Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations 1st Committee: Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons

New York, 23/10/2019 - 22:14, UNIQUE ID: 191023_16
Statements on behalf of the EU

23 October 2019, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Ms. Anne Kemppainen, Minister Counsellor, Head of Political Section for Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Delegation of the European Union in Geneva, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons

Madam Chair,


I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.

While progress is currently challenging on some arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation issues, there are many success stories in the area of conventional arms control and disarmament. The EU and its Member States attach a high priority to the universalisation and effective implementation of conventional arms control and disarmament instruments. We contribute actively to their effective functioning and successful achievements through assuming office-holder positions and other roles in the machinery of various conventions, and also through providing significant voluntary funding to their implementation support units. We encourage all States to recognise their responsibility in advancing the work of these important instruments, which includes the fulfilment of their financial obligations to the disarmament conventions. Once again, we urge all States which have not yet done so to comply with their financial obligations and to pay their contributions and arrears in full and without further delay. We also believe that the active and equal participation and leadership of women in decision making and action, including in the area of conventional arms control and disarmament, is crucial in achieving peace, security and sustainable development.


The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is a good example of effective multilateralism and international cooperation, combining a strong global norm with impressive results on the ground with regard to humanitarian protection, stabilisation, development and disarmament. In the year of its 20th anniversary since entry into force, we expect the Review Conference to review progress, reaffirm commitment and generate a push for further universalisation and improved implementation of obligations under this Convention by its 164 States Parties, in order to avoid new victims. In this context, we support Norway in its role as President of the Fourth Review Conference. We encourage all parties to accelerate progress towards achieving a world free of anti-personnel mines by 2025. Our common objectives for the Review Conference are laid down in the EU Council Conclusions of 25 June 2019 on strengthening the ban against anti-personnel mines.  


The EU and its Member States are among the top donors for mine action and continue to provide important support for affected countries and regions. The combined funding by the EU Institutions and EU Member States has covered all aspects of mine action, including mine clearance risk education, stockpile destruction and victim assistance, and has amounted to more than EUR 500 million since the Maputo Review Conference in 2014.


We recall that illicit, poorly regulated or unregulated flows of arms and ammunition contribute to instability and conflicts, fuel terrorism, organised crime and violence, including gender-based violence, thereby threatening international peace and security and causing a wide range of humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences. We welcome increasing international awareness of the contributions of effective arms control in preventing violent conflict. The EU advocates an integrated approach, such as is contained in the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, with prevention at its core, to target the root causes of violent conflict and help enable long-term sustainable development.


We call on all UN Member States, in particular the major arms exporters, importers and transit countries to join the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which has made impressive progress over the past five years. The ATT is the only legally-binding international instrument to regulate the trade and transfer of conventional arms and ammunition, and to prevent and eradicate their illicit trade and diversion. The assessment requirements in the ATT ensure that all risks outlined in the Treaty provisions, including serious gender-based violence, are properly considered, prior to export of the items covered by the Treaty. This contributes to ensuring greater respect for international law, including international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law. We welcome the work done this year under Latvia’s ATT Presidency to fully consider gender in relation to the Treaty and to ensure the financial viability and sustainability of the ATT. We urge States to improve their national arms export control systems and support international efforts to establish the highest possible common standards to regulate international arms trade. The creation of a global level playing field with the involvement of industry and other stakeholders will positively contribute to peace, security and stability, respect for international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, and sustainable development.


All EU Member States have joined the Arms Trade Treaty and are pursuing its objectives. The EU Common Position governing arms exports of EU Member States has become an important benchmark also to other countries, and the EU’s outreach and assistance activities are helping to build capacities for effective national implementation and attract new States to adhere to the ATT. The Council of the EU finalised on 16 September 2019 the review process of the 2008 EU Common Position on the control of arms exports in order to take into account developments such as the entry into force of the ATT. The EU and EU Member States continue to be among the most transparent actors in the field of international arms trade. We call on all ATT States Parties to comply with their reporting obligations, in a timely and complete fashion. The EU also provides financial support to third countries for the promotion of effective arms export controls aimed, inter alia, at preventing all relevant aspects of diversion.


We consider that the UN Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (PoA) is the appropriate global framework to counter the threat posed by illicit SALW and we call for its full and effective implementation at national, regional and global levels.


In November 2018, the EU adopted its new Strategy against illicit firearms, small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. A number of new capacity building projects have already been launched in support of small arms control in the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, in cooperation with UNDP/SEESAC, the League of Arab States and the Organisation for American States respectively. The EU also provides funding for a UN project in support of gender mainstreaming in policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council aimed at advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Most recently in July 2019, a new EU Council Decision was adopted in support of a dialogue among civil society organisations in Africa, China and Europe with a view to increasing understanding and cooperating on preventing the diversion of arms and ammunition in Africa. New EU assistance projects for small arms control are currently in discussion and in their preparatory phases in cooperation with the UN in the Sahel region, and with the OSCE in Ukraine.


