Geneva, Switzerland

12 December 2016

Secretary-General's message to the Fifth Review Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

[Delivered Mr. Michael Møller, Director-General of United Nations Office at Geneva]

I am pleased to send my greetings to the Fifth Review Conference to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
Thirty-six years after its adoption, the CCW has reached a critical juncture. Our world is increasingly subjected to a form of warfare conducted with unprecedented numbers of weapons and resulting in disastrous civilian casualties. How this Review Conference chooses to further prohibit and regulate certain types of conventional weapons over the next five years will have a significant impact on the prevention of human suffering.
The protection of civilians is at the core of the mission of the United Nations. I appeal to you to abide by your obligations under the CCW and stand firm against any violation of international law. There can be no deviation from the basic principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack.
The protocols of the CCW prohibit and regulate weapons that the international community believes to violate these basic principles.  Its protocols need to be reviewed and, if necessary, strengthened. High Contracting Parties must fully implement all their legal obligations. Those who violate their obligations must be held accountable.
In the cases of Improvised Explosive Devices and anti-vehicle mines, I encourage parties to find a path to dialogue so that these horrific weapons can also be consigned to history.  
This Conference will consider an issue that is becoming increasingly challenging for humanity – the growing use and sophistication of artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies. These technologies will change our daily lives. They will also change the face of warfare, with serious ramifications for international law. I commend High Contracting Parties for responding to this challenge by examining the implications of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Now it is time to take the next step. Establishing a group of government experts could be a welcome step to consider how the international community can take a proactive approach to this critical issue.
The Convention is one our most important tools to guard against human suffering.  In a rapidly changing world it must be kept fit for purpose. I wish High Contracting Parties a successful conference.