20 years of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) – a Customs perspective

13 May 2024

The month of April 2024 marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004 (UNSCR 1540), requiring governments to take action to prevent non-state actors from acquiring nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). To mark this milestone, the UN Secretary General issued a statement, reminding of the threat of creating ‘a new generation of weapons of mass destruction that are easier to access and simpler to use’ because of technological advances.

In 2014, the WCO launched the Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) project, the vehicle to empower Members to meet the non-proliferation challenge head-on, and to implement the Customs element of the responsibility UNSCR 1540 obliges states to fulfill.

From detection through detention and post control audit, myriad enforcement elements need to be joined to ensure effective implementation of Operative Paragraphs 3c and 3d of UNSCR 1540, related to the prevention of smuggling, or inadvertent transfers of WMD-related goods by unsuspecting entities. The STCE Programme is striving to engage Member Customs administrations by reaching out to high-level policy makers and operational officers alike to help set up and ensure the sustainability of the security element of Customs work, highlighted by the WCO Punta Cana resolution of 2015. The STCE Programme, being part of the WCO security portfolio, started as a project in 2014, and turned into an ongoing programme in 2016, serving Members across the world who wish to adopt and sustain national STCE measures. Throughout the years, the Programme has been evolving to address newly emerging global and regional challenges, as well as address the demands coming from the WCO Members.     

Nowadays, the Programme has a wide reach, working not only with Member administrations, but with partner organizations too. One of the most notable external partners of the WCO is the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2016, the two organizations have been assisting each other in, inter alia, developing 1540 action plans, and carrying out joint awareness-raising events, usually being the stepping stone for countries to advance, step up, or launch their 1540-related efforts.

In his statement, the UN Secretary General urges “…countries to redouble their efforts to work together, and to bolster national action, in order to implement the resolution urgently and in full.” The WCO reaffirms its commitment to bolster national capabilities of Members in relation to their duty to interdict consignments with a potential to be turned into WMD.