1C: Conventional Weapons

Statement by Norway in the First Committee Thematic Discussion under the cluster of weapons of mass destruction, 19 October 2022.

We are in a time of re-armament. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that 2021 broke yet another record for global military spending. Conventional arms and equipment consistently draw the most resources; and remain the major cause of casualties and destruction in armed conflict, time and time again exacting the heaviest toll on civilians.

We are convinced that improved security and protection for all can be achieved at significantly lower levels of armament. That requires building trust and confidence around commonly agreed norms and rules. Measures to ensure effective export control, arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament and transparency in armaments have a direct, positive bearing on international peace and security – and must be resolutely promoted.

Escalating global tension – not least through Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine – threaten the conventional arms control and disarmament architecture. Confidence and security building measures and instruments that have served us well for decades, are being undermined. We must act to preserve what we have, and endeavour to make further progress at a time when established norms are being severely challenged.

Global security affects us all and is a responsibility for all. Civil society, international organisations and academia play a central role. Their participation in all relevant fora must be protected. We must also strive to achieve a gender balance and diversity in disarmament fora, and to integrate these perspectives in our work.

It is paramount to reduce the human suffering linked to the trafficking and diversion of Small Arms and Light Weapons – and their ammunition. These weapons have serious humanitarian impacts and exacerbate conflict and pervasive crime worldwide.
Norway staunchly supports the Arms Trade Treaty. By establishing effective international norms and standards, and support for capacity building and cooperation, the ATT counteracts illicit trade and diversion of a wide range of arms. With 111 States Parties, the convention has a real potential to prevent armed violence. But more is needed. We call on more of our fellow Member States to join the treaty as a matter of priority.

The Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions are cornerstones of the humanitarian disarmament architecture. Firmly based on principles of international humanitarian law, they have established clear norms against the use and stockpiling of these indiscriminate weapons. The treaties have been hugely successful, and their norms adhered to by many more than the States Parties. The way that states, mine action operators and organisations work hand in hand to implement these conventions, set them apart. Yet, cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines – including those of an improvised nature – continue to pose a dire threat to affected communities. Reported new use is of grave concern. We urge our fellow States Parties to maintain a high level of funding for mine action, and we urge states not party to these conventions to join them without delay.

Repeated annual reports of the UN Secretary General on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict show that civilians account for almost 90 % of recorded causalities when explosive weapons were used in populated areas. Russia’s brutal attacks on civilians in Ukraine is a stark reminder. Norway supports the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. It commits us to review and improve the way we conduct our military operations; and to make significant efforts to strengthen the protection of civilians. We look forward to the high-level conference in Dublin in November where states are invited to endorse this declaration.

With the promise of speed, efficiency and accuracy exceeding human abilities, autonomous functionality is making its way into modern life – including weapons. Autonomy has significant potential. At the same time, it raises serious legal, ethical and military concerns. It challenges our conceptions of control and responsibility. We must ensure that weapons systems featuring autonomy remain under meaningful human control. We have a window of opportunity to address these challenges by clarifying and elaborating adequate norms and rules before the technology fully matures.

The work on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons has considerably developed our collective understanding of this complex domain. Yet, for two consecutive years it has not been possible to translate the growing convergence into agreed conclusions. The complexity and risks of the matter require us to make progress. We expect this imperative to translate into action at the coming CCW Meeting of States Parties.
Thank you.