Statement by Deputy Legal Adviser Joshua Dorosin
Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Annual Meeting of High Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
Thank you, Mr. President. Our delegation is grateful for your service as the President of this year’s Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the CCW, and I again congratulate you on your election. You have the full support of the U.S. delegation. We would also like to thank the ISU for their support.
The United States places great value on the CCW as an 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. The CCW forum is uniquely situated to address these issues due its mix of diplomatic, military, legal, policy, and technical expertise. We welcome the statements yesterday from Singapore and the United Kingdom, whose actions are furthering the universalization of this important convention.
Mr. President, for more than 40 years the work of this forum has also been greatly enhanced by the active participation of observers, including the ICRC, international organizations and civil society. We deeply regret the unfortunate circumstances that have led to the need to proceed in an informal setting today. The voices of our observers are critical to our deliberations. They must be heard.
The importance of our work this year is especially clear. The United States is gravely concerned about the suffering of civilians in armed conflicts around the world. Parties to any armed conflict must respect their obligations under IHL. We remain gravely concerned about reports of Russia’s failure to comply with its obligations under the CCW and its Protocols during its unlawful, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has littered the country with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other explosive devices. We reiterate our strong support for Ukraine, as expressed in the Joint Statement read by the delegation of the United Kingdom yesterday, and the United States has committed $182 million for humanitarian demining efforts in Ukraine to support clearance efforts.
The tragic suffering that we have witnessed in connection with the current conflict in Gaza must also be acknowledged and addressed. It is also a grave concern. While there can be no question that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself in the wake of the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7 – and no question that Israeli military operations must comply with IHL – it is also necessary to recognize that one party’s suffering during an armed conflict does not negate or detract from another’s. We must acknowledge the pain and suffering of innocent Palestinians that has been described here yesterday and today by many delegations. Innocent civilians have been killed and wounded; there is no family that has not suffered. And people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
But we also cannot look away from the Israeli civilian lives that were lost on October 7th. Or from the pain and suffering of families who wait to know the fate of more than 200 civilians — women, children, the elderly — still held hostage by Hamas.
Mr. President, the United States was proud to announce our endorsement of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. We believe this Declaration can help States do critically important work to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Mr. President, the United States also continues to be the world’s largest contributor to conventional weapons destruction programs. These programs respond to the humanitarian, social, and economic effects generated by all manner of explosive remnants of war and at-risk arms and munitions. These activities include humanitarian mine action, destruction of small arms, light weapons, and munitions, including at-risk man-portable air defense systems or MANPADS, and physical security and stockpile management assistance. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $4.6 billion in such assistance to more than 120 countries.
Finally, Mr. President, we appreciate the significant effort that you have made over the last several months to develop consensus on the mandate for next year’s LAWS GGE. We are also deeply grateful to Ambassador Flavio Damico of Brazil for his skill, dedication and patience during his tenure as the Chair of the LAWS GGE, and in particular for his work to bring about a substantive report that meaningfully advanced the work of the GGE. We believe that it is vitally important to continue our discussions on this issue at CCW. The LAWS GGE needs a mandate that reflects a common vision of what work the GGE will do and how we will do it.
We continue to believe that it would not be responsible to begin negotiations on a legally binding instrument at this time, or to conclude that a binding Protocol is the only acceptable outcome of our work. But we acknowledge that the mandate must continue to give every delegation an equal opportunity to make their case for their preferred outcome – this is the only way that our continued deliberations can advance our important work.
We believe that our discussions over the last two years were very successful in producing a number of proposals that advanced our substantive discussions and offered various options for future work. These included multiple proposals for a legally binding instrument. These also included proposals for non-binding instruments and other options, like the Draft Articles proposal that was submitted earlier this year by Australia, Canada, Japan, Poland, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We suggest that we build upon last year’s mandate and work by considering existing and new proposals with the goal of identifying and further developing common elements of these proposals that would strengthen the implementation of existing IHL principles related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS. If you look across the proposals, there were many commonalities in terms of both the topics addressed and the substance presented. Further progress in the elaboration of prohibitions and regulations on the basis of existing IHL would represent meaningful and important progress in 2024.