CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties, 22-24 November 2017
General Exchange of Views
Australia congratulates you on your election as Chair of this meeting of High Contracting Parties and assures you of our full support. We look forward to constructive discussions on the comprehensive agenda for this meeting throughout the rest of the week.
Australia attaches great importance to the CCW as a key treaty of international humanitarian law. We support progress toward universalisation of the Convention and its Protocols and encourage all States who have not become States Parties to do so. We congratulate Afghanistan and Lebanon on joining the Convention in 2017.
Australia agrees that the CCW is the appropriate forum for continued consideration of the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems. We thank Ambassador Amandeep Gill for his skilful chairmanship of the inaugural GGE on LAWS last week, and welcome the GGE’s recommendations to this meeting, which were adopted by consensus at the GGE. We look forward to the endorsement by this meeting of the recommended continuation of the GGE’s mandate in 2018.
Australia recognises the potential value which autonomy brings to military and civilian technologies. Development of technology with greater artificial intelligence, autonomy and capability is being undertaken throughout both the private and military sectors. While Australia considers a pre-emptive prohibition of LAWS to be premature, we note the potential risks associated with these systems.
Like any weapon or method of warfare, these systems must comply with international humanitarian law. We look forward in particular to the ongoing discussions in the GGE on the characteristics of LAWS, human involvement in the use of lethal force, the human machine partnership, and the process for reviewing LAWS in accordance with Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.
At the same time, Australia would like to see discussions on LAWS more grounded in the realities of the military context, including how human control is exercised in modern militaries and the logical impossibility of uncontrolled or unpredictable systems having military utility or of such systems passing weapons reviews. .
Australia agrees there must be limits on the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. Australia considers robust targeting processes, which strictly adhere to existing international humanitarian law to be the appropriate way of addressing this issue.
Compliance with key principles of existing international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality, precautions in attack and avoidance of unnecessary suffering, is critical in minimising civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure. We encourage states to develop and implement comprehensive targeting processes that apply these principles and take into account the possible secondary and tertiary effects of any strike.
Australia supports continued discussions on MOTAPM. Undetectable MOTAPM pose grave humanitarian risks to civilians. An approach on MOTAPM that either increases detectability or restricts use and focuses on minimising post-conflict humanitarian harm would be an appropriate focus for the future work of the CCW.
Australia has been a long-standing supporter of the CCW Sponsorship Programme. We are contributing over AUD70,000 to the Programme between 2016 and 2019. The Programme is a critical mechanism for ensuring the broadest possible participation in the meetings of the Convention and enhancing our discussions with a full range of perspectives of States Parties and experts. We encourage all States Parties with the means to do so to support the Programme.
The current financial state of the CCW is of great concern to Australia. We are deeply disappointed that a number of CCW meetings could not be held this year because of the failure of a number of States to pay their Conference dues. We are also greatly saddened to learn that due to the shortfall in funds the staff of the Implementation Support Unit, whose diligent service we rely on so heavily for our work, will not have their contracts extended in 2018. It is simply unacceptable that the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols that we – and our faithful ISU colleagues – have strived progress, has been cut short by such financial irresponsibility.
At the Review Conference of the CCW in 2016 we recognised this issue as a major threat to the work of the CCW, and gave you, Ambassador Rowland, a mandate to address it. We thank you for the report you have submitted to us and support fully the new financial rules annexed to it as a balanced set of measures for bringing greater clarity and stability to the Convention’s budget process and encouraging full payment of dues. We urge the adoption of these new financial rules, and call on all States Parties to fulfil their financial obligations under the Convention so that we can continue with our important work, and be supported in doing so by the expertise of the ISU.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.