Countries urged to commit to a world free of cluster bombs at landmark meeting on Convention on Cluster Munitions
(Geneva) June 27, 2011 — At least 60 countries will meet this week at the first four-day “inter-sessional” meeting on the Convention on Cluster Munitions to advance their commitments to a world free of cluster bombs.
It is deemed an inter-sessional meeting because it takes place in between the required annual meetings of States Parties.
“This is the first meeting of its kind. Nearly one year since we celebrated the entry into force of this lifesaving ban, states must now report on progress they have made to implement the ban, and outline the steps they plan to take in the future,” said CMC Director Laura Cheeseman.
Specifically, the CMC is calling on governments to report on concrete steps they have taken under the Vientiane Action Plan, adopted at the First Meeting of States Parties in Lao PDR, one of the most severely cluster bomb-affected countries in the world.
In the 66-point action plan developed last November, States Parties agreed to turn their legal obligations into concrete actions, including commitments to:
• Develop a plan to destroy stockpiles within one year of entry into force, and to start physical destruction as soon as possible;
• Identify possible locations and size of all cluster bomb contaminated areas;
• Designate a focal point for developing, implementing and monitoring victim assistance, as well as assessing the needs and priorities of cluster bomb victims;
• Encourage states not party to become States Parties.
So far some states have made great advancements in implementing the treaty. Albania and Zambia have cleared their land of these deadly unexploded weapons and eight countries have already completed destruction of their entire stockpiles, for which the CMC commends them (Austria, Belgium, Ecuador, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, and Spain).
However, there has also been new use of cluster munitions –in Libya by Gaddafi’s forces and in Cambodia by the Thai military.
The CMC has condemned use by both countries. The treaty is the best way to protect innocent civilians from cluster bombs. It is hoped that at this meeting more countries will announce their plans to join the ban.
This week will also be important to lay the groundwork for decisions on the framework, leadership and support for the Convention that will be taken at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Lebanon, another county that has been devastated by cluster bombs.
“We want to ensure this Convention delivers early results that have an immediate impact on the thousands of people worldwide suffering because of these weapons,” Cheeseman added.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions, the international treaty banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of these deadly weapons, entered into force on 1 August last year. A total of 108 countries have signed the Convention, of which 57 to date have ratified its legally binding terms.
CMC spokesperson Branislav Kapetanovic, who lost both his hands and feet when a cluster bomb he was clearing exploded in 2000, said, “If states work together, we really can make a difference to people all over the world who are suffering because of lethal unexploded cluster munitions. This is a chance for the global community to work together to rid the world of these deadly, indiscriminate weapons, and to pledge to join the Convention.”
The meeting is held at the WMO building in Geneva from 27-30 June, and is open to all countries, including those that have not signed or ratified the Convention.
About cluster bombs:
A cluster munition (or cluster bomb) is a weapon containing multiple – often hundreds – of small explosive submunitions or bomblets. Cluster munitions are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions over an area that can be the size of several football fields. This means they cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers. Many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and remain a threat to lives and livelihoods for decades after a conflict.