Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Amended Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices

Group of Experts

Statement by HE Mr Peter Woolcott

Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations in Geneva and Ambassador for Disarmament

23 April 2012

Thank you Mr Coordinator

Over the past few years, we have welcomed the opportunity to discuss how to tackle problems associated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the Amended Protocol II Group of Experts. We would like to thank the Co-Coordinator, Reto Wollenmann of Switzerland, for his constructive contributions and leadership of this topic since 2009.

IEDs are a threat to military forces and the broader civilian population in those countries where these weapons are indiscriminately deployed. We continue to be shocked by the deadly toll they exact in countries around the world. Through terrorist bombings in Bali and Jakarta and in our operations in Afghanistan, Australia, like many other countries represented here, has been affected by IEDs. Many of our fatalities and battle casualties in theatres of operation are from IEDs.

While it is an unfortunate consequence for military personnel that they may be attacked in war, this should not be the case for civilians. In Afghanistan, as in Iraq and other countries, it is civilians – women, children and men – who bear the brunt of insurgent IED attacks. Since 2009, the large majority of casualties result from insurgent attacks using IEDs.

Like others, we invest heavily in the development of effective counter-measures to these weapons and their deployment. In Australia, as elsewhere, there is a great deal of work being conducted by military and police forces to defeat the IED threat and to protect military and civilian personnel from their effects. Better armoured vehicles, personal body army and improved detection equipment only solve a part of the broader problem.

Controls are needed to limit access by non-state actors to military munitions, explosive remnants of war and precursor explosive materials such as the agricultural fertiliser ammonium nitrate. The first two could be achieved by States enhancing their stockpile security, tightening export controls and promoting universal acceptance and strong implementation of Protocol V to the CCW. For the latter, recognising that Amended Protocol II has only limited applicability to restrict the availability of commercial precursors, we should continue to enhance our collective ability to limit access to precursors by non-State actors.

In defeating the IED threat, it is accepted doctrine that all elements of the IED network must be attacked – the parts suppliers, the manufacturers, the financiers, the planners, the facilitators and emplacers. While our scientists will work on better detection and protection, for our part, we must explore options in other inter-related instruments and fora, including in countering organised crime and tracking the movement of illicit funds. We look forward to the presentations at this Group of Experts and learning about the efforts of other States and organisations engaged in tackling the threat posed by IEDs.

For Australia’s part, we have provided a range of assistance for training, supply of equipment and sharing of information and intelligence to our neighbours to build their capacity to better tackle IED threats. By way of example, in November 2011, Australia and Singapore co-hosted a regional workshop on the security of home-made explosive (HME) precursors. It served to raise awareness among government officials of ASEAN member States of the importance of having a robust chemical management framework to prevent terrorists using HME precursors to construct IEDs. Almost all IEDs used by terrorists in South East Asia are constructed from commercially available chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, hydrogen peroxide and others.

Apart from increasing assistance in many regions of the world to clear and destroy explosive remnants of war (ERW), Australia has also assisted the establishment of Bomb Data Centres in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to facilitate sharing of information, IED-related discussions and mentoring. The Australian Defence Force and Australian Federal Police have also provided training in Africa and in South East Asian countries to build Counter-IED capacity. Australia has provided equipment to assist in Counter-IED activities to countries in South and South-East Asia and the Pacific.

Mr Coordinator

I now have the great pleasure in handing over the floor to Brigadier Wayne Budd, Commander of the Australian Defence Force Counter-IED Task Force, who will make a presentation on “The Challenging Scope of the Improvised Explosive Device”.

Thank you.