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30 October 2013 - General Assembly - First Committee - Statement by Mr Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Ambassador and French Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

“Conventional weapons”
(Unofficial translation)

Mr Chairman, Dear Colleagues,

France naturally stands behind the statement of the European Union. I would like to add the following remarks on behalf of France:

This year has been marked by a historic development: the conclusion of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This text is a milestone. Universal standards to govern legitimate trade and prevent illicit trafficking have at last been approved. They will help strengthen international peace and security. They make international humanitarian law and international human rights law central to the criteria the States Parties are committed to abiding by. They will help combat effectively the illicit spread of conventional weapons worldwide, thus combating terrorist groups and organized crime. They cover most conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, as well as exports of ammunition for them.

This is the first major security treaty adopted by the United Nations in more than fifteen years. It shows that the international community is capable of successfully holding such negotiations in a particularly sensitive area that is central to national sovereignty. This is the best illustration of the effective multilateralism that France calls for.

France signed the Arms Trade Treaty on 3 June 2013. Our parliamentary ratification procedure is underway. The Senate unanimously approved the text on 8 October. To date, 114 UN Member States have signed the Treaty and 8 have ratified it. This momentum needs to be maintained, so that the Treaty can enter into force quickly. It is also essential that the Arms Trade Treaty brings together the major players in the arms trade, including both importers and exporters.

The Treaty’s implementation is just as important. We will soon have to decide on the terms of the establishment of the Secretariat. Several criteria will have to determine the choice of city to host the headquarters, such as the presence of disarmament and arms control expertise, expertise in international humanitarian law and human rights, trade expertise and the proximity of organizations working in the field. Geneva fully meets all these criteria.

Small arms and light weapons currently cause the most fatalities worldwide. They have a profound destabilizing effect and are an obstacle to the development of the most fragile States. The United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects constitutes a useful framework to formulate international cooperation and ambitious national policies in this field.

The International tracing instrument, adopted in 2005 and initiated jointly by France and Switzerland, strengthened the UN framework to combat the spread of these weapons. UN Security Council Resolution 2117 recently contributed to strengthening the existing framework to prevent the destabilizing accumulation of light weapons. France and Germany are again submitting this year a resolution entitled “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus”. This resolution is traditionally adopted without a vote. We encourage all delegations to co-sponsor it and support its adoption.

Mr Chairman,

France remains committed to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its five protocols, to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. We call on all States which are not yet Parties to accede to these conventions and participate in the international community’s collective efforts to eliminate the threat posed by these weapons.

Our efforts in the field of conventional weapons contribute to strengthening global peace and security and to the longer term goal of general and complete disarmament. They also have a humanitarian aim. In this respect, the massacre committed using chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August is terrifying. But we must not forget the other sufferings of the Syrian people, and the other violations of international humanitarian law, including using other unacceptable weapons such as cluster bombs and, according to certain allegations, incendiary weapons.

Mr Chairman,

On 14 and 15 November 2013, France will chair the meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. This Convention is a unique forum which brings together complementary expertise, including diplomatic, humanitarian, legal and military expertise. This plurality of approaches is a strength. We must take advantage of it. France welcomes the accession of two new States in 2013 to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons: Kuwait and Zambia. France also welcomes the accession of Bangladesh to the amended Article 1 of the Convention and Protocol V. We hope that recent progress towards universalization of the Convention will continue.

Fundamental talks must continue at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. It has taken up subjects whose importance is shown by recent conflicts. But it is also fully relevant to handle new issues.

We must look to the future and address its challenges. A new debate has emerged in recent months on the issue of Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARS). This is a key debate as it raises the fundamental question of the place of Man in the decision to use lethal force. It is also a difficult debate, as it raises many ethical, legal, operational and technical issues. It covers technologies which are not yet fully developed and which are dual-use. The terms of this debate need to be clarified. Please allow me, as chair of the next conference of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), to underline the fact that this forum fulfils those criteria.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Thank you.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU