The 15th Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II (Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps, and other Devices) to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects
U.S. Delegation Opening Statement
As Delivered by Michael W. Meier
Geneva, November 13, 2013
Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of this Conference and assure you of the full support of our delegation. I would like to take this opportunity in congratulating Kuwait and Zambia on their accession to Amended Protocol II. We encourage other observer states here to take the necessary steps to become States Parties to Amended Protocol II, especially those that are parties to the original Protocol II. We fully recognize the humanitarian threat associated with the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of mines, booby traps, and other devices, in particular Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Commitment to Address Humanitarian Concerns
The United States continues to demonstrate its commitment to address the potential humanitarian consequences caused by landmine use. This year the United States celebrates a milestone: 20 years of the dedicated multi-agency effort to mitigate the harmful effects of conventional weapons. This effort began with the establishment of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action program in 1993. From this original focus on making the world safer by assisting communities and nations to overcome threats from landmines and explosive remnants of war, we expanded the program in 2001 to include activities to address the threat from at-risk conventional weapons and munitions, including Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).
The Department of State is joined in this multi-agency effort by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this coordinated effort. In addition, numerous private sector partners contribute to the success of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction program.
Since the inception of the program in 1993, the United States has delivered, through the mentioned agencies, over $2 billion in aid in over 90 countries to help overcome threats from landmines and explosive remnants of war, such as unexploded bombs, artillery shells, and mortars, as well as the destruction of excess, loosely-secured, or otherwise at-risk weapons and ordnance.
We share common cause with those working to address the harmful effects on civilians of the indiscriminate use of landmines. Our efforts have assisted 15 countries around the world to become free of the impact of landmines and have helped to dramatically reduce the world’s annual landmine casualty rate. In the early 1990’s experts estimated there were approximately 26,000 landmine casualties per year. According to the Landmine Monitor, new reported casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war totaled 4,286 in 2011.
In these budget-constrained times, State Department assistance programs are under great scrutiny. However, our Conventional Weapons Destruction program has proven a modest investment that is saving lives and fostering stability in every region of the world. The program helps countries recover from conflict and create safe, secure environments to rebuild infrastructure, return displaced citizens to their homes and livelihoods, help those injured by these weapons to recover and provide for their families, and promote peace and security by helping establish conditions conducive to stability, nonviolence, and democracy.
Operation and Status of the Protocol
The U.S. continues to focus on reducing and eventually eliminating the threat of landmines to civilians by seeking to address humanitarian concerns to civilians while balancing legitimate U.S. national security requirements and commitments to allies around the world.
To address the humanitarian problem caused by the indiscriminate use of persistent mines, the United States has taken the following actions:
- The United States maintains no minefields anywhere in the world;
- We have not exported anti-personnel landmines (APL) since 1992 and will not export any anti-vehicle mines (MOTAPM) unless they have self-destruct/self-deactivation features;
- As of January 1, 2011, any mines that may be used by U.S. forces must be self-destructing/self-deactivating; persistent mines of any type are no longer permitted;
- The United States has removed all persistent mines, both APL and MOTAPM, from its active inventory;
- As of 2009, the United States has removed and destroyed all non-detectable mines from our active inventory, except for a small quantity reserved for testing and training purposes. All of our mines are detectable with commonly available mine detection equipment.
- To date, the United States has destroyed over 1.9M of 2.6M persistent anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines. The remaining mines will be destroyed through our normal conventional ammunition demilitarization process. A small quantity of non-self-destruct mines will be retained for countermine/demining testing and training purposes.
All U.S. mines remaining in the active inventory have a highly reliable self-destruct mechanism with a self-deactivation back-up that prevent these munitions from becoming persistent hazards.
All mines have field-selectable self-destruct settings of 4 hours, 48 hours and 15 days, preventing the mines from becoming a persistent hazard.
All of our mines are subject to a rigorous testing process to identify weak, marginal or a breakdown of components due to aging. If any singular mine tested has any performance or reliability issues, the entire lot is taken out of the active inventory and is destroyed in order to assure safety and reliability for our soldiers.
Mr. President, the United States will provide additional comments with respect to IEDs at the appropriate time, but the discussions over the past couple of years demonstrate that the CCW can play a constructive role by helping to open the channels of communication between States; develop best practices aimed to address the threat posed by IEDs, including public awareness and risk education programs in an effort to reduce the indiscriminate harm to civilians. While we can’t solve the IED problem within the CCW, the CCW does provide a unique forum for diverse States to engage on this issue. In doing so, however, we should take care not to duplicate parallel, preexisting efforts.