Statement by Christopher Buck, Alternate Representative, U.S. First Committee Delegation, at the Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons

New York, NY
October 29, 2013


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the interest of time, I will address several separate issues in this statement relating to the Arms Trade Treaty, the UN Register of Conventional Arms, conventional weapons destruction, small arms and light weapons, man-portable air defense systems, and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Let me start with the Arms Trade Treaty. The United States is proud to have signed the ATT on September 25 because we know from decades of effort that any time that we work cooperatively to address the illicit international trade in conventional weapons, we make the world a safer place. This Treaty is a significant step in that effort.

The ATT helps lift countries up to the highest standards of export and import control for conventional weapons. It requires countries that join it to create and enforce the kind of strict national export controls that the United States already has in place. This Treaty strengthens countries’ national security, builds global security, and advances important humanitarian goals without undermining the legitimate international trade in conventional arms which allows each country to provide for its own defense.

The United States looks forward to the early entry into force of the Treaty, and we call on those countries that have not signed it to consider doing so as soon as possible. We also need signatory States to be ready to implement the Treaty’s obligations once they ratify it. The United States looks forward to working with other countries on implementing this Treaty to ensure that it lives up to all of our expectations.

Mr. Chairman, my country was pleased to have participated in the 2013 UN Group of Governmental Experts that reviewed the continuing operation of the UN Register. Unfortunately, the GGE was unable to bring an end to its now 13-year discussion of small arms and light weapons by agreeing to expand the Register to including SA/LW. This means that the 2013 GGE repeated the failure of the 2009 GGE to address the security concerns of the states that traditionally do not report to the Register by expanding it to include the weapons that are of most concern to them. We hope that the next GGE will correct this shortcoming and reinforce the Register’s role as a global transparency and confidence-building measure.

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 $2.1 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. We have assisted 15 affected states to become mine-impact free. Since 2001, we have helped to destroy more than 1.6 million excess or poorly secured weapons and over 90,000 tons of munitions around the world.

Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomes the adoption by the UN Security Council of its first standalone resolution on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and thanks Australia for its leadership on the matter. The illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation, and misuse of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world pose a threat to international security, and the resolution laid out a variety of measures that should be taken by all Member States to reduce the risk that deadly weapons may fall into the wrong hands. The United States also continues to urge fellow Member States to fully implement the 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and the 2005 International Tracing Instrument. Much more needs to be done by the international community to ensure full implementation of existing commitments in these instruments, and we look forward to discussing these issues at the Biennial Meeting of States in June 2014.

In addition to supporting the above mentioned programs to destroy excess small arms and light weapons, 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 of at-risk conventional arms and munitions.

Mr. Chairman, in the hands of terrorists, insurgents, or criminals, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems – 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 over 33,000 excess, loosely-secured, illicitly held, or otherwise at-risk MANPADS missiles, and thousands more launchers, in 38 countries.

Mr. Chairman, the United States is a High Contracting Party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons 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.

We look forward to the annual meetings of High Contracting Parties in November and to establishing a program of work for 2014 that will allow CCW States to continue supporting the universalization of the CCW and the implementation of all its Protocols. During this past year, questions have arisen regarding the development and use of lethal fully autonomous weapons in forums such as the Human Rights Council. As the United States delegation to the Human Rights Council stated, we welcome discussion among states of the legal, policy, and technological implications associated with lethal fully autonomous weapons in an appropriate forum that has a primary focus on international humanitarian law issues, if the mandate is right. The United States believes the CCW is that forum. CCW High Contracting Parties include a broad range of States, including those that have incorporated or are considering incorporating automated and autonomous capabilities in weapon systems. The CCW can bring together those with technical, military, and international humanitarian law expertise, ensuring that all aspects of the issue can be considered. Accordingly, we support an informal, exploratory discussion of lethal fully autonomous weapons and are engaged with our fellow CCW High Contracting Parties in formulating an appropriate mandate that will facilitate these discussions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2013/206