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U.S. Opening Statement – Meeting of States Parties to Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
November 13, 2008

Opening Statement
Stephen Mathias, Head of the U.S. Delegation

Meeting of States Parties to Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)

Thank you Mr. President.

I would like to offer a few thoughts on behalf of my delegation.

Mr. President, we must recognize that the CCW has failed this year to achieve its main task – the adoption of a new protocol on cluster munitions. Our failure is all the more disappointing because the opportunity to agree to a protocol that would have had substantial humanitarian benefits was within our grasp. We will have some additional observations on the GGE when its report is considered by this Meeting.

We are prepared to continue cluster munitions negotiations in this framework, but are concerned about wasting time and money on fruitless discussions. From what we have heard over the last two weeks, it remains unclear to us whether anything will change next year, or whether the delegations that blocked progress this year will continue to do so next year. Of course, we hope this is not the case, and will work hard in the negotiations next year as well as in the interim period to try to move this process toward a successful conclusion.

Mr. Chairman, I would also like to say a few words about the state of the CCW more generally. We have heard a number of delegations raise questions about the CCW’s credibility, and suggest the need to think through how to revitalize this process. From my delegation’s perspective, our deep disappointment in the outcome here does not lessen the United States’ commitment to the CCW. We have been working hard to ratify the remaining Protocols to which we have not yet been able to become a party and the U.S. Senate has given its consent to their ratification. We expect that we will be able to deposit our instruments of ratification soon. We will continue to engage on the issues covered by those Protocols.

My government has also been taking a close look at the proposal to establish an Implementation Support Unit (ISU) for the implementation of the CCW. We are very appreciative of the outstanding work done by the Secretariat and understand the constraints they are under. We recognize that an ISU would potentially have significant benefits for the CCW. We are also aware of the positive experience with an ISU in the context of the Biological Weapons Convention. All that said, before taking a final position on this proposal, we will need to have a detailed cost estimate and breakdown. This is essential for us in obtaining budgetary approval at home.

Finally, while we support continued work by the CCW on cluster munitions, we think it is worth recalling that the CCW never was intended to serve as a permanent negotiating body. We should not view it as a failure if the CCW does not take up additional negotiations for some time after the end of the cluster munitions negotiations. When there is another issue along these lines that is ripe to be addressed, then we believe that the CCW is the best forum for addressing it. But at the moment, there does not appear to us to be any such issue that should be taken up here. We would far rather see minimal CCW meetings over the coming years than to see costly and time-consuming meetings devoted to topics that are not appropriate for the CCW or do not truly demand international action for the purpose of trying to enhance the CCW’s credibility.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you Mr. President for your efforts this week.

Thank you.