Disarmament Insight


Thursday, 21 June 2007

Cluster munitions: CCW update

This week's Group of Governmental Expert (GGE) meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) continues. Not an exciting header for a posting, I know. But then so far it hasn't been a terribly eventful meeting - especially for those of us who heard many of the presentations being delivered there two months ago in Montreux at the International Committee of the Red Cross expert meeting on cluster munitions.

This doesn't mean the GGE hasn't been without interest. Earlier this week I suggested that it might reveal indications about the intent of various players on how or whether to move ahead on addressing the humanitarian problems cluster munitions pose in the CCW. This is something that has potential implications for the so-called "Oslo Process" (see previous posts), which is proceeding in parallel and with many CCW members participating in it.

On Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that the U.S. head of delegation to this week's GGE told journalists in Geneva, "The United States supports launching negotiations on a global treaty to reduce civilian casualties from cluster bombs, but does not back a ban on the weapons". The U.S. said any negotiations would need to be in the CCW.

Curiously, the U.S. has - so far - not mentioned this in the GGE, let alone introduce a specific proposal, although it has spoken at length on other matters related to cluster munitions. Also, the Reuters report lacked details about what a U.S. proposal negotiating mandate on cluster munitions, if it emerged, might contain beyond "looking at improving their reliability, accuracy and visibility".

It's possible that the U.S. is sending a signal to the European Union that it might be willing to bargain over the latter's proposal, which is already on the table, rather than launching its own. But the EU proposal appears to go considerably further than the issues mentioned by the U.S. above.

In any case, no decision can be made on a negotiating mandate until the CCW Meeting of State Parties in November. In theory, the GGE could agree to recommend to the November meeting that it start negotiations on a new treaty in the CCW in 2008. But with only a day of talks left and countries like Russia and China indicating no change to their previous opposition to a negotiation this seems unlikely (although by no means impossible).

John Borrie


"U.S. open to negotiations on cluster bombs but no ban", 18 June 2007, available here.

Photo retrieved from Flickr.