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Disarmament

Disarmament

Furthering disarmament and non-proliferation remains indispensable to help create a security environment favorable to ensuring human development. The Permanent Mission participates in the work of the Conference on Disarmament based in Geneva. It also engages in discussions on a wide range of multilateral disarmament agreements.

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) was established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. The Director-General of UNOG is the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament as well as the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the CD. As in 1999 and 2010, Belgium chaired the Conference on Disarmament in January and February 2021.  

As a result of prolonged efforts by the international community to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production and use of an entire category of weapons, was opened for signature on 10 April 1972.  It entered into force on 26 March 1975. All the meetings related to this instrument are currently being held in Geneva. Belgium attaches a lot of importance to the promotion of the peer review mechanism as a confidence-building measure in the framework of the BWC, in particular in the context of the BENELUX. Moreover, within the BWC, Belgium is actively working on strengthening and disseminating biorisk management standards. The next review conference of the BWC should take place in Geneva in 2021.

The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, also known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) or Inhumane Weapons Convention, comprises a convention and five protocols, which ban or restrict the use of various types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary suffering or that affect either soldiers or civilians indiscriminately. The weapons currently covered include weapons leaving undetectable fragments in the human body (Protocol I), mines, booby-traps and other devices (Protocol II), incendiary weapons (Protocol III), blinding laser weapons (Protocol IV) and explosive remnants of war (Protocol V). All the meetings related to this convention are currently being held in Geneva. The next review Conference will take place in Geneva in December 2021.  Belgium has taken and continues to take an active part in all of them. In particular, Belgium is currently chairing the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (GGE LAWS).

Established by the fifth Review Conference of the CCW in 2016, the GGE LAWS is composed of States (Parties and non-Parties to the CCW), international organisations and non-governmental organisations. It is mandated to examine issues related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS in the context of the objectives and purposes of the CCW (e.g. the characterization of LAWS, the challenges posed by LAWS to International Humanitarian Law, the human element in the use of lethal force, review of military applications of related technologies, and possible options to address the humanitarian and security challenges posed by LAWS). Belgium has been actively involved in the development of the Eleven Guiding Principles for the Development and Use of LAWS, and its endorsement by the 2019 CCW Meeting of State Parties. In 2020, Belgium, in cooperation with 8 other States, has submitted a transregional Joint Commentary on the Guiding Principles and their relevance for a future normative and operational framework on LAWS.

Since the inception of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC), Belgium has been playing a pioneering role. Belgium was the first country worldwide to adopt a total ban on landmines in its national legislation and one of the first States to join the Convention. Our country chaired the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in 2002 and the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties in 2015. HRH Princess Astrid acts as Special Envoy for the Convention and is actively involved in the universalization efforts of the Convention. Throughout the years, Belgium has been a regular donor for mine action and an active supporter of the rights of mine victims. Belgium was a member of the Committee on Victim Assistance of the APMBC from 2015-2019 and chaired the Committee in 2018. It is a member of the Committee on the implementation of the demining obligations of State Parties (Committee on Article V implementation) until 2022.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force on the 1st of August 2010. Belgium was the first country in the world to ban cluster munitions. Belgium played an important role in the adoption of the Convention. Belgium was designated Friend of the Chair in charge of the reporting format by the President of the first Meeting of the States Parties held in Vientiane (Lao PDR) in November 2010. Belgium was also nominated Vice-president of that meeting. The Belgian High Level Delegation in Vientiane was led by HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium.  Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Second Review Conference of the CCM, due to take place in Lausanne in November 2020, has been rescheduled and will be concluded in September 2021.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) entered into force on 24 December 2014. Its purposes are to regulate the international trade in conventional arms and to prevent and eradicate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms by establishing international standards governing arms transfers. Belgium joined the ATT since its creation and is proactive within its works: after co-chairing the Working Group on Transparency and Reporting from 2017 to 2020, Belgium now chairs the Diversion Information Exchange Forum.