Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)
General Exchange of Views
Statement by Australia
22 August 2011

Statement delivered by Group Captain Alan Hemmingway, Department of Defence

On behalf of the Australian delegation, I wish to outline some brief reflections on the negotiations for a draft protocol on cluster munitions within the CCW.

Australia’s objectives in these negotiations have not changed from those outlined by Ambassador Woolcott at the 2010 Meeting of High Contracting Parties. That is, Australia seeks a strong humanitarian outcome and one that develops international humanitarian law. Its minimum elements should include:

  • meaningful prohibitions with some immediate effects; 

  • the shortest possible transition periods; 

  • stockpile destruction and clearance obligations; 

  • a ban on transfers; and 

  • definitional consistency with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

We thank you for your draft of 1 June 2011, in CCW/GGE/2011-III/1. We appreciate the efforts you have made to move the discussions forward. The draft as it stands would go a long way to prohibiting, and requiring the destruction of, the oldest and least safe cluster munitions in existence. We particularly welcome the removal of the optional deferral period within the prohibitions and restrictions on transfers of cluster munitions (in Article 7). This has been a consistent request of many States for a long time. There are also some additional useful initiatives in the text, such as the endeavour clause in Article 13(3). The endeavour clause, and the notion that the protocol’s prohibitions and restrictions should strengthen over time, especially gives us hope that a bridge can be found on a political level between opposing sides in this negotiation.

We also note that you changed a small element of the transparency provisions in Article 13(4) and (5), but overall they would continue to require extensive reporting by States Parties, especially those with stockpiles of cluster munitions. If CCW States are to accept a protocol on cluster munitions, we feel that strong requirements on transparency will be an important element to the package. We encourage you to retain the current elements and explore how they may be strengthened where possible.

We also acknowledge there are important developments in the text that would pave new ground for the CCW, including on stockpile destruction, clearance, victim assistance and international cooperation and assistance.

As a country that is a supporter of the CCM and one that seeks strong humanitarian outcomes from our current negotiations, the draft protocol is not as comprehensive as we would like. We feel it could do more to contribute to safer outcomes for civilians after conflict and strengthen international humanitarian law. For instance, we would welcome a later cut off date for the immediate prohibition of cluster munitions than that of 1980 and we would like to see shorter deferral periods on the prohibition on use and stockpile. We would certainly like to avoid any expansion in the categories of weapons listed in Technical Annex A and believe that some tightening of the exclusion of weapons leaving no more than one per cent unexploded ordnance would be warranted and should be explored by States.

Overall, Mr Chair, we recognise that the text has certainly moved in the right direction since negotiations began. Many of its provisions have been strengthened and if one honestly compares the current text to how it stood in 2008, 2009 or even in 2010 there has been undeniable progress on the humanitarian front.

In order for participants to make an assessment of the protocol’s humanitarian impact, we need more information from those States possessing cluster munitions. Some indication of the protocol’s immediate and post-deferral impact on stockpiles, even if aggregated, is important for diplomatic, political and ultimately public understanding of the deal to be made. We thank the United States and Ukraine for their helpful contributions in this regard and encourage others to be as forthcoming.

We acknowledge that the negotiations for, and potential adoption of, a protocol on cluster munitions in the CCW would come at a cost for several countries, both on the side of those who are amongst the supporters of the CCM, and those who continue to possess and produce cluster munitions. The differences between some States are significant, but we trust are not so wide as to prevent a meaningful humanitarian outcome. We believe the CCW has much to contribute and we hope this opportunity to strengthen IHL is not lost. In our view, your text offers the best basis for ongoing negotiations on cluster munitions as we head into this week and hopefully for its finalisation at the Review Conference in November. We look forward to working with you and other delegations to conclude these negotiations.

Thank you.