Regional Workshop on Achieving the Universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in the Pacific, 11-12 December 2023, Manila, Philippines

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) organized a Regional Workshop on Achieving the Universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in the Pacific in Manila, Philippines from 11 to 12 December 2023.

The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Government of the Philippines through the Department of Foreign Affairs with the financial support of the European Union and sought to promote the CCW and its Protocols and to contribute to the understanding of the key provisions of these instruments.

Group picture of some of the participants to the workshop

Thirteen participants from States in the region including Australia, Nauru, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and the Solomon Islands attended the workshop in-person and virtually.

The workshop also included the participation of representatives from the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Nonviolence International Southeast Asia (NISEA).

The workshop kicked off with opening remarks by Hon. Charles C. Jose, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations, Ms. Tania Bañuelos Mejía, Political Affairs Officer, Head of the Implementation Support Unit of the CCW, UNODA and Dr. Ana Isabel Sánchez Ruiz, Charge d’affaires of the EU Delegation to the Philippines.

The participants discussed various essential topics, including the Convention’s scope and implementation, its relevance in non-armed conflict contexts, interlinkages between climate, peace, gender, and security, as well as meetings organized in the framework of the Convention. UNODA also presented the work of the CCW Implementation Support Unit and existing opportunities to participate in the work of the Convention, such as the Sponsorship Programme, aimed at ensuring widespread participation in the meetings of the Convention and its Protocols.

Furthermore, the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (GGE on LAWS), the applicability of CCW in addressing threats of IEDs and other explosive weapons, and national experiences in implementing CCW were also discussed.

Participants listened to a presentation about the GGE on LAWS delivered by a staff member of UNODA Geneva.

Ms. Gayle Manueli, Legal Office of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat presented the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. This highlighted the Pacific Islands’ focus on the climate emergency and its connections with security issues, human rights, women’s and girls’ rights and disaster response.

In addition, a panel discussion on Regional Approaches to Addressing ERW took place. The panel was composed of Mr. Jaap van Hierden, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati, and Palau, Mr. Agus Wandi, Peace and Development Advisor, United Nations Resident Coordinator Office to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu and Mr. Llewelyn Jones Regional Director Asia-Pacific, Mines Advisory Group (MAG). The panel discussion focused on addressing ERW and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the Pacific Islands, with an emphasis on exchanging views on ERW threats and their link to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panel highlighted the persistent threat of ERW in the Pacific Island countries, which continues to hinder local development, pose threats to communities, and contaminate the environment. The different speakers recognized the need for a comprehensive mapping of existing needs, capacities and support as an integration of ERW/UXO strategy development process at regional, sub-regional and national levels.

The head of the CCW ISU presented the main dispositions of the Convention and its Protocols.

The workshop concluded with a final exercise focusing on essential elements for facilitating accession to the Convention and its Protocols. The discussion emphasized the need to (i) raise awareness of the Convention and its relevance to security and safety challenges in the region, (ii) strengthen existing national infrastructures and institutional capacity, and (iii) promote inter-agency coordination mechanisms, involving various stakeholders, such as key ministries, parliamentarians, civil society and international organizations.

In summary, the workshop provided a platform for meaningful discussions on the CCW and related topics, highlighting the challenges and opportunities for Pacific states in joining and effectively implementing the Convention. The gender aspect of the event was also notable, with a significant representation of female participants and speakers. The diverse array of topics discussed during the workshop underscored the comprehensive nature of the event, which aimed to address pertinent issues related to international law, humanitarian concerns, and regional security in the Pacific context.