Disarmament Insight


Thursday, 24 May 2007

Lima: Schedule Switcheroo

The Lima Conference on cluster munitions got off to a solid start this morning with a presentation by Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) representative Branislav Kaperanovic, a Serbian former clearance worker and cluster munition victim who expressed his hope for broadening support for the Oslo Process. Representatives of two countries affected by cluster munitions, Lebanon and Cambodia, then took the podium in succession. Neither are producers or users of cluster munitions, yet both are among the most heavily affected countries in the world. All of these speakers sounded notes of urgency about the need to deal with the effects of cluster munitions at the international level, knowing firsthand their effects.

Peru, the Conference chair introduced the programme of work for the three-day meeting, which will revolve around thematic discussions. But springs began popping out of the sofa when France proposed that discussion of “general obligations, scope of application and definitions”, which was scheduled for Friday morning, be discussed much sooner. Over the next 45 minutes these comments were echoed by a number of (mostly European) states keen to move discussion of definitions ahead of what they considered “less important” issues such as victim assistance, clearance, storage and stockpile destruction, and transparency.

However, this proposal encountered resistance from other present, especially developing and affected countries, as well as other states closely associated with the Oslo Process. One of them, Austria, proposed a winning compromise: switch the Friday morning discussions for those scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Why all this fuss over when to discuss definitions and obligations? Those arguing for the change argued that the Lima Conference should make it clear from the beginning exactly what weapons were being discussed in the context of regulation of prohibition. Earlier Disarmament Insight posts have noted that a key issue for any international instrument to address the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions is that of defining exactly what will be regulated or prohibited, not least because a very broad definition could go well beyond the comfort zones of many.

Fair enough. But this concern can detract from a broader point (and underlined earlier in the morning by Cambodia) that the Conference has the task of working toward addressing “both existing and potential suffering” associated with these weapons. These go beyond issues of regulation to measures to dispose of unexploded submunitions and assist victims, for example. So many eyes rolled when the view was put forward implying these are just downstream issues.

Another inevitable talking point concerned the relationship between the Oslo Process and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Though a few states expressed a preference for negotiating in one forum over the other, the majority expressed their support for whichever forum could, in practice, address the issues at hand in an effective manner.

On the whole, it was a long day. But spirits remain positive: a successful compromise on a small change in schedule that nevertheless reflected a big point was negotiated. And, on substantive issues, a lot of common ground was recognized.

Check in over the next few days for further impressions of the Lima talks, including on stockpile storage and destruction, as well as on the “dangerous definitions” discussions.

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 Lima Conference Chair’s discussion text can be downloaded in English and Spanish from the Cluster Munition Coalition’s website at: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org.

Photo of the Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas" (retrieved from Wikipedia).