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
November 13, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The United States Delegation would like to congratulate you on your assumption of the Chairperson of the Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). We are confident that you will guide our work to a successful conclusion, and I want to assure you of the full support of my delegation.
The Value of CCW as a Non-Political Forum to Discuss Weapons
The United States places great value in the CCW as an IHL framework that brings together States with diverse security interests to discuss issues related to weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or that have indiscriminate effects. We believe that discussing important issues related to the use of weapons systems and learning from each other’s national implementation provides significant, real humanitarian benefit. We appreciate the work done in the experts’ meetings over the past year and commend the excellent work done by the various coordinators. We are pleased with the decisions of the High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II and Protocol V that will allow us to continue our important work related to IEDs and explosive remnants of war.
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 for the universalization of this important convention. We welcome Iraq’s accession to the CCW and its protocols.
The importance of universalization has been brought home by recent events around the world. We have seen the concerning reports that incendiary weapons continue to be used against the civilian population in Syria and reports of use in Ukraine. The United States shares in the international community’s concern about the humanitarian impact of the indiscriminate use of all munitions, including incendiary weapons and cluster munitions. These disturbing reports underscore that the universalization and implementation of CCW and its protocols, which represent a fundamental contribution to International Humanitarian Law, is critical if we want to help preclude such activities from taking place in the future. We therefore call on all States not yet party to the CCW to join the 118 States that are High Contracting Parties, and to accede to the CCW and its protocols at the earliest opportunity.
Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems
As we look ahead at decisions we will take with respect to next year’s work, the United States believes there is value in continuing our discussions on lethal fully autonomous weapons systems in the CCW. We were pleased with the level of participation in the informal meeting of experts in May of this year, which provided an opportunity for us to further identify and discuss the legal, technical, military, and ethical issues raised by this complex subject. It is clear that this discussion is just beginning and further work is required to help shape our understanding of this future technology. The United States believes that that it is important to continue our informal discussions in 2015 that should include no less than 5 days of discussion.
While it is premature to decide where these discussions might or should ultimately lead, it is important that our work move forward and build upon what was accomplished last May. We need to have an in depth discussion of the variety of issues surrounding LAWS. The United States believes that one important area that deserves increased attention next year is how states evaluate new weapons systems such as LAWS. We believe that focusing, in part, on the weapons review process could provide the basis to identify fundamental issues and provide guidance for states that are considering any new weapons system. We believe such a discussion could result in a set of best practices applicable to the future development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. With the possibility that this could be a consensual outcome document in time for the 2016 Review Conference, the United States could support additional time for discussion on this specific topic in 2015. We believe this would be a positive first step for CCW High Contracting Parties to take while continuing to refine the legal, technical, military, and ethical issues surrounding these complex future weapons systems.
The United States welcomes the new global study from GICHD and SIPRI, which clearly identifies that the indiscriminate use of certain MOTAPM creates humanitarian problems that should be addressed. We have long supported concluding a legally binding MOTAPM protocol and still prefer that outcome. That said, we see value in the constructive and open discussions we have already had, both formally and informally, in recent years. We therefore believe the issue of MOTAPM should remain on the agenda for future consideration by the High Contracting Parties.
Before I close I would like to add my support to the comments we have heard this past week regarding the productive role of NGOs within CCW. This is my 10th year of participating in CCW and I have been a part of both the MOTAPM and cluster munitions negotiations as well as our discussions of IEDs and LAWS. I have witnessed the important contributions that NGOs make to our work. They are an integral part of our process, even in those instances where our positions may differ. We are a much richer body with NGO inclusion and the United States wants to express its strong support for their continued full participation in our work.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to continuing and refining the substantive informative expert discussions we had in 2014 on LAWS and continuing our consideration of MOTAPM.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.