Disarmament Insight


Monday, 12 November 2007

CCW: More scenes from a play

On Friday, Patrick Mc Carthy reported on the state of efforts of the member countries of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to achieve a mandate to negotiate on cluster munitions. Ambassador Janis Karklins of Latvia presented the Meeting of States Parties with his shot at a draft mandate, then waved adieu.

As Patrick suggested, the draft mandate Ambassador Karklins offered may have been too strong. Today, the Meeting of States Parties only gathered briefly - most of it spent instead by the Chair (Greece) in informal side consultations with 'key' players (that is, the stickiest). The rest (exhorted by the Chair not to leave the building) sat around and waited, drinking vast amounts of coffee in the process and looking wistfully out the window at a beautiful autumn day they could not experience.

Word is that a least one large cluster munition user state (Russia) doesn't want to see "negotiate" in the mandate, and would prefer a weaker formulation "to elaborate proposals", among other changes proposed.

It is obviously of concern to the European Union, which has met in hermetically sealed emergency group convocation at least twice today. The great majority of the EU's members are also ostensible supporters of the Oslo Process, and it has had a long-standing mandate proposal in the CCW to:

"establish a Group of Governmental Experts with a schedule of no less than three meetings to negotiate a legally-binding instrument that addresses the humanitarian concerns of cluster munitions in all their aspects by the end of 2008."
They (like others) realise it would be difficult to argue that a CCW mandate for up to seven weeks of diplomatic work in 2008 is credible if it failed even to mention a negotiation, not least in view of the Oslo Process.

Tempers are fraying, but consultations grind on (perhaps inhumanely).

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Palais this morning, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, with help from UNIDIR, launched the ninth Landmine Monitor report, attended by a good turn-out of media. As a means of civil society verification of the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, Landmine Monitor plays a special role in disarmament and arms control. Far from being treated with skepticism by governments , Landmine Monitor is more or less seen as the bible for information about the state of Mine Ban Convention implementation.

On the whole, the news is fairly positive. Funding for mine action in 2006 was the highest recorded, led by contributions from the U.S., the European Commission, Norway and Canada. And the treaty now has 155 States Parties. The number of new mine casualties is down. And only two countries seem to have used anti-personnel mines in 2006.

That's the good news. Less great is that while mine action funding is high, a lot of it was emergency funding - for instance, for Lebanon - rather than for stabilising longer-term mine action efforts. Very few of these funds are assigned to victim assistance, which is very much the Cinderella of mine action. A number of non-state armed groups appear to have used anti-personnel mines, and a number of states party to the Convention look likely to miss important deadlines for mine clearance.

That said, without underestimating these challenges, they're practical problems that can be dealt with if the energy and pragmatism that's become a hallmark of the Mine Ban Convention is sustained.

Meanwhile, down the hall, negotiations between diplomats in the CCW are likely to continue into the night.

John Borrie

Photo of CCW conference chamber by John Borrie.