States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) - also known as the 'Inhumane Weapons Convention' - have just ended day three of their five-day annual meeting in Geneva with an anticlimax on cluster munitions.
Following days of intensive consultations - and rumours this morning that an agreed CCW negotiating mandate on cluster munitions was imminent - the Coordinator of the Group of Governmental Experts, Ambassador Janis Karklins of Latvia, was only able to transmit to States Parties a note containing his sense of what the meeting might be able to agree before it adjourns next Tuesday. The Coordinator's note, which has no official status, reads as follows:
The High Contracting Parties to the CCW decided that the GGE, without preconditions and prejudice to the outcome, will negotiate an instrument of the Convention to address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, while striking a balance between military and humanitarian considerations.
The GGE should make every effort to prepare this instrument as rapidly as possible and report on the progress made to the next meeting of the High Contracting Parties in November 2008.
The GGE will meet in 2008 not less than three times for a total of up to seven weeks. Its work will be supported by military experts.
Ambassador Karklins admitted that his note was "too little for most States" but "a little too much for some States" and hoped that it might lead the way to an acceptable compromise. The note will have to lead on its own since, due to other commitments, Ambassador Karklins will not be in Geneva next week to see it through. He essentially handed his note over to States Parties and wished them the "best of luck" with it, sparking chuckles, particularly from many of the NGOs in the room.
The Coordinator's note is actually stronger than early indications suggested. It actually uses the word "negotiate" and employs terms such as "urgently" and "as rapidly as possible." However, the note does not make specific that negotiations would lead to a legally-binding instrument, even though it must be said that all other instruments of the CCW - its five Protocols - are legally binding on States that have adhered to them. Nor does the Coordinator's note set a deadline for finalising a new instrument on cluster munitions, leaving open the possibility that negotiations could drag on.
To my mind, the wording of the note, weak as it is in comparison with the Oslo Declaration on cluster munitions, will nevertheless prove too strong for some key States and we will see some watering down of text happening on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
Our posting on Wednesday will provide a final analysis of the outcome. Stay tuned...
Patrick Mc Carthy
Photo courtesy of the author