time position involves event-planning operations and activities for various programming efforts on climate change, nuclear policy issues, and mass violence and atrocities.

Courier Courier
The Spring 2018 issue of Courier highlights the issues facing Cambodian fishermen as their lakes are affected by climate change. It includes a tribute to Dick and Mary Jo Stanley, a look at UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ attempts at UN reform, and a peek at our Iowa Student Global Leadership conference.

The issue also focuses on how artificial intelligence is being integrated into military systems around the world, how sustainable farming practices can impact carbon emissions, and the cyber vulnerabilities of the world’s most dangerous weapons. Spring 2018 PDF. (1,151K) Subscribe for FREE.

the latest the latest
Our bimonthly newsletter is filled with resources to keep you up to date with our work at the Stanley Foundation. Each edition includes news about recent publications and stories as well as features our people and partners.

You will also find many extras, from upcoming events to multimedia resources. 

Sign up for the latest to stay engaged on key global issues.

Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences
The Stanley Foundation holds two annual conferences, UN Issues and the Strategy for Peace Conference. These bring together experts from the public and private sectors to meet in a distraction-free setting and candidly exchange ideas on pressing foreign policy challenges.

Divided into roundtable talks, the cutting-edge discussions are intended to inspire group consensus and shared recommendations to push forward the debate on the foundation’s key policy areas.

The Stanley Foundation: Part of COP23 The Stanley Foundation: Part of COP23
As a part of our efforts to limit global warming to 1.5° C, the foundation put forward policy ideas to achieve a global turning point in emissions by 2020, built upon efforts to catalyze global climate action by countries and sub- and non-state actors, and worked with journalists to strengthen coverage of the UN climate negotiations.

A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia
The Ground Truth Project, New America, and the Stanley Foundation are hosting a Screening of “A Climate for Conflict” and discussion with the creators followed by a panel discussion on Climate Security and Societal Resilience on May 30, 2017.

Somalia today is at a crossroads between a deepening crisis and a path to stability. Photographer and filmmaker Nichole Sobecki and writer Laura Heaton spent 18 months documenting personal stories of Somalia, creating a film, photography, and reporting that vividly illustrate the human consequences and security risks of a changing climate. Read more.

Follow the conversation online with #AClimateforConflict.

Watch and Learn Watch and Learn
Stanley Foundation events, talks, video reports, and segments from our Now Showing event-in-a-box series can now be viewed on YouTube. To receive regular updates on our video posts, please subscribe today.