Disarmament Insight


Friday, 24 October 2008

A Global Year of Action on Cluster Munitions

Although in many senses, 2008 has been a whole global year of action on the weapon, next week (27 October - 2 November) has been declared Global Week of Action Against Cluster Munitions by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), the consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations active in the Oslo Process that achieved a Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in May.

The CMC hopes that the Global Week of Action will encourage all governments to sign the Convention at the Oslo Signing Ceremony on 3 December, and to promote awareness of the treaty. 107 states adopted the CCM in Dublin on 30 May, so it's a reasonable expectation that many - if not most - will sign on the dotted line (so to speak) in Norway.

In the meantime, there are a number of cluster munition-related events happening. Many are in support of the CCM: there have been regional meetings in Sofia for Southeast European countries, in Kampala, Uganda for African states, a meeting this week in Lao PDR for ASEAN states, and one in Croatia. There will also be a workshop in Beirut in the second week of November for field practitioners in the region focusing on cluster munition clearance and a regional conference for states in Ecuador next month.

There is also the annual conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which will embark on its final week of work according to its November 2007 mandate to "negotiate a proposal" on cluster munitions, as well as time allocated to implementation of Amended Protocol II (on mines and booby traps) and Protocol V (on explosive remnants of war).
In the meantime, most disarmament diplomats in Geneva are in New York attending the annual UN General Assembly's First Committee, at which there will be both CCM and CCW resolutions. These are not in competition, and are basically procedural, so the expectation seems to be that both may attract consensus, or at least near consensus. (The good folks at WILPF are providing ongoing commentary of the First Committee, including on the CCM resolution, here.)

New York, of course, is also a good opportunity for the Chair of the CCW's Group of Governmental Experts, Ambassador Bent Wigotski of Denmark, to consult with delegations about how to proceed, following the events of the last round of talks in September.

There are two big, related questions: firstly, over whether Ambassador Wigotski will put forward a proposal for a draft protocol to CCW states, and whether they will be in a position to accept such a proposal by consensus. The CCW's September session saw some discord, and concern among many states that talks were headed toward a low common denominator outcome - one which might undermine or conflict with the obligations of the CCM already agreed. On the last day of those talks, the Chair allowed square-brackets to be inserted into key articles of his paper, which to some seemed to move the meeting's dynamic further away from (rather than nearer to) agreement.

The CCW Chair subsequently said he would develop a new text of his own to circulate to states by now, but one has yet to emerge publicly (at least to my knowledge). A proposal might well emerge shortly, or the CCW might decide to continue work next year, which at the very least would allow Denmark to conclude its 2008 period at the helm having taken the CCW cluster munition talks forward.

November's CCW meeting, then, will be interesting. For those who would like to know more about the story of the emergence of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the winding path of CCW work on these weapons over the last several years, you can of course read previous postings on this blog. In addition, I've just had an article published in 'Disarmament Diplomacy', which might be of interest.

John Borrie


John Borrie, 'How the Cluster Munition Ban Was Won: Oslo Treaty Negotiations Conclude in Dublin', Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 88, Summer 2008.

John Borrie, 'The Road From Oslo: Emerging International Efforts on Cluster Munitions', Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 85, Summer 2007.

Photo: 22/05/2008. Cluster Munitions Dublin Diplomatic Conference. Cluster bomb conference participants lying in O'Connell Street to make a cluster bomb shape with their bodies. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland.