Next week, the big bag of diplomatic hurt the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) process on cluster munitions seems to have become will resume again in Geneva, for the first of what might be two sessions to see if something can be salvaged from last year's fraught efforts to "negotiate a proposal" on restrictions or prohibitions on the weapon.
At the end of 2008, Argentina bravely stepped up to the plate to chair the CCW's Group of Governmental Expert (GGE) sessions in February and (optionally) April 2009, and to try to fashion a consensus in that timeframe. This week, the incoming Argentinian Chair, Mr. Gustavo Ainchil, shared his views in consultations with states and others here in Geneva about how he intends to proceed.
- - Next week's agenda remains the same as the previous Group of Governmental Experts' meeting in November 2008;
- - The Friends of the Chair (FoC) on various issues have been re-confirmed in their roles for next week's session, although the Japanese FoC (who was dealing with thorny international humanitarian law questions) has departed;
- - The Argentinian Chair will not present any new papers before next week's meeting starts.
The Argentinian Chair also stressed that he doesn't want to re-open issues for which he already considers there is consensus, preferring to focus only on contentious ones. But such delineations may not be easy to maintain in view of the nature of these negotiations in which "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". He looks willing to take a shot at trying his hand at some compromise text, in any case.
So, we'll see what happens. Personally, I'm not hopeful anything will be achieved, especially as the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) has now been signed by 95 countries and the tactical importance of negotiating work in the CCW may have passed, both for those strongly supportive of the new CCM, as well as those unfriendly toward it.
But, of course I've been proven wrong before. Nevertheless, it's a pretty safe bet that if clear evidence of a consensus doesn't emerge in the course of next week's CCW GGE, the likelihood of a new, sixth CCW protocol on cluster munitions will be considerably diminished.
Image of 'Tape' by Ronald K, sourced from Flickr.