Disarmament Insight


Monday, 5 November 2007

Action on cluster bombs

This week looks set to be a busy one for matters related to cluster munitions.

Today, campaigners in 40 countries around the world are calling on their governments to attend an international conference next month in Vienna, Austria, and to support a global treaty banning cluster bombs. To draw attention to their calls, they've declared the 5th of November a "Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs" with events around the world.

Events have already taken place in places as far a field as Wellington, New Zealand. A couple more will be held later today in Geneva, Switzerland; one by the 'Broken Chair' sculpture outside the United Nations' Palais des Nations, along with a photo exhibition by Stuart Freedman on Lebanon called 'Clearing for Peace'.

Today also marks a rare joint appeal by the United Nations, the NGO Cluster Munition Coalition, and UK-based Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in support of the ban treaty with an advertising campaign featured in several newspapers worldwide. The UN is calling on all countries to freeze the use and trade of cluster bombs and negotiate an international prohibition on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

And, beginning today in Geneva, states party to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons have a round of meetings in the Palais. Today and tomorrow they will focus on implementation of two existing protocols to the CCW framework treaty - 1996 Amended Protocol II on mines and booby-traps, and 2003 Protocol V on explosive remnants of war.

The main action will be from Wednesday, however, with a several-day Meeting of States Parties to the main CCW treaty, the first of new annual CCW conference based on an agreement at last November's five-yearly review conference.

The biggest point of interest is whether the CCW will agree on a negotiating mandate on cluster munitions. Although concern about the impacts of cluster munitions on civilians has been building for some time, the CCW has - at least until now - been unable to agree to negotiate new rules because of its consensus practice. However, as we've mentioned in previous posts, the emergence of a new free-standing "Oslo Process" to negotiate a humanitarian treaty looks like it's had a galvanising effect on some big cluster munition producers and users in the CCW. Earlier this year the U.S. said it could go along with a negotiation in the CCW (although it said it wouldn't support any ban). It remains to be seen if the positions of others, like Russia, China, India and Pakistan, have changed.

We'll keep you posted.

John Borrie

Photo by author.