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"[The Arms Control Association is an] 'exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size.'" 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
CCW Countries Get Ready for Review Conference

Wade Boese

More than 50 states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) met September 24-28 in Geneva for their third and final preparatory meeting for a December 11-21 treaty review conference. The countries identified five issues for consideration at the review conference, the second in the CCW’s history, although participants may raise additional proposals.

Of the five proposals, the one with broadest support calls for making the CCW apply to internal armed conflicts in addition to wars between countries.

Opened for signature in April 1981, the CCW aims to restrict the use of weapons deemed “excessively injurious” and arms that can indiscriminately wound or kill civilians. The convention originally applied only to interstate conflicts, but at the first treaty review conference, held in 1995 and 1996, states-parties amended a protocol to the CCW on mines to, among other things, apply to internal armed conflicts.

The new initiative would do the same for the three other CCW protocols, which deal with incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, and nondetectable-fragment weapons. Adopting a proposal or making any other formal decision at the conference will require consensus among the 87 current states-parties.

A U.S.-Danish proposal to restrict the use of anti-vehicle mines, which Washington contends obstruct delivery of humanitarian aid and make peacekeeping more dangerous, will also top the agenda. The proposal would not ban anti-vehicle mines but would require them to be detectable and to not be deployed indiscriminately. In addition, any remotely delivered anti-vehicle mines, such as those dropped from airplanes or fired from artillery, would need to be equipped with dependable self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms.

Although the anti-vehicle mine proposal has picked up momentum over the past several months, a number of countries—including China, India, and Pakistan—have not endorsed it. Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi said September 26 that China does not support the proposal, arguing that anti-vehicle mines are “an integral part of many developing countries’ national defense strategy” and that it would be financially and technically difficult for these countries to implement the proposed protocol.

States-parties will also weigh proposals to add a compliance mechanism to the treaty to verify whether member states are abiding by it. The United States has offered a proposal setting out processes for investigating allegations of noncompliance and for conducting on-site inspections that apply only to the amended mines protocol and the proposed anti-vehicle mines protocol.

The European Union, led by France, has proposed adopting a similar compliance mechanism for the whole treaty. But several states have not embraced either proposal, making final approval of any compliance mechanism this December unlikely.

Two other issues are also on the agenda: a proposal on exploring how to reduce, prevent, or clean up unexploded ordnance and a plan on prohibiting the use of ammunition that causes excessive internal damage by spinning or ricocheting inside a body. These issues will require much more discussion before a consensus emerges on the best way to handle them.