Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons – UNFC October 2023
Statement by the United States as Delivered by Deputy Permanent Representative Alison Storsve
Thank you, Chair.
Responsible State use of conventional weapons contributes to global and regional stability. We, the international community, must cooperate to reduce risks posed by illicitly traded small arms and light weapons, including Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, and related ammunition. Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS, remain a significant threat to civil and military aviation. We continue to work with Ukraine and other partners around the world to deter illicit diversion and use of MANPADS, including through training programs for aviation and border security, destruction of excess State-held stocks through U.S.-funded destruction programs, and assisting with the mitigation of MANPADS threats on borders and near critical civilian aviation sites. Russia’s ongoing, illegal invasion of Ukraine has increased the risk of illicit diversion of these advanced systems. The United States, in close coordination with Allies and partners, developed a comprehensive action plan to support Ukraine’s efforts to secure advanced conventional weapons and prevent their diversion. We are confident Ukraine is putting U.S. security assistance to good use and is dedicated to keeping equipment accountable. To date we have seen no credible evidence of illicit diversion of security assistance by Ukraine.
We must also strive to reduce the risks created by ammunition diverted into the hands of unauthorized recipients, such as terrorist groups and criminal organizations. To this end, the United States actively and constructively participated in the Open-Ended Working Group on Ammunition and endorsed its final report and recommendation to establish the Global Framework for Through-Life Conventional Ammunition Management. We welcome the report’s adoption without a vote, but were disappointed Russia and Belarus disassociated from it and broke consensus on the Global Framework. The United States supports the proposed draft resolution on conventional ammunition, and we look forward to the establishment of the Global Framework and its implementation and review process. The United States also welcomes the continued work of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) under the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The LAWS GGE is a uniquely appropriate forum for multilateral discussions on LAWS, because it benefits from contributions by diplomatic, military, legal, technical, and policy experts, as well as civil society. This expertise has resulted in a significant body of work and continues to provide the best opportunity to advance international efforts on LAWS. We recognize the contribution a balanced and inclusive UN Secretary General’s report on LAWS could make to the LAWS GGE’s work, and we plan to
support the resolution submitted by Austria. We look forward to the November meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention, where States Parties will discuss the GGE’s 2024 mandate. We support a mandate to develop measures strengthening the implementation of existing International Humanitarian Law principles with respect to the use of LAWS. While we continue to support these crucial discussions, we also see a need to address the broader implications of Artificial Intelligence in the military domain. We are therefore encouraging countries to join us in the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of AI and Autonomy. When used lawfully and responsibly, advanced technologies such as autonomy and AI can improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The United States reaffirms and recognizes the equal, full, and effective participation of women at all levels of decision-making processes, such as the ones I’ve mentioned, as one of the essential factors for the promotion and attainment of sustainable peace and security. Turning to further recent steps the United States has taken to promote security in this thematic cluster, last February, the United States announced a revised Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, which provides the framework under which the U.S. government reviews and evaluates proposed arms transfers using a more holistic approach. All proposed defense sales are assessed on their individual merits and on a case-by-case basis, taking into account multiple factors to determine if a potential arms transfer is in our national interest, and factoring in considerations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and security sector governance.
In closing I would like to highlight that the United States remains the world’s single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction. Since 1993, we have invested more than $4.6 billion dollars in more than 120 countries to clear safely landmines and explosives, as well as to secure and dispose safely of excess small arms and light weapons and munitions. In Ukraine, the United States has committed $182 million dollars in demining assistance since January 2022. This support plays a critical role, making it possible for Ukrainian civilians safely to begin to rebuild their lives.
Thank you, Chair.