Disarmament Insight


Friday, 18 April 2008

Global Day of Action on cluster munitions tomorrow

Over the last week, the Disarmament Insight blog has focused on ongoing efforts in the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to devise a response to the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions. The elephant in the room at the CCW's expert meeting in Geneva last week, of course, was the Dublin Conference. This negotiating conference, to be held from 19 to 30 May, is anticipated to be the culmination of the Oslo Process's efforts to complete a humanitarian treaty on cluster munitions.

And there is certainly plenty activity occurring in support of the Dublin Conference. A fortnight ago, African states met near the Victoria Falls in Zambia, and agreed the Livingstone Declaration on cluster munitions, which we understand was endorsed there by Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

There are other regional meetings going on too. As this post is being written, Mexico (an Oslo Process core-group member) is hosting the second day of a 2-day conference of 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries in Mexico City. And, next week, the International Committee of the Red Cross is hosting a meeting of its own in Bangkok, Thailand, for the ASEAN states. While not specifically an Oslo Process event, that workshop is bound to feed into momentum on international efforts to address the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions, and so probably impact Dublin.

And, as might be anticipated, civil society - mainly co-ordinated by the Cluster Munition Coalition - is gearing up for the Dublin Conference and seeking to build pressure on governments to prohibit cluster munitions that "cause unacceptable harm to civilians". The CMC has declared Saturday 19 April a 'Global Day of Action on cluster munitions' and is holding a range of events around the world to coincide with it.

Some of its members are also releasing new resources. For example, there is a short multimedia presentation by the photographer Werner Anderson and Norwegian People's Aid entitled "Make it Happen" (you can view it online here, and download in Quicktime format if you wish).

Another web site that is well worth a visit sheds life on the real-life impacts of cluster munitions and the perspectives of those directly affected. The Ban Advocates' Blog, a Handicap International project, aims to give survivors of cluster munitions a greater voice. It includes the first-hand account of Soraj Ghulam Habib, a young man from Afghanistan who lost both his legs to a cluster submunition at the age of 10 and is now wheelchair-bound. Soraj has become active in the Oslo Process, and spoke movingly of his experience at the start of the Wellington Conference in February. The harrowing accounts of other survivors are also on the Ban Advocates' site.

John Borrie

Photo credit: Alison Locke. Soraj lost his legs when he found a cluster bomb he thought was a can of food. He was so badly injured doctors suggested he be given a lethal injection. Handicap International estimate that 60% of cluster bomb victims are children. The small size and curious shapes and colours of cluster bombs make them particularly interesting to children.