Conventional Weapons Segment of Thematic Debate in the First Committee of the Sixty-seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the interest of time, I will address several separate issues in this statement relating to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), conventional weapons destruction, small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
Arms Trade Treaty
Let me start with the Arms Trade Treaty.
The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong ATT that will respond to the adverse impacts of the illicit international arms trade on global peace and stability. An effective treaty – one that recognizes that each nation must tailor and enforce its national export control mechanisms – can help ensure that conventional arms crossing international borders will be used for legitimate purposes and not strengthen the hand of those who would use them to violate international law.
We said at the end of the July Conference that the topic required additional time to improve the outcome. A workable and implementable ATT is within our reach. What we want – what we need – is to get it right. We will continue to work hard towards an ATT that will contribute to international security, protect the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meet the objectives and concerns that we have been articulating throughout the negotiation, including not infringing on the constitutional right of our citizens to bear arms.
The United States strongly supports convening a short UN conference next spring to continue our efforts to negotiate an effective ATT that will address the issues of international arms trade and its regulation by establishing high standards, that can be implemented on a national basis, and that the overwhelming majority of other states can embrace and take forward effectively.
The United States supports the ATT Co-Authors’ resolution, because it appropriately recognizes both where we are in the process of developing an effective treaty, and how we should capitalize on our efforts in July to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion. We should use the time between now and the spring to reflect on the text that our Conference President of last July, Roberto Garcia Moritan, put together as a result of his extensive consultations, and to determine what additional changes are required to make that text an acceptable and effective treaty. It is unfortunate that the Conference President was prevented from delivering the report in person.
Conventional Weapons Destruction
Now let me turn to conventional weapons destruction. The United States continues its strong support for eliminating aging, surplus, loosely-secured, or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons and munitions, as well as explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, we have provided more than $2 billion in aid to over 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs, including clearance of landmines and unexploded munitions and destruction of excess small arms and light weapons and munitions.
Small Arms/Light Weapons
Mr. Chairman the United States is dedicated to the full implementation of the 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (POA).
The United States supports implementation of the “International Tracing Instrument” (ITI), as well as the recommendations of the UN GGE on small arms and light weapons brokering.
The United States welcomes the adoption by consensus of the outcome document by States participating in the 2nd Review Conference of the POA, and applauds the inclusion of language on the role of women and regional organizations in implementing the POA, as well as the establishment of a Schedule of Meetings from 2012 to 2018. We also welcome the inclusion of a call for States to identify their point of contact for implementation of the International Tracing Instrument by the Review Conference to be held in 2018.
The United States provides a wide variety of assistance to combat the illicit trafficking of conventional weapons, helping states improve their export control practices and providing technical assistance for physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) for at-risk arms and munitions. Since 2001, the U.S. Department of State supported programs that have destroyed approximately 1.6 million excess or poorly secured weapons and over 90,000 tons of munitions around the world.
The United States also strongly supports the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the UN Register of Conventional Arms. This subject has been discussed since 2000, and it is high time that the Register be expanded to address the conventional weapons security concerns of most of the world.
Mr. Chairman, in the hands of terrorists, insurgents, or criminals, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) – also known as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles – pose a serious threat to global passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world. In recognition of the risk of diversion and potential use by terrorists, insurgents and criminals, the United States has established strict export controls over the transfer of all MANPADS. The U.S. Government transfers only on a government-to-government basis through the Foreign Military Sales system. Since 2003, the United States has cooperated with countries around the globe to destroy nearly 33,000 excess, loosely secured, illicitly held, or otherwise at-risk MANPADS in 37 countries.
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
Mr. Chairman, the United States is a High Contracting Party to the CCW and all of its five Protocols. The United States attaches importance to the CCW as an instrument that has been able to bring together States with diverse national security concerns.
The United States was deeply disappointed by the failure of the Fourth Review Conference to conclude a protocol on cluster munitions. The protocol would have led to the immediate prohibition of many millions of cluster munitions; placed the remaining cluster munitions under a detailed set of restrictions and regulations; and subjected member states to a detailed list of additional obligations on issues such as clearance, transparency and destruction, all of which would have led to a substantial humanitarian impact around the world.
The United States will continue to minimize potential risks to civilians and civilian infrastructure through implementation of the U.S. Department of Defense policy on Cluster Munitions and Unintended Harm to Civilians signed by Secretary Gates in June 2008. It states that after 2018, the U.S. Military Departments and Combatant Commands will only employ cluster munitions containing submunitions that, after arming, do not result in more than 1 percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments. We encourage other countries to take similar steps.
We look forward to the annual meetings of High Contracting Parties in November and to establishing a program of work for 2013 that will allow CCW states to continue supporting the universalization of the CCW and implementation of all its Protocols.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.