Organizers of a signing event in Norway this week are thrilled with the fact the number of Member States who have signed a new international treaty prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. Unofficial estimates are that nearly 100 Member States have signed. In related news, the 2009 "Portfolio of Mine Action Projects" is set to be released on Thursday.
The new Convention on Cluster Munitions (A/C.1/63/5)—or CCