Countering nuclear terrorism: Can the United Nations deliver?

William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: It has been more than a decade since the UN Security Council enacted Resolution 1540—the most far-reaching of international instruments to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) terrorism. It requires states to adopt and enforce effective laws to keep WMD materials outside the reach of terrorists. Scholars and policy makers compliment 1540 for making WMD trafficking illegal, for raising awareness of threats and increasing states’ capacity to reduce them. In 2017, one hundred and seventy-six states reported to the UN on domestic measures they took to comply with 1540. These numbers may produce a false sense of confidence in universal implementation of 1540. The threat of WMD terrorism remains potent. Allegations of ISIS using mustard agents against the Kurds, North Korea shipping chemicals to Syria or middlemen trafficking nuclear materials via Moldova suggest that the international response to WMD smuggling has not achieved its desired results. It is, therefore, important to evaluate the UN’s role in preventing WMD terrorism, and explore ways to further strengthen it. Drawing on interviews, fieldwork and observation data, this talk will examine the 1540 regime’s setup and its performance. It will outline policy options to improve the international counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism regime.

Speaker  bio:  Sarah Shirazyan is a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC. Her research is funded by the MacArthur Foundation. She received her Doctor of Juridical Sciences Degree from Stanford Law School. Her dissertation empirically analyzes the effectiveness of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 in preventing terrorists from accessing Weapons of Mass Destruction. Sarah designed Interpol-Stanford policy lab and serves as a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. For her outstanding research, teaching and community service, Stanford named Ms. Shirazyan as one of the recipients of Gerald J. Lieberman Award.

In addition to her academic experience, Sarah has held multiple posts with leading tech companies and international organizations. Sarah worked at Facebook’s Global Policy Team, where she developed company’s engagement strategies with inter-governmental organizations. Ms. Shirazyan also designed the data protection and privacy curricula for legal professionals at the Council of Europe. Prior to that, Ms. Shirazyan was a Drafting Lawyer for the European Court of Human Rights; worked on nuclear security issues at the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs; and handled international drug cartel investigation cases at the INTERPOL Secretariat.