Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva
Switzerland, Liechtenstein

Statement669

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
Protocol V: Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)

10 November 2014

General Exchange of Views

Statement by Australia


Australia congratulates you on your appointment and assures you of our delegation’s full cooperation in your work.

Australia remains committed to addressing the problems posed by explosive remnants of war. Through its Mine Action Strategy for the Australian aid program (2010-2014), Australia has contributed over $123 million since 2010 to reduce the threat and socioeconomic impact of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.

The majority of Australia’s mine action assistance is delivered through our bilateral aid programs focussed on heavily affected countries of the Indo-Pacific region. Australia also administers a small fund to support initiatives which add regional or global value to mine action programs, including through research, monitoring, evaluation and advocacy.

Australia’s aid program has helped to clear explosive remnants of war from priority areas in over twenty countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Mozambique, Palau and Sri Lanka.

Whilst most of Australia’s funding has been used to clear contaminated areas and undertake risk education, Australia has also provided support for the care and rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of victims of explosive remnants of war.

Our support reflects our integrated and comprehensive approach to mine action, which, to the extent possible, includes clearance, risk education and facilitating the return of contaminated land to productive use.

Our funding considerations take into account the extent that a state has demonstrated commitment to Protocol V of this Convention, as well as to other relevant conventions.

Our funding is responsive to the priority that mine action is accorded within the national development, humanitarian and security agendas of recipient States. We also consider that it is important that communities affected by ERW are engaged in the process of prioritising areas for clearance, handing cleared land back to communities, and planning development and poverty reduction activities following clearance.

Australia’s support through the aid program is complemented by clearance work undertaken by the Australian Defence Force through OPERATION RENDER SAFE, an enduring contribution to the clearance, removal and destruction of explosive ordnance in the South West Pacific.

In late 2013, the ADF conducted explosive ordnance removal activities in Solomon Islands during Operation RENDER SAFE in conjunction with the New Zealand Navy, United States Navy, Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit. The activity focused on the safe removal of WWII-era unexploded ordnance and also involved initial community engagement, surface and underwater search, and then render safe and disposal operations.

In October 2014, Operation RENDER SAFE was conducted in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (PNG), following a request from the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The operation was endorsed by the PNG national Government and undertaken in cooperation with the United States, United Kingdom, Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Canada.

As for capacity building, in 2013, Australia provided training on Explosive Ordnance Disposal to military personnel from the United States, PNG, New Zealand, Tonga and Thailand. Through its Defence Cooperation program, Australia is committed to continuing to support explosive ordnance disposal capacity development in Solomon Islands and has provided support to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for infrastructure and specialist equipment to develop their training facility.

The Australian Defence Force proactively deals with ERW in theatres of operations even before active hostilities have formally ceased, wherever practical and safe to do so. The intent of this policy is to mitigate the threat posed by unexploded ordnance, by destroying items as they are found, subject to the tactical situation, rather than dealing with them after the cessation of active hostilities.

All unexploded ordnance found by the Australian Defence Force on operations in 2013 were identified, documented, collected and/or, where possible, destroyed.

The ADF ensures that detailed electronic reports, including Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) databases, are maintained by all relevant commands and are populated with information from Australian military forces in the field. It is a requirement that the information be submitted to ADF command headquarters in the theatre of operations and back to Australia.

The ADF operational level headquarters in Australia as a standing requirement to maintain a comprehensive register that includes reporting of ERW incidents. This register includes where possible the nature, type, quantity and condition of the Unexploded Ordnance or Abandoned Explosive Ordnance; any actions taken to mark, clear, remove and/or destroy these items; their location; and an assessment of the threat posed.

The register also aims to provide detailed information about reporting steps taken; any future action required to deal with the items; and any warnings issued or risk education provided to military forces or the local community.

The Australian Defence Force also provides information on ERW to allies and partners to fulfil Protocol V requirements to retain and transmit information on ERW to facilitate clearance activities.

With regard to stockpile management, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) maintains strict accountability processes for its weapons. ADF firearms storage and armoury security remain high priorities for the Australian Government. Strict control measures apply to military weapons,munitions and explosives.

The Australian and State and Territory governments have agreed on national standards for the security and storage of firearms. The ADF and other national and State and Territory agencies closely monitor their firearms requirements and stocks.

In conclusion, we take this opportunity to thank each of the thematic Coordinators of Protocol V for their work. We broadly support the recommendations made in their respective reports.

In particular, we welcome the recommendation of the Coordinator on Victim Assistance to share experiences on victim assistance with other relevant legal instruments. Whilst we recognise that some parties to the CCW are not party to the CCM and MBC, we see no reason why the Coordinator, with the assistance of the Implementation Support Unit, should not continue to share practical experiences and liaise on implementation of the commitments on victim assistance with other relevant legal instruments. As Co-Coordinator on Victim Assistance under the CCM, we would be pleased to share our experiences with the CCW Coordinator.

We are open to considering proposals on possible measures to improve existing mechanisms for the transmission of information under Article 4 and to further improve the quality of the information submitted under Article 4.

We would also like to note our support for the recommendation of the Coordinator on Generic Preventative Measures on a continued focus on the management of munitions sites at the 2015 Meeting of Experts. We will endeavour to engage on this issue at next year’s experts meeting,including addressing some of the questions raised in the Coordinator’s report.

Finally, we welcome your recommendation that the President-designate of the ninth conference, with the assistance of the CCW Implementation Support Unit review and report on the implementation of Protocol V obligations. If this recommendation receives the support of the conference, in our view, this will be a useful contribution to preparations for the 2016 Review Conference.