GROUP OF GOVERNMENTAL EXPERTS MEETING
CONVENTION ON CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS (CCW)
Opening Statement for the United States Delegation by
Melanie Khanna, Legal Adviser,
U.S. Mission to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva,
Head of Delegation
August 22, 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, I would like to thank you and the Friends of the Chair for your excellent work guiding us through the negotiations this past year. These have not always been easy discussions. However, you have led us with thoughtfulness, creativity and a steadfast commitment to the important work of this body. You have brought us very far, and we commend you for your work.
Mr. Chairman, as I indicated in the informal meeting you convened last week, the United States continues to believe that a CCW Protocol on Cluster Munitions that provides a substantial humanitarian impact on the ground is an essential and achievable goal. A CCW Protocol along the lines of the Chair’s text that imposes meaningful requirements on the countries that are the major users and producers of cluster munitions and who hold approximately 90% of the world’s stockpiles would be an important and undeniable step forward from a humanitarian viewpoint —with the effect of immediately prohibiting more than 2 million U.S. cluster munitions alone.
We are encouraged by the notable progress in our discussions. It is remarkable to reflect on how far we have come from the earliest days of our GGE discussions, when we didn’t contemplate that we could achieve a legally binding agreement requiring the immediate prohibition of millions of older cluster munitions and imposing immediate requirements on the development and production of all new cluster munitions.
After much discussion and compromise, we found ourselves earlier this year considering a sweeping draft protocol that first, imposes an immediate ban on pre-1980 cluster munitions without safeguards, a ban that would extend to more weapons for the United States alone than are currently covered by the entire Oslo Convention, as well as an immediate ban on the development and production of new weapons that do not meet the requirements in Technical Annex B; second, after an optional deferral period, imposes a ban on all cluster munitions produced after 1980 without certain features, which would prohibit millions more cluster munitions for the United States alone; third, places the use of any cluster munitions that remain under a set of new requirements; and fourth, in addition to all of the above, contains a detailed list of requirements in areas such as clearance, assistance to victims and transparency, or national reporting.
And the protocol has only continued to evolve throughout this year, with changes that aim to further strengthen the humanitarian impact of the Protocol, including the removal of any deferral period for the ban on the transfer of cluster munitions, new deadlines for the clearance of cluster munition remnants, an across the board requirement that states at all times use only munitions with the lowest possible unexploded ordnance rate consistent with military requirements, clarifications in Articles 4 and 5 that the number of cluster munitions that may be retained for certain training purposes must be the “minimum necessary for such purposes,” and language reflecting an intention to continue to review and endeavor to strengthen the Protocol over time, to name just a few. Given the evolution of the text in our negotiations to date, there’s ample reason to doubt those who assert that no evolution of the text is likely through future review processes.
As we near the November Review Conference, we know there are those on both sides for whom the protocol does not fully satisfy. To be certain, there are particulars the United States would change if it were possible. However, we believe the current draft represents a very strong and desirable basis for compromise that genuinely meets many of the persistent concerns of both sides and provides an immediate and significant humanitarian impact on the ground.
As we finish our deliberations, our delegation is ready to work with you, the Friends of the Chair, and other interested delegations towards adoption of a Protocol in November. We believe that if delegations are willing to genuinely cooperate and compromise, we have in our sights a binding protocol that will benefit civilian populations around the world. This is not an opportunity we can afford to squander, given the real stakes for real people on the ground.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.