Disarmament Insight


Monday, 19 May 2008

All eyes on Dublin to put cluster munitions beyond the Pale

I found it a bit hard to concentrate in the office today, knowing that a two-week diplomatic conference with the aim of banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians was kicking off in Dublin.

The conference is the culmination of the Oslo Process on cluster munitions that began relatively small with a conference in Oslo in February 2007 and has since grown in size and momentum through further global meetings in Lima, Vienna and Wellington to reach where it is today. More than 100 governments have sent plenipotentiaries to Dublin and the scene is now set for tough negotiations on what has the potential to be the most significant disarmament treaty in a decade.

For those of us who can't be in Dublin, there are fortunately many good ways of keeping up to date with what is going on there. One, of course, is this blog. My colleague John Borrie is participating in the conference in Dublin and will be posting updates and analysis here during this week. I will be joining him next week when we hope to be able to post more or less every day. This blog also contains a wealth of background on the issue of cluster munitions (we have been posting on this topic for more than a year now). Do a keyword search for "cluster munition" or "cluster bomb" to find out more.

There are also a number of other excellent sources of up-to-date information, such as:

-- The Ban Advocates blog: The NGO Handicap International has been working with survivors of cluster bomblet explosions from all over the world and helping them to become effective advocates for a comprehensive ban on these weapons. One of these advocates, Mr. Branislav Kapetanovic, who lost both legs and both hands to a cluster bomblet, spoke at today's conference opening ceremony. The Ban Advocates blog follows these remarkable people as they lobby governments for the strongest possible ban in Dublin.

-- The Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition blog: Mary Wareham of Oxfam New Zealand, who is at the conference, is posting regularly on goings on in Dublin, particularly on civil society activities. New Zealand's capital, Wellington, was the venue for the most recent conference of the Oslo Process in February.

-- RTE News: The Irish broadcast agency, RTE, is one of the few to offer free streaming video news on the web. It should be covering the conference during the course of the next two weeks and has already posted almost 8 minutes of video footage of the opening day on its Six One news programme. Also check out the Nine News programme for shorter video updates.

-- The Cluster Munition Coalition of NGOs has a brand new website which contains regularly-updated "cluster ban news," as well as the CMC video press-release for the Dublin conference. A nice touch is the countdown, in seconds, to the deadline for a new Cluster Munitions Convention - noon on Friday, May 30.

This, it seems, is as strict as deadlines come since all delegates will have to vacate the conference centre at that time to make way for hoards of fans of Celine Dion, who plays a concert that night at the same venue, Croke Park, a sports stadium that also doubles as Ireland's largest conference centre.

916,385 seconds to go; and it won't be over 'til the thin lady sings.

Patrick Mc Carthy

Photo Credit: Photo by Mary Wareham retreived from Flickr.