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1C: Conventional weapons

Statement by Mr. Knut Langeland, Special Representative for Disarmament, in First Committee on Convetional weapons, 18 October 2017.

| First committee

Mr Chair,

Conventional arms control has a profound impact on international, regional, national and human security.

Small arms and light weapons kill more than half a million people each year. We must therefore intensify efforts to combat irresponsible and illegal trade in, and use of, such weapons, including ammunition.

Norway is a firm supporter of the Arms Trade Treaty. It provides fundamental norms for responsible trade in conventional arms, including assessing the potential for gender-based violence before arms exports are authorised. We are also convinced that the Treaty contributes substantially to global security and stability. Acts of terror often rely on access to arms.

The illicit arms trade is often a key factor in transnational organised crime, and in financing international terrorism and activities of non-state armed groups. We are pleased that the Treaty is gaining ground.

Norway appreciates the constructive way Ambassador Klaus Krohonen has chaired the last inter-sessional period, and his dedication to universalising the Treaty.

The UN Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons has made important contributions to national, regional and international security. Since the programme was adopted 15 years ago, a number of steps have been explored to further enhance its relevance. We must continue these efforts, particularly in the run-up to the third review conference next year.

Mr Chair,

This year is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty. During these 20 years, 51 million landmines have been destroyed and countless civilian lives have been spared. Our vision is still for the world to be mine-free by 2025. Sadly, over the last few years we have seen an increase in the use of improvised landmines as tools of war. The number of civilian casualties from landmines is once again increasing.

Next year, the global community will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Cluster Munitions Convention, which is another instrument that has made a substantial difference to human security. However, these weapons too are still being used in a number of conflicts.

The Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have established norms which are widely respected, not just by the parties themselves. They have demonstrated their value in enhancing human security.

We must continue to support these two vital instruments, while at the same time being aware of new and emerging threats to our security.

The main challenge in the years to come will be the widespread use of homemade devices, produced and placed by non-state actors. Addressing large-scale contamination by improvised mines - and the suffering they cause - will require coordinated efforts and dedicated resources from the international community.

Freed areas of Iraq and Syria need to be cleared of all explosive remnants of war so that internally displaced people can return, and the population can resume their normal lives. Mine action is no longer something we do long after the conflict is over. It is relevant in ongoing conflicts in ways not seen before.

Mr Chair,

We would like many more countries to participate in the ongoing discussions on how to enhance protection of civilians in conflict, and thus improve compliance with international humanitarian law. There is a clear obligation to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants in conflict. 

In Syria, Yemen and Ukraine, we have witnessed the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. This results in extensive loss of civilian. This use is clearly disproportionate and in violation of international humanitarian law.

The destruction of critical infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals affects the prospects for post-conflict rehabilitation, peace-building and reconstruction long after the actual fighting is over.

Mr Chair,

New and fast evolving technologies for conventional weapons may pose new dilemmas and raise a number of legal and ethical questions. For example, there are already discussions about lethal autonomous weapons systems, and in particular, about whether such weapons systems, once activated, will be able to select and engage targets without further human intervention.

These questions will have to be pursued within the CCW. As new weapons technology continues to be developed, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the basic rules and principles of international law are upheld.

Thank you.