18 October 2011 - General Assembly - 1st Committee - Conventional weapons - Statement by Mr. Eric Danon, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament
Mr. President, Dear Colleagues,
Once again this year, there are many resolutions on conventional weapons, including the one presented by Germany and France on surplus ammunition stocks. We hope that it will enjoy a consensus.
Among all the weapons being discussed here at the First Committee, i.e. nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, etc., it is the conventional weapons that result in the greatest number of victims.
The ones that have the most unacceptable humanitarian impact are fortunately subject to progressive bans. Thanks to the continuous mobilization of civil society and the NGOs – which deserve our thanks – the international community has become aware - notably since the end of the conflicts in Southeast Asia - of the unacceptable nature of weapons that affect innocent people – including many children - in a particularly cruel manner, even decades after the conflict.
It is in this spirit that, within a period of almost 20 years, the Ottawa Convention on Antipersonnel Mines, the Protocol to the CCW on the Explosive Remnants of War and lastly, the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions were adopted. France was among the first 30 countries to ratify the latter.
However, the conclusion of these agreements is not enough, since the latter were not adopted by the entire international community. Their universalization, which remains and will always remain a priority for us, meets with resistance on the part of many key countries. We therefore deplore the fact that the countries which have the largest stockpiles of antipersonnel mines or cluster munitions feel unable to ratify the Ottawa and Oslo Conventions in the near future.
We take note of this without however resigning ourselves to the situation. And while we wait for them to join these conventions, we will try and achieve concrete results on the ground. We therefore support the idea of developing an effective regulatory framework, which although less restrictive, would constitute a step toward a comprehensive ban.
This norm already exists for antipersonnel mines. And in November, we will resume the task of negotiating in the CCW in order to try and establish a sixth Protocol on Cluster Munitions.
For our part, this pragmatic and conscious choice in support of a sixth Protocol will only apply if two essential criteria are met: compatibility with the Oslo Convention as well as the immediate and critical humanitarian impact
The latest version of the text by the President of the Group of Governmental Experts stipulates a stringent ban on all of the deadliest weapons produced before 1980, which could represent more than 40% of the world’s stockpile of these weapons. But we still need to make progress on a key point – the immediate humanitarian impact of this protocol. France will make proposals in this direction. We will work with all the parties concerned to achieve a protocol that will undoubtedly be a major contribution to international humanitarian law.
France is also deeply concerned by the catastrophic spread and use of small arms and light weapons. The illegal trafficking and excessive stockpiling of these weapons contribute to the phenomenon of armed violence which, in addition to causing human suffering, impedes the development of many countries.
The EU was not slow to take practical measures. Thus, since the end of 2008, on the initiative of the French presidency, it has systematically proposed the insertion of a clause on small arms and light weapons in its association agreements with third countries. In December 2010, it also adopted a decision defining projects for combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW) by air, in follow-up to an initiative launched by France in 2006.
We will therefore support, with the same determination, the strengthening of the UN Program of Action at the Review Conference in August next year. This is a crucial text with respect to mobilizing the international community in support of this issue.
I would like to use this opportunity to express France’s support for the Nigerian presidency. We fully support its announced intention to engage in informal consultations as swiftly as possible in order to identify the areas where progress is needed. We believe, as indicated during the informal consultations on the sidelines of our session, that we must make the best possible use of the 2 weeks that we will have at the end of the year. In order to do that, it will be important to limit the time devoted to the general debate, which we hope will be forward-looking and will focus on the ways and means to improve the Program of Action, rather than lead to a succession of presentations of past achievements.
In this very forum, we launched a process in 2009 aimed at negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty. Our aim is an ambitious one: regulating legal commerce of conventional weapons, on one hand, and preventing its illegal trafficking, on the other.
We welcome the smooth unfolding and positive atmosphere of the preparatory committees for the 2012 conference. Our debates dealt with the future treaty’s general principles and objectives, its possible structure, its area of application, its parameters and implementation mechanisms on both the national and international levels, and the treaty’s final provisions.
The latest text, distributed by the chairman of the preparatory committee, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, is a first attempt at reflecting the most diverse views expressed at the PrepComs, and represents an initial attempt to establish consistency among the various “chunks” of the future treaty.
We applaud this text, because it does not omit any of the key concepts of the future treaty: the regulation of legal commerce with the establishment of national monitoring systems that operate on the basis of shared criteria; the prevention of illegal trade, with a system of incrimination of unacceptable behaviors; and finally, a system of cooperation and extended assistance. These elements will help make this treaty a useful tool in the collective improvement of world governance with respect to weapons transfers. They lay out the three pillars of the treaty.
We fully approve the methods chosen by Chairman Garcia Moritan thus far, and his talent for listening to the concerns of all the delegations—a quality that will be precious at the 2012 conference, which we hope he will chair. We want to express our full confidence in Chairman Garcia Moritan and want the 2012 conference to be a complete success.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.