Disarmament Insight


Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Civil Society Forum Sets the Tone for the Lima Conference

I'm Jamie Stocker and, over the next few days, I’ll be posting updates on the progress of the international conference I’m attending in Lima, Peru, on cluster munitions, which starts today and finishes on Friday. This conference follows the Oslo Conference held in February (see previous posts) and seeks to both broaden support for its goals and deepen discussions on “cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians”.

Yesterday, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) hosted a Regional Civil Society Forum in Lima on “Taking Action On Cluster Munitions”, which I attended as an observer. This forum had several goals, including trying to set the tone for the Lima conference of states, attracting media attention (including from what I have been told is a very interested Peruvian media), countering arguments against efforts to address through regulation or prohibition the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions, as well as outlining the CMC’s “expectations” on what it wants to see come out of the Oslo process.

Unfortunately, there isn’t space in this short post to give a comprehensive overview of the day’s proceedings. Among those speaking at the Forum, however, were Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams and Peruvian Ombudswomen Beatriz Merino. Rae McGrath of Handicap International began the morning English language session with a discussion of the clusters issue, driving home a point about the indiscriminate effect of cluster munitions by “scattering” a handful of (thankfully unused) teabags from the breakfast room among the audience.

Further highlights included two further statements read on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize laureates. In the first statement, South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on African states to play a leading role in the clusters munition campaign, noting that while African nations had been heavily involved in the process leading to the mine ban (Ottawa) treaty, only 4 of 47 signatories of the Oslo Declaration were from Africa.

The second statement on behalf of a group of six women Nobel Peace laureates praised the Oslo Process’s efforts to address “these especially pernicious weapons of ill repute” (crediting Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch with coining this phrase). This list of supportive Nobel Peace laureates was later further expanded, as a Costa Rican representative underlined the support of President Oscar Arias, who received the prize in 1987 for his efforts to end conflicts in several Central American countries.

Beyond political statements, those present also got down to looking at aspects of the issues surrounding cluster munitions in some depth, and there were presentations by a number of experts and NGOs. Many of these talks were sophisticated in dissecting the types of arguments used for the continued military utility of cluster munitions (for instance, see Human Rights Watch’s document, “Myths and Realities about Cluster Munitions” – reference below. See also their short film embedded in this post.) Moreover, some seemed to directly address elements of various proposals and discussion papers circulated at the ICRC meeting in Montreux in April and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) informal meeting in Geneva last week.

The Forum was also an unprecedented opportunity to discuss cluster munitions in the Latin American regional context, including confirmed or alleged use of this weapon in several countries.

On the whole, the presenters were well-organized and expressed conviction and clarity of purpose. It will be interesting to see to what extent states attending the Lima Conference follow this example as they move to address these issues over the next days and months.

I’ll keep you posted.

This is a guest blog from James Stocker. Jamie is a researcher on UNIDIR’s project on “The humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions: practitioners’ perspectives”.


The Oslo Declaration can be downloaded here.

Human Rights Watch, “Myths and Realities about Cluster Munitions”: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/clusters/myths0307/.

Human Rights Watch, short film on cluster munitions available on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpGMiAlVM6g.

More information about UNIDIR’s project on “The humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions: practitioners’ perspectives” is at: http://www.unidir.org/bdd/fiche-activite.php?ref_activite=339.