Disarmament Insight


Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dublin: read all about it

This morning, the President of the Dublin Conference on cluster munitions, Ambassador, Dáithí O'Ceallaigh, distributed a new draft convention on cluster munitions as a presidency paper. This paper is available at the Dublin Conference website here.

O'Ceallaigh said that about two-thirds of the text of his paper is identical to papers already distributed during the Conference over the last week-and-a-half of work. The rest reflected the outcomes of various consultations - not least an intensive burst of activity during the course of yesterday when the President and his team met with dozens of delegations individually until late into the night.

The President told the Committee of the Whole this morning that his text represents his assessment of where the balance of interests lie, and would require compromise on all sides. (This is all boiler-plate language for multilateral negotiations.) Nevertheless, he felt the draft Convention text was extremely ambitious, especially in the scope of its prohibitions and its clearance, victim assistance and international assistance provisions, and would meet the objectives of the February 2007 Oslo Declaration.

We won't provide a comprehensive overview of the President's paper here. Briefly, on some major issues of interest:

Scope (Article 1): this now captures explosive bomblets, which are anomalous in that although they are, in effect, submunitions, they would otherwise not be captured because they're dispensed from an aircraft, rather than detaching from a parent munition.

Definitions (Article 2): this provision has, if anything, become more robust. There are several criteria here. A munition must meet all of these criteria in order not to be captured by the definition of a cluster munition.

A cluster munition, in O'Ceallaigh's text, means a conventional munition designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20kg, and includes those explosive submunitions. However, it doesn't mean the following:

- A munition or submunition designed to dispense flares, smoke, pyrotechnics or chaff; or a munition designed exclusively for an air defence role (this new text on air defence is a bit softer than the formulation in last week's informal consultations).

- A munition or submunition designed to produce electrical or electronic effects.

- a munition, that in order to avoid indiscriminate area effects and the risks posed by unexploded submunitions, has all of the following characteristics:

(1) Each munition contains fewer than 10 explosive submunitions;

(2) Each explosive submunition weighs more than four kilograms;

(3) Each explosive submunition is designed to detect and engage a single target object;

(4) Each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic self-destruction mechanism;

(5) Each explosive submunition is equipped with an electronic self-deactivating feature.

Therefore the weight formulation is back in - with a change from 5kg as originally proposed to 4kg. In layperson's terms it means all submunitions under 4kg are categorically banned. Submunitions between 4 and 20kg are allowed if they and the parent munition meet a number of stringent criteria as listed above. Any munition above 20kg is not covered by the treaty. In effect, this removes almost all weapons conventionally regarded as cluster munitions in use today, including the M85 used in the Southern Lebanon conflict in 2006. We understand that the SMART155 and BONUS sensor-fuzed munitions meet the exemption criteria and would therefore not be banned.

Clearance, destruction and risk education (Article 4): Ambassador O'Ceallaigh noted that consensus on this article hadn't been possible in consultations; the language here is his shot at a compromise.

International cooperation and assistance (Article 6): the President had directed Canada to carry out consultations to try to achieve consensus on what had been para 9/9 bis, efforts that had run into difficulty yesterday. Canada had another try, and O'Ceallaigh's text contains the outcome of those consultations in its para 10, which he told the CoW he hopes will achieve general agreement.

Entry into Force of the cluster munition convention (Article 17): the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) had an EIF threshold of 20 countries; the Mine Ban Treaty had 40. These two options dominated talks on this Article at the Dublin Conference, so the President told the CoW he had split the difference and chosen 30, to many chuckles around the room.

Reservations (Article 19): O'Ceallaigh has kept the text of the earlier draft Convention here, which does not allow reservations. As mentioned in a preceding post [link to Friday's post], this issue will be settled only as part of the final package agreed.

"Relations with States not Party to this Convention" a.k.a. interoperability (Article 21): see our preceding posts for background on this issue, especially our last one today. This text, O'Ceallaigh said, is based closely on yesterday's Swiss Friend of the President informal paper, seen by "almost all delegations as a very good basis for work." It is unclear how this will pan out. Watch this space.

There are no provisions for transition periods in the President's paper, which he said reflected the wishes of a large number of countries.

This afternoon, the CoW will resume at 15h after delegations have had a chance to reflect on the President's paper. We anticipate a long evening of meetings tonight.

John Borrie, Maya Brehm & Patrick Mc Carthy

Photo of Canadian Cluster Munition Coalition marchers on O'Connell Street, Dublin, last Saturday, by John Borrie.


MeganK said...

I am just wondering why interoperability is so much more of an issue with clusters compared to landmines. Is it because of the relative 'military utility' of clusters?

Disarmament Insight said...

States calling for an interoperability provision argued that cluster munitions are more likely to be used by non-state parties that anti-personnel mines were in the case of the Mine Ban Treaty. To their logic, while they said they would urge non-state parties they might interoperate militarily with to join the cluster munition treaty, and would make them aware of its provisions, they could not be expected to be responsible for things they could not control i.e. use of the weapon by an operational partner. And, related to this, they were concerned about the liability consequences, not just in state terms but also for individuals.

Disarmament Insight said...

The'military utility argument' would imply more frequent, but not qualitatively different interoperability challenges. Greater military utility would lead to more frequent use in joint operations (and planning of use in joint staffs), more instances of transit of cluster munitions through State party territory and a higher probability that cluster munitions would be prepositioned on State party territory.

Another argument that proponents of an interoperability clause have advanced relates to the circumstances of cluster munitions use, which, according to them, differs significantly from that of landmines. They say that the laying of a mine field or the placing of mines around a camp is usually planned well in advance and allows for interoperability considerations to be taken into account. Cluster munitions, in contrast, are deployed with a much shorter 'lead time'. The scenario often described is that of a State party to the Cluster Munitions Convention calling in close air support or artillery fire support from a non-State party aircraft, which may (only) be equipped with cluster munitions.