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11. Strategic trade controls: countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction


I. Introduction

II. Regimes and initiatives

III. Capacity-building efforts

IV. Coercive measures

V. Conclusions


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The international debate and associated activity regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have moved on from the traditional focus on controlling exports to encompass a wider range of activities, including the control of transit, trans-shipment, financing and brokering. This reflects the evolving nature of procurement for WMD programmes and the need to adopt new legal concepts and enforcement tools to counter the threat that a state or non-state actor will obtain or develop WMD.


Accordingly, to implement United Nations Security Council resolutions and wider trade control norms, countries have started to enhance and expand domestic, regional and international capacity-building efforts and technical assistance. This applies in particular to Resolution 1540, which imposes binding obligations on all states to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery. During 2010 the UN concluded a series of regional and sub-regional seminars to raise awareness and assist implementation. The EU responded to Resolution 1540’s requirements by adopting a revised regulation on dual-use items in 2009 which expands controls beyond exports to transit and brokering. In 2010 the EU began to broaden the geographic and thematic scope of its non-proliferation cooperation.


Complementing the enhanced international cooperation are coercive measures designed to change the behaviours of states and non-state actors that are widely considered to pose threats to international security. These include UN sanctions that seek to counter proliferation finance and interdict the movements of proliferation-related items. In the case of proliferation finance, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has proved itself to be a relatively effective vehicle for exploring the issue and developing guidance on implementing counter-measures.



Dr Sibylle Bauer (Germany) is Senior Researcher and Head of the SIPRI Export Control Project of the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.


Aaron Dunne (United Kingdom) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.


Ivana Mićić (Belgium) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.

Dr Sibylle Bauer, Aaron Dunne and Ivana Mićić