Has UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Strengthened the International Nonproliferation Regime?



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Adopted unanimously in 2004, UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1540 established a variety of obligations on states to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to both state and non-state actors – obligations such as establishing a strong export control regime, securing sensitive materials, and criminalizing the production of WMD. However, worldwide states have implemented fewer than half of these obligations as delineated by the UN Security Council Committee established to monitor implementation. In addition, there has been limited analysis of what factors may have contributed to countries successfully fulfilling their UNSCR 1540 obligations or of whether the world has actually become safer since the adoption of this resolution. This dissertation makes several contributions to the literature on WMD nonproliferation and resolution 1540, utilizing the theoretical framework developed in treaty compliance literature, which is generally divided into the managerial and the enforcement theory. The managerial theory emphasizes the importance of clarity, capacity, and time lags in countries implementing their international obligations. The enforcement theory focuses on a state’s cost-benefit calculation, including consideration of outside pressure, state identity, norms, and national interest. The dissertation primarily utilizes quantitative research, which is best placed to answer these questions and assess implementation of UNSCR 1540 on a global scale; however, several short case studies were also included in order provide a better contextual understanding of the findings. First, this dissertation utilizes time-series cross sectional regressions to quantitatively analyze and identify state-specific factors that may have contributed to the varied implementation of UNSCR 1540. Second, the dissertation employs Poisson and negative binomial regressions to assesses whether states of particular concern for WMD proliferation – including states that have significant stocks of WMDs or materials that could be used as or for the production of WMDs, states of concern for development of weapons, and transit/transshipment hubs – have fulfilled the key obligations under the resolution that would contribute towards reducing the risk of proliferation worldwide. To conduct both of these analyses, I developed a database of UNSCR 1540 implementation data spanning 2006-2015, for all UN Member States. The findings of these analyses can help improve our understanding of countries’ implementation of their international nonproliferation obligations through specification of the qualities associated with higher implementation rates – qualities that ideally could be built or enhanced through assistance programs and policy efforts in countries determined to be of particular importance to the donor country or organization. Additionally, these results may aid assistance providers in identifying countries that are more likely to effectively utilize any assistance offered in implementing their 1540 obligations, as they already possess the key characteristics associated with implementation. Furthermore, the results of this dissertation unambiguously determine whether key proliferation-sensitive countries have implemented their relevant key obligations, providing information the international community can use to better determine whether UNSCR 1540 has had a substantive impact in making the world a safer place – or whether perhaps a new framework is needed. This dissertation concludes that both managerial and enforcement theory characteristics are correlated with implementation of UNSCR 1540 obligations over time. Country attributes that were found to be associated with increased implementation of all 1540 obligations over time are economic capacity, foreign aid, nongovernmental organization activity, security interests, membership in the Non-Aligned Movement, political will, possessing WMD-relevant industries or serving as a transit/transshipment hub, membership in a multilateral export control regime, population, and nonproliferation treaty membership. Because these variables support both the managerial and enforcement theories, compliance systems incorporating aspects of both theories are likely to be more effective than reliance only on one or the other strategy. Moreover, the results of the second analysis indicate that UNSCR 1540 appears to have had an impact on the state of key proliferation-relevant countries’ safeguards and security efforts. Key proliferation-salient subsets have a higher implementation percentage of their relevant obligations than the international community overall – meaning that the data indicates we are indeed safer now than when UNSCR 1540 was adopted in 2004. Furthermore, the country characteristics associated with implementation by these subsets of countries of their subset-relevant 1540 obligations also represented both managerial and enforcement theory concepts. Based on the findings of this research, several specific policy prescriptions are provided for consideration by the 1540 Committee and the international community. These include increasing monitoring and transparency through more regularized matrix development; public “naming and praising” as well as “naming and shaming;” offering positive incentives, withholding previously-promised incentives, or removing previously-provide incentives until implementation of the resolution has improved; and leveraging security relationships to improve implementation. In addition, the dissertation also finds that geographic diffusion effects are significantly correlated with implementation, meaning that regional and subregional organizations are particularly important in increasing implementation of the resolution. Finally, the dissertation recommends considering a strategy of prioritization – focusing on certain particularly high-risk countries or specific sets of obligations within countries – as an interim step on the road to full implementation of the resolution by every country worldwide.