U.S. Opening Statement at the Meeting of Parties to the CCW

The Meeting of the High Contracting Parties 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 14, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  The United States Delegation would like to congratulate you on your formal assumption of the Chairperson of the Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the CCW.  We are confident that you will guide our work to a successful conclusion, and assure you that you have the full support of our delegation.  We would like to congratulate Kuwait and Zambia on becoming High Contracting Parties to CCW and its protocols.

The Value of CCW as a Non-Political Forum to Discuss Weapons

The United States continues to place great value in the CCW as a framework that brings together States with diverse security interests to discuss issues related to weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.  As the discussions on Protocol V and Amended Protocol II earlier this week demonstrate, we are at our best and most productive when we can have expert, practical discussions.

Many of the issues related to implementation can admittedly be dry to some, maybe more so to observers, but we believe that discussing and learning from each other’s national implementation provides significant, real humanitarian benefit.  We particularly appreciate other delegations’ focus and participation in the experts’ meetings on implementation of Protocol V and Amended Protocol II, and welcome the decisions of the High Contracting Parties to those protocols to continue our important work in 2014.

Universalization (and Syria)

With this in mind, the United States places a special emphasis on the need for universalization of the CCW and its protocols.  The most obvious way to increase the humanitarian benefits of the convention and its protocols is to encourage other States to consent to be bound by their obligations, as we High Contracting Parties have done.

Relatedly, we have seen the disturbing reports that incendiary weapons may have been used against civilians in Syria.  We strongly condemn any intentional targeting of civilians.  These reports underscore that universalization is critical to the success of CCW and its protocols, which represent a fundamental contribution to International Humanitarian Law.  We therefore call on all States not yet party to the CCW to join the 117 States that are already party to it, and to accede to the CCW and it protocols at the earliest opportunity.

MOTAPM

As for other issues related to next year’s work, the United States continues to support conclusion of a legally binding MOTAPM protocol and believe the issue of MOTAPM should remain on our agenda.  Although the High Contracting Parties were unable to agree on a way to move forward to address impacts associated with MOTAPM, we see value in the constructive and open discussions we have already had, both formally and informally, in recent years.  We look forward to the briefing from SIPRI and GICHD on their report, which we believe may hold promise for better explaining and quantifying the cause of humanitarian and development problems presented by the indiscriminate use of certain MOTAPM.  We are earnestly looking forward to the publication its full report in early 2014, and discussing its conclusions with other High Contracting Parties to the CCW.

Autonomous Weapons

We also believe there is value in discussing lethal fully autonomous weapons systems in the CCW.  We appreciated the constructive informal session you hosted on Monday and were heartened to see that many other States also recognize the value of having these discussions in the CCW.

For the United States, we understand that other States and organizations here today, and many outside this room, have legitimate concerns with autonomy in weapons systems, particularly given that understanding this issue requires serious, meaningful reflection about the nature of past weapons, trends in weapons development and technology, and the likely future of weapons given those trends.  It also requires certain assumptions about the future, which is never easy or ever come with guarantees.  Thus, this will admittedly not be an easy issue for discussion given the many different ways and words that people use to describe autonomy, and the future nature of the systems the discussion will inevitably aim to address.  It is clear that all of our delegations require education on these future systems and how existing IHL would be implemented.

Despite these inherent challenges, we look forward to this discussion in the CCW and support the Chair convening, in 2014, an informal meeting of experts to discuss the questions related to lethal fully autonomous weapons systems.  Specifically, as we noted in Monday’s informal, given the complexity of the issues before us we strongly recommend five days of discussion.    That said, we can be flexible on the duration of the meeting, so long as it is long enough for delegations to have a full discussion of these important issues.

Conclusion

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to continuing and refining the substantive informative expert discussions we had in 2013, adding a new discussion on lethal fully autonomous weapons systems, and continuing our consideration of MOTAPM.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.