Gadzooks! How did it get to be Friday already? Thanks much to Mr. AC Wonk for the opportunity—I’ll try not to let it go to my head. Without further ado…
Really, when you think about it, is there anything wilder than the intersection of two intergovernmental organizations? (Ok, don’t think about it too hard.) And in this case, not just any two IGOs, but the UN’s 1540 Committee and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Just saying those words all together like that gets you in the mood for some weekend fun, doesn’t it?
Well, it seems as though the Institute of International and Strategic Relations and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies-Jakarta sure thought it did, because a week ago, they organized just such a cross-organizational meeting at CSIS’s facilities in downtown Jakarta, and I got to attend. The subject of the meeting was “Proliferation Challenges: Assessing the Implementation of 1540 Resolution in South Eastern Asia,” which pretty much says it all. It was an interesting two days of discussions among representatives of ASEAN countries, a few other interested parties (US, France, Australia, Slovakia), and some NGOs.
The crux of the issue is that for 3 years now, the 1540 Committee has been working with countries to implement UNSCR Resolution 1540 (which attempts to hold countries more accountable for controls over WMD activity that might be happening inside their borders) and yet there’s a long way to go. Countries are tasked with a list of requirements: submitting national reports, passing relevant domestic implementing legislation, and increasing domestic controls in a variety of ways.
ASEAN countries are of particular interest to the 1540 Committee for a number of reasons. While all 10 countries have taken the initial steps of submitting national reports, there is wild variance in progress on passing implementing legislation, and as well, in putting that legislation into practice. As well, while the ASEAN countries have themselves been the victims of mass terrorism, there are any number of other pressing issues that take priority—public health, economic development, and corruption, to name a few.
Last year, the UN Security Council went a step further and passed a follow-on to 1540: 1673 (they’re such catchy names!), which encouraged countries to seek out help where they might need it, and for others to seek to provide help, with the 1540 Committee acting as a kind of IGO matchmaker. The word is, this has started to happen, but in distressingly low numbers – really only a handful of instances.
A number of NGOs (Stimson Center, Monterey Institute, SIPRI, a few others, and my own org, the Stanley Foundation) have dedicated projects looking to help out—particularly as the 1540 Committee has limited resources. But one of the challenges for NGOs is that much of the most helpful information gathered by the committee—database matrices that indicate countries’ status over a wide range of areas—has not been made public, meaning that oftentimes NGOs have to piece relevant information together themselves (for an excellent example, see Peter Crail’s fine report from the July 2006 Nonproliferation Review).
We often call for transparency, and here’s a fine instance of where it would be really useful, not only for us in the NGO world, but also as a good faith effort to show the progress that’s being made down in the trenches on the nonproliferation front. I have a birthday coming up before too long – how about it, 1540 Committee: if I’m not going to get a shiny new guitar , how about a nice gift-wrapped package of database matrices in my inbox?