CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties
U.S. Statement on Emerging Issues
Geneva, November 14, 2019
As delivered by Matt McCormack
With respect to the agenda item on emerging issues, the United States shares the goal of protecting civilians during armed conflict, and we appreciate our German colleagues’ support for the UNIDIR workshop in 2019 to bring attention to some of the challenges related to protecting civilians during urban warfare, including the risks posed when parties try to protect their military objectives by placing them in densely populated areas. We also appreciate the leadership of the Irish and Austrian delegations in this area, including by convening the Vienna Conference last month and by chairing the consultations next Monday in an open, inclusive, and transparent manner.
Urban areas are admittedly complex operating environments during war, but existing IHL appropriately governs the use of explosive weapons, like all weapons, including through principles and rules related to the protection of civilians. We believe that it is impractical and counterproductive to try to ban or stigmatize the lawful and appropriate use of explosive weapons as inherently problematic because the proper use of explosive weapons could strengthen civilian protection compared to other means and methods of warfare.
We also do not support making “EWIPA” or the “protection of civilians” a specific agenda item because the CCW is focused on prohibitions and restrictions applicable to certain types of weapons, rather than being a forum to address general issues related to the implementation of IHL. We would note in this regard that a focus on “EWIPA” rather than the broader issues with respect to improved implementation of IHL serves as an obstacle to progress on strengthening protections for civilians.
In this regard, the United States supports the sharing of good practices on civilian protection and improved implementation of IHL. If international dialog is to improve protections for civilians, the discussion must include substantial engagement by States conducting military operations. These States can bring necessary expertise and experience to assist in focusing the discussions on the concrete issues related to civilian harm and its root causes, and on specific measures that will effectively improve protections for civilians. We are ready and willing to share our own practices in this regard and look forward to engaging with others on this very important topic.