Disarmament Insight

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Cluster Munitions: Just a quickie ...


It's well after midnight here New Zealand time, so this blog is just a brief one to outline some of what happened today at the Wellington Conference on cluster munitions, which is part of the Oslo Process.

Today, in the plenary, there were sessions on mine clearance in the morning and victim assistance in the afternoon. As worthy and substantive as these issues were, I spent the day with many others in a smaller side chamber (well, upstairs in the Wellington Town Hall, actually) attending informal consultations on Article 2 of the draft Convention text.

I'm not going to outline blow-by-blow what happened. But in the morning there were discussions under the direction of the Conference chair, Ambassador Don Mackay of New Zealand, on further possible exemptions to the definition of prohibited cluster munitions based on the text in Article 2(c). (You can find all of the conference documents, including the Wellington text, at the conference website here.)

Although exploring potential bases for exemptions further such as reliability, quantity, self-destruct/self-neutralization and other criteria further, no-one's positions seemed to have changed. And things became quite testy at the end of the morning when France, supported by the UK and Netherlands, demanded that their proposals be included in any subsequent revised draft Convention this week. Under considerable pressure, Ambassador Mackay (to his credit, in my opinion) refused to make any such commitment - on the basis that none of their proposals commanded agreement. Their response was, of course, that neither does the text currently in the draft. Bah humbug.

Interested delegations returned to the small room in the afternoon (in parallel to the main sessions), this time chaired by Ambassador Pablo Macedo of Mexico. Sensing the tension in the room, Macedo approached consultations on the other draft definitions in Article 2 with a light, humorous touch. There was also discussion of possible transition periods for states parties with cluster munitions to find humane alternatives to the weapon after joining the treaty - although states are far from agreement over the advisability of this.

The big issue remains definitions this week, with interoperability looming large, and transition periods also a topic. In the plenary, the degree of user responsibility for cluster munitions is contentious. Several European countries, plus Australia and Japan, in particular, are pushing the Oslo core group chairs hard in order to get their proposals into any further text, although they are, overall, a numerical minority - though some of them claim they deserve special importance and are annoyed by what they see as an opaque process of consultation. (This is certainly not a view shared by all.)

It remains to be seen what impact this will have. What is certain is that the core group will face difficult tactical choices as to how they will proceed in terms of revised text and presenting the Wellington Declaration on Friday. Nevertheless, it is too early to say what will happen: informal consultations resume early tomorrow morning on interoperability, so I had better sign off and go beddie-byes.


John Borrie

Photo of demonstration by cluster munition campaigners outside the Wellington Town Hall today by author. Laid back, like (most) of Wellington on a sunny, summer day.

1 comments:

erickia said...

haha...nice blog, ok always stay cool~