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CCW: U.S. Statement on Consideration of the GGE Report on LAWS
November 20, 2019

As delivered by Josh Dorosin

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Since this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor, allow me to congratulate you on your selection as chair of this meeting and pledge our delegation’s support.

The United States places great value in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) as an international humanitarian law (IHL) treaty framework that brings together States with diverse security interests to discuss issues related to weapons that may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.  We reaffirm our commitment to the full implementation of our obligations and to active, constructive participation in this week’s conference.

I’d like to express our appreciation to the outgoing chair of the Group of Governmental Experts, Jivan Gjorgjinski, for his tireless work and excellent leadership.  His expert guidance made it possible for the GGE to develop and adopt another substantive report this year.

The United States fully supports the GGE’s report.  It demonstrates that the GGE – under the auspices of the CCW – is an important forum for exploring the complex issues related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS, and that it can produce substantive, consensus conclusions that have real value for States.  In particular, we support the endorsement of the eleven Guiding Principles affirmed by the GGE, including the new Guiding Principle developed this year.  In our view, the GGE must, in furtherance of its mandate over the coming two years, underscore the Guiding Principle that IHL continues to apply fully to all weapons systems, including LAWS, and in that light we recommend giving significant attention to clarifying further the application of IHL to the potential development and use of LAWS.

The United States also particularly supports the inclusion of legal, technological, and military experts in States’ participation at the GGE, in order to ensure that the work of the GGE reflects the best possible understanding of existing technology, the applicable legal framework, and military practice.

The United States remains of the view that form should continue to follow function in the GGE’s work.  Dictating a particular format for an outcome before working through the substance will not allow for the fullest and most rigorous discussion of the relevant issues and development of common understandings.  The Guiding Principles themselves have proven to be a very productive construct for building consensus, and continuing their elaboration and development through substantive discussion will allow the GGE to make real, tangible progress.

Finally, with regard to the bracketed text in the GGE report, the United States can support the inclusion of the term “development” in paragraph 26(e).  We believe this term accurately characterizes the work the GGE has already been doing with regard to the Guiding Principles.  This work should continue, as well as other potentially useful work, such as the compilation of good practices in conducting the legal review of weapons.  We are also flexible on whether the GGE meets for thirty, twenty-five, or twenty days over the next two years, recognizing the need for sufficient time to discuss these complex issues fully, as well as the need to bear in mind the financial situation of the CCW.

We look forward to continuing our participation in the GGE in the coming years and affirm our readiness to work actively with the incoming Chairman on this very important topic.