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Realizing the full potential of the Proliferation Security Initiative

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) High-level Policy Group Meeting in Poland this week marks the 10th anniversary of the PSI's founding. It is also the first time in five years that all PSI participants have gathered to collectively influence its future.

The stated objective of the meeting is to ‘set the stage for PSI activities’ and ‘underline the political importance of the PSI’ through four joint statements and declarations on future activity.

However, for the PSI to fulfil its full potential and remain relevant for another 10 years it will need more than joint statements and new declarations.

One of the main challenges facing the PSI is that the existing PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles—the rationale, objectives and activities that define the initiative—is not fully implemented by most PSI participants. In order to remedy this situation, the members of the PSI Operational Experts Group⎯the initiative’s ‘steering group’⎯need to do more to build the capacity of states that have pledged to undertake PSI activities, mindful of the legal constraints and operational realities.

Weapons of mass destruction are not the only threat

Another positive change would be to broaden the PSI’s scope to include conventional arms. The PSI has proved a useful tool to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions, such as those against Iran and North Korea. However, the PSI has always been focused on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

A number of relevant sanctions resolutions also include measures to control the transfer of conventional arms, intended to prevent and limit armed conflict. The PSI’s activities, and the interstate collaboration and network it has developed, are as applicable to the illicit transfer of conventional weapons as they are to the proliferation of WMD.


The 10th Anniversary High-level Political Meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative takes place in Warsaw, Poland, 27–29 May 2013. More information here (PDF).


Aaron Dunne is an Associate Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Countering Illicit Trafficking Mechanism Assessment Project.