Private Sector Engagement Strategies Conference

On 20-21 March Project Alpha hosted representatives from the United Nations’ (UN) 1540 panel of experts, the UN North Korean panel of experts and several governments for a conference on Antiproliferation. Antiproliferation is the concept of preventing proliferation through engaging the private sector.

The event coincided with three other notable developments. First, a grant was secured from the  Macarthur Foundation to forward Alpha’s work in highlighting and addressing supply chain proliferation risks, thus bringing Nick Mitchel on to the project’s staff (see below). Second, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office approved Alpha’s grant proposal for the coming financial year, thus allowing the team to drive forward research and responses to proliferation-related trade. Third, after an eight week spell as a senior visiting research fellow, the conference brought to an end the visit of Dr Rajiv Nayan from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, who has been working with Alpha to identify good practices for private sector outreach to be employed in India.

Antiproliferation Conference

Left: Alpha’s Nick Mitchell presents on the UK’s approach to private sector engagement on non-proliferation issues.

The conference was held in the context of the use of illicit procurement techniques by countries such as Iran and North Korea to sustain their nuclear and missile programs with goods from the international market place. Such trade is prohibited under UN Security Council resolutions.

Present at the conference were officials from the two of the UN’s panels of experts (1540 and 1874), the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, the European Union, as well as the Chinese, Japanese and US governments, and elsewhere.

The conference took place one year before the 10th anniversary of the adoption of 1540, which under the UN Security Council’s Chapter seven mandate requires all states to put in place measures to prevent non-state actors becoming involved in proliferating or accessing WMD. Ian Stewart from Project Alpha suggested that the time was right to take stock of 1540’s accomplishments and to think about not what laws states should adopt to meet their obligations under UNSCR 1540, and how these laws should be enforced, but importantly about how to work in partnership with the private sector to realize the goals of 1540 and the various UN sanctions resolutions.

The rationale is clear: the use of illicit procurement techniques means that adoption and enforcement of laws by governments alone are not sufficient to prevent proliferation: the private sector must address the risks of their goods being diverted through their supply chain. It is the role of governments, nongovernmental organsations and business to support the private sector in implementing this mission. To that end, experts from industry were also invited to present on “what the private sector needs”.

The conference heard from officials in the UK , US, India , China and Japan on the work being done to engage national private sectors in preventing proliferation. Ian Stewart talked about the work Project Alpha is doing through its partners initiative to complement the work of national authorities. During the conference discussions focused on identifying good practices for private sector outreach and engagement.

Key outcomes of the conference included the need to emphasise:

·         Engaging  officials in the importance of private sector engagement as one aspect of 1540;

·         Setting out good practices on private sector engagement;

·         Encouraging the development of “Private Sector Engagement Strategies” by governments around the world;

·         Encouraging dialogue between states and intergovernmental organisations on 1540 implementation

MacArthur Grant

The MacArther Foundation recently awarded a one-year research grant allowing Alpha to engage several former government officials as researchers working in support of project Alpha’s activities. Specifically, individuals such as Nick Mitchel — who in government held several relevant roles working to counter the illicit trade in proliferation-related technologies — will work with firms affected by proliferation due to the nature of their goods and services to draw out and then highlight trends in illicit procurement efforts.

FCO Grant

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant covers Alpha’s core academic research element. In the coming year the Alpha team will focus on analysing research conducted in Alpha’s previous years, upon publishing research findings, and building stronger academic-business links in areas related to export controls. This will include the development of a number of professional development courses among other things.

Dr Rajiv Nayan

Dr Rajiv Nayan visited the Centre of Science and Security Studies in order to identify good practices from the UK related to private sector engagement for non-proliferation purposes with the aim of transferring this knowledge for use in

India . Dr Nayan and the Alpha staff also prepared a number of papers during his time in London , and these will be listed on the Alpha website when available.

About Project Alpha

Project Alpha works to understand and counter illicit procurement in proliferation-sensitive technologies that sustain the nuclear and missile programmes of certain countries in defiance of UN sanctions. Alpha works in partnership with governments and the private sector to identify, analyse and highlight proliferation risks and trends. Alpha is housed in the Centre for Science and Security Studies in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

Further Information

For further information on project alpha’s work to understand and counter illicit procurement, visit the Alpha website ( or contact either Professor Wyn Bowen ( or Mr Ian Stewart ( / 02078481342)