Disarmament Insight


Saturday, 6 December 2008

2008: The end of the beginning for the Oslo Process

The Signing Ceremony for the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) wrapped up at lunchtime on Thursday. (I would have blogged earlier, but I was out celebrating like the hundreds of other delegates present in Oslo. It's a cold city in December, but the welcome was warm...)

As of writing, 94 countries have signed the Convention (a list of 92 is here - add Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea Bissau), and more seem certain to follow in weeks and months to come. There are some surprises among them such as Afghanistan as mentioned in a preceding post.

Some big possessors and users of cluster munitions stayed away last week, of course, such as China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States. Much has been made of this in the media, but it's by now really a non-event as these countries shunned the Oslo Process and so it was no surprise they would be no-show-ers. Instead the U.S State Department's spokesperson asserted from far away in Washington D.C. that "the CCM constitutes a ban on most types of cluster munitions; such a general ban on cluster munitions will put the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk." The fact that the majority of those coalition partners were represented in Oslo in order to sign the new humanitarian disarmament norm was omitted, since presumably it is at odds with this opinion.

Brazil, however, attended as an observer, and there are some signs that it may be reconsidering its opposition to joining the CCM - not least because of the support for the treaty from so many of its Latin American neighbours. Brazil's views on joining the treaty matter to countries like its traditional regional rival Argentina (which participated actively in Dublin, but hasn't yet signed the CCM), and vice versa. Let's hope that leaders in the two countries can turn the situation into what scholars call a 'trust game'. Both would be better off in security terms joining the Convention and disposing of their stocks of cluster munitions, rather than keeping them for use against each other.

There was something of a party atmosphere throughout the Signing Ceremony week, especially as so many of those here who had been through the Oslo Process wringer together could now patch up any animosities, clap each other on the backs and have a galactic p*ss-up together. Perhaps some of this bonhomie permeated the party of NATO Foreign Ministers, who arrived en masse on Wednesday afternoon by charter plane from Brussels to make their statements welcoming the Convention and each sign the treaty before flying on to the Helsinki OSCE Summit. David Miliband - the object of British NGO Landmine Action's innovative campaign in Westminster Tube Station to get cluster munitions "Milibanned" - spoke in glowing terms about the new treaty. And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's statement was (perhaps to no-one's surprise) the most colourful as he proclaimed (in French) "Yes, we can! We can, and the US can sign this treaty, Russia can, and China can" adding that he'll press American President-elect Barack Obama to sign. Good luck with that.

Of course, all of these signatures to the CCM obscure a more concrete and significant fact: that already four countries of the 30 required to bring the treaty into force internationally have ratified (Ireland, Norway, Sierra Leone and the Holy See). At this rate the CCM may enter into force globally rather soon - it is possible the first Meeting of States Parties will be as early as mid-2010. Laos, usually something of an international recluse and the most seriously affected country from cluster munitions, has come forward to offer to host the First Meeting of States Parties.

And more attention is now turning to how the new CCM will be implemented, which entails settling some big questions about how a regime of doing and not just being a new humanitarian norm will be developed. There is a lot synergy, of course, with the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and how its implementation regime has developed over the last decade, and many useful lessons were learned that fed in to improving the text of the CCM treaty itself in the Dublin negotiations in May. But there are also some differences. The number of cluster munition affected countries is much smaller than were seriously blighted by anti-personnel mines in 1997, and the overall number of survivors is smaller too. Moreover, some survivors are being assisted already because of the Mine Ban Convention. And of course the Mine Ban Convention has some serious issues of its own such as states missing deadlines for clearance and stockpile destruction, which Maya Brehm and Megan Kinsella discussed in an earlier post.

One big issue for implementation will be to develop a more accurate picture of the dimensions of the cluster munition problem. Neither the mine ban nor cluster ban treaties make specific provision for this beyond their (differing) national reporting requirements for state parties. This led to the emergence of the civil society Landmine Monitor initiative in the context of the Mine Ban Convention, and a key question for NGOs now is how that expertise and experience can be further leveraged for a sort of 'cluster munition' Monitor. This weekend they are mulling over just that in Oslo.

And this touches on one of the biggest challenges of all: to ensure that while momentum is maintained and even increased for entry into force, universalisation and implementation of the CCM, implementation of the Mine Ban Convention doesn't suffer as a result. Indications are that many governments central to the Oslo Process, the UN, ICRC and NGOs like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition are well aware of this.

2008 has been a huge year for international efforts to address the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions as regular readers of this blog may have gathered from our ongoing commentary on the both Oslo and CCW processes. Indeed, we've followed the Oslo Process from the very beginning on Disarmament Insight.

Everyone now needs a rest (and some still celebrating in Oslo may also need a hangover cure). But 2009 will require continued effort, creativity and hard work to ensure that the CCM makes a difference to people's lives on the ground, even if it's not as immediately sexy and exciting as the negotiating phase we've just been through. Meanwhile, there are still the CCW meetings on cluster munitions to play out in Geneva in the first part of 2009...

John Borrie


Documents and media related to the Oslo CCM Signing Conference are accessible here.

Picture of Bernard Kouchner giving his statement on 3 December by John Borrie.


Anonymous said...

Great blog, but how come José Bové is behind Kouchner on the photo?

Alfred H.

Disarmament Insight said...

Nice one. I'm sure Jean-Baptiste Richardier of Handicap International will be just thrilled to hear of the resemblance.