Opening Statement by
Stephen Mathias, Head of the U.S. Delegation to the
Meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW-GGE)
April 14, 2009
Mr. Chairman, my delegation would like to thank you for your continuing efforts to find a way forward in these challenging negotiations. We think you have done an excellent job in creating an atmosphere in which it may be possible to reach agreement. My delegation will do everything we can to assist you in your efforts.
I would like to start by reiterating my delegation’s strong support for a CCW protocol on cluster munitions that will have a significant humanitarian benefit. In this regard, we welcome the text that you prepared at the end of the last session in February after engaging in extensive consultations during that session.
While we will have some specific comments on the text that you prepared which we will offer at an appropriate time this week, we believe that the text is generally an excellent basis on which to continue our work. We look forward to both formal and informal sessions this week to try to move this process forward.
As we embark on this process, we once again want to reiterate the need for compromise on all sides if we are to reach agreement. For example, while we have repeatedly stated our strong preference for an article that sets forth key provisions of international humanitarian law that are particularly relevant to the use of cluster munitions, and we continue to believe that including such an article would be strongly preferable, in the spirit of compromise, we are willing to negotiate on the basis of the text you have put forward.
We would, however, note a couple of important issues that we think we should draw to other delegations’ attention at the outset of this round of negotiations.
* First, there is the question of what standard we should measure our work here against. We believe that the standard we should strive for in this process is to achieve a significant humanitarian benefit. As we have outlined in more detail in previous statements to the GGE, we believe in particular that weapons possessing the technical requirements set forth in Article 4 would have significant humanitarian benefits over existing stockpiles. Currently, the vast majority of the world’s stockpiles of cluster munitions are outside of any international agreement specifically addressing these weapons. It is open to the CCW to remedy this situation. Some have argued that success in the CCW requires that we find a way to eliminate all human suffering caused by cluster munitions. In our view, this overstates what will be achievable here. All weapons cause human suffering, and the only way to eliminate such suffering would be to ban them. As we all realize, that will not be possible in this forum with respect to cluster munitions. We should rather commit ourselves in this forum to strong measures that will result in a significant humanitarian benefit when compared to the status quo.
* Second, we feel it is important to note once again our serious concern about exempting entirely from this draft protocol the cluster munitions that fall within the exceptions currently found in paragraph 2 of Article 2. Conceptually, as we have stated in previous sessions, we believe that these weapons are in fact cluster munitions. However, because we understand the complication this may cause for countries that have signed the (Oslo) Convention on Cluster Munitions, we have indicated that we have no objection to keeping an exception along these lines in this protocol. Nevertheless, we can see no justification for exempting them from all of the substantive provisions (other than, for example, the technical requirements in Article 4) in the Protocol, such as the ban on transfers to non-state actors.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me assure you again of my delegation’s whole-hearted support for your efforts. We stand ready to assist you in any way we can.