An official website of the United States government

U.S. Opening Statement at the 6th CCW Review Conference
December 14, 2021

Sixth Review Conference 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 Joshua Dorosin

Geneva, December 13, 2021

Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by extending our congratulations on your election as President of the Sixth Review Conference and our appreciation to you, your team, the Secretariat, and the interpreters for the considerable work to organize and guide this important conference. You have the full support of our delegation, and we look forward to engaging on the important issues before us this week and bringing this conference to a successful conclusion.

The United States places great value in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) as an international humanitarian law (IHL) treaty 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 believe that the CCW provides a unique forum for substantive discussions about these important issues as it is a body that ensures that all issues are considered with the benefit of contributions and perspectives from an appropriate mix of diplomatic, military, legal, technical, and policy experts, as well as from civil society.

The United States recognizes the importance of universalization and full implementation of the CCW, and we join other High Contracting Parties in calling on States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and its protocols. We especially appreciate the efforts of the Implementation Support Unit and various office holders in promoting universalization of the Convention and its protocols.

We would like to commend the excellent efforts of the Chairpersons and the various coordinators of the work related to Amended Protocol II and Protocol V. We are pleased with the discussions on implementation of these protocols and support their continuation as decided last week by their respective High Contracting Parties. We are disappointed that views of High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II continue to diverge on the need for a focused discussion on issues related to mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM), including with respect to the protection of civilians, and the United States remains committed to seeking consensus on a way forward on this issue. In this connection, the United States would welcome an exchange of good practices related to the use of such mines, consistent with the provisions of Amended Protocol II, which we believe would contribute to strengthening the overall implementation of the Protocol.

We look forward to the Review Conference adopting the recommendations related to the review of these protocols. In addition, we support the adoption of a new Declaration on Improvised Explosive Devices, as recommended by the High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II. The United States recognizes the serious threat posed by the use of IEDs around the world, and it is appropriate that the High Contracting Parties emphasize their continued commitment to working to mitigate this threat.

The United States is the world’s largest contributor to conventional weapons destruction programs, which includes its support for the clearance of landmines, IEDs, and explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $4 billion in conventional weapons destruction assistance to more than 100 countries. For a comprehensive review of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program, our delegation refers you to the 20th edition of our annual report titled “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” which covers U.S. assistance activities during 2020. The report is available at the back of the room and on the State Department website (https://www.state.gov/reports/to-walk-the-earth-in-safety-2021).

The United States has participated actively in the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). We deeply appreciate the tireless efforts made over the past five years by the four Chairs – most recently by Ambassador Marc Pecsteen, and previously by Ambassadors Karklins, Gjorginski, and Gill – to advance our work on this complex issue. We have been encouraged by the active participation of so many High Contracting Parties in the work of the GGE. Over five years, we have been able to reach consensus on many substantive conclusions and build our common understanding of the issues, including by the decision of the High Contracting Parties to endorse the 11 Guiding Principles in 2019. In particular, we have made significant progress on the topics of the application of IHL, human-machine interaction, human accountability and State responsibility, weapons reviews, and risk mitigation, and we are confident we can make more.

Despite the inability of the GGE to agree to substantive consensus recommendations for us to consider at this Conference, we believe that the GGE made important progress under the difficult circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is work that should, alongside of previous GGE reports, provide an important basis for our continued work. The United States continues to believe that the GGE is the right forum to consider this complex topic. It is now incumbent on this Review Conference to agree on a mandate that will allow the GGE to intensify its efforts to make further substantive progress on this issue.

We note that several delegations have raised today their desire to establish a separate focused discussion on Protocol III. In the U.S. experience, we think Protocol III continues to be a valuable and effective instrument of international humanitarian law. We urge all High Contracting Parties to comply with their obligations under this Protocol, but do not see the need at this time for a separate discussion on it.

Mr. President, let me close by noting our support for your efforts with respect to the proposed additional measures for financial reform. It is unfortunate that the Convention continues to struggle to maintain financial stability. The precarious situation of the Implementation Support Unit in particular is not sustainable. We strongly urge High Contracting Parties to pay their contributions in a timely manner, as this is the only way to fully ensure the financial well-being of this Convention. We also support the initiative by the President to consolidate and reform the financial measures and believe that the adoption of these measures would represent a significant achievement for this Conference.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States looks forward to participating in this 6th CCW Review Conference. Thank you, Mr. President.