The 4th Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will come to an end this Friday, 25 November. Until then, the negotiation of a protocol on cluster munitions to be annexed to the CCW is likely to take up most of delegates’ time. Even at this late stage in the negotiations, however, it remains unclear whether states parties to the CCW will be able to reach consensus on a text. If they do, based on draft texts presented this week, it is also unclear whether the CCW will finally give birth to a mouse or a monster.
Several aspects of the CCW’s cluster munitions negotiations are disturbing from a humanitarian, international legal and multilateral negotiations perspective. In the view of many, as it stands now, the protocol fails to bring significant and immediate humanitarian benefits. Worse even, the present draft authorizes the use of certain types of cluster munitions. A number of states, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Cluster Munition Coalition fear that this may result in greater investment in the development and production of cluster munitions that are known to cause grave harm to civilians, lead to growing use of these weapons, and therefore greater civilian casualties.
The CCW negotiations also raise a number of moral and legal questions (see e.g. this backgrounder by international law professor Nystuen). This morning, over 30 countries stated:
The current draft would represent the opposite of what we consider the overall goal of the Convention.Indeed, a protocol that authorizes continued use of cluster munitions may run counter the very object and purpose of the CCW, whose preamble recalls “the general principle of the protection of the civilian population against the effects of hostilities” and reaffirms “the need to continue the codification and progressive development of the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict”.