Over the past 15 years, the EU has contracted more than EUR 100 million to SALW control projects in third countries, with a focus on support for legislation and regional cooperation, the collection and destruction of illicit and surplus SALW and ammunition, physical security and stockpile management (PSSM), awareness raising and capacity development for marking, record keeping and tracing. In line with these commitments, the EU has decided to become a supporter of Action 22 of the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament with regard to securing excessive and poorly managed stockpiles.


The EU welcomes the process established by UN General Assembly Resolution 72/55 on Problems Arising from the Accumulation of Conventional Ammunition Stockpiles in Surplus. The EU commends the informal consultative process held during the past two years within the framework of Resolution 72/55, to identify issues for potential consideration in the work of the Group of Governmental Experts to be convened by the Secretary-General in 2020.


Through implementing these complementary instruments – the UN Programme of Action, the Arms Trade Treaty, the International Tracing Instrument, and the Firearms Protocol – all States can help to regulate the trade and transfer of conventional arms and ammunition, and to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade and diversion, as a contribution to peace, security and stability. In addition, we can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), notably target 16.4 on reducing illicit flows of arms and ammunition and combatting organised crime, and also target 5.2 on eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls.

Another multilateral instrument in the field of the arms trade is the UN Register of Conventional Arms, which contributes to enhanced transparency in armaments and hence plays an important role as a confidence-building measure among UN Member States. All UN Member States can submit data on their imports and exports of conventional arms covered by the Register and, where in a position do to so, to report their international transfers of small arms and light weapons in parallel (“seven plus one” formula). UN Member States are also invited, to provide additional background information regarding their military holdings, procurement through national production and relevant policies. The EU welcomes the consensus report agreed in June 2019 by the Group of Governmental Experts on the UN Register and supports the continuing operation of the Register. In that regard, as the number of annual reports which have been submitted in the past years remains low, the EU calls on all UN Member States to submit their reports annually and on time. Following the recommendation contained in the consensus report of the 2019 Group of Governmental experts, the EU also calls upon all States to report their international transfers of small arms and light weapons to the UN Register.

Madam Chair,

The Convention on Cluster Munitions will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its entry into force at the Second Review Conference next year. The EU supports its humanitarian goal and calls upon all actors to refrain from the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions affecting civilian populations and to fully observe the principles of International Humanitarian Law. We welcome positive developments in the implementation of the Dubrovnik Action Plan, as reported at the Ninth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva.

The EU supports efforts to universalise and strengthen the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and stresses the importance of compliance with all CCW provisions and annexed Protocols, two of them being chaired by Finland and Poland respectively. We strongly support efforts to strengthen this important instrument of international law and international humanitarian law in order to reduce the humanitarian harm and minimise the risks and effects in particular of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERW). We welcome the CCW’s growing role in counter-IED work and take this opportunity to highlight the new EU Regulation (EU) 2019/1148, which strengthens the already existing EU-wide rules to prevent terrorist access to explosives precursors. We believe that also mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM) should remain under consideration within the CCW framework.

Ensuring compliance with IHL principles and rules is crucial particularly when armed conflicts are increasingly fought in urban areas, exposing civilians and the civilian infrastructure to substantial risks. We appreciate the efforts undertaken in this regard to enhance compliance with IHL and to raise awareness of the risks associated with the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and their impact on civilians and civilian objects. Indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations, the recurrence of attacks against medical facilities, schools and humanitarian workers, and the arbitrary denial of humanitarian access to people in need are all unacceptable, yet reported on a regular basis. We support the continuation of discussions on these issues within the CCW. We are willing to contribute to exchanges of best practices to enhance compliance with IHL and to engage in further work. Recently, the EU and its Member States were among the 133 States which attended the Vienna Conference "Protecting civilians in urban warfare".

On the theme of emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems, the EU welcomes the outcome of the 2019 session of the open-ended Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE LAWS) as a good basis for further progress, notably the agreement on the 11 guiding principles and the importance of human-machine interaction. We emphasise that human beings should make the decisions with regard to the use of lethal force, exert control over lethal weapons systems they use, and remain accountable for decisions over life and death in order to ensure compliance with international law, in particular international humanitarian law and international human rights law. We call upon all High Contracting Parties to constructively engage in order to agree on substantive recommendations on aspects of a normative and operational framework ahead of the 2021 CCW Review Conference. We recall that CCW is the relevant international forum in this regard combining legal and military expertise and involving the private sector and civil society. The CCW must remain responsive to fast pace developments in the field of weapons technology, be able to adequately address them and ensure that international legal frameworks remain appropriate.

Thank you, Madam Chair.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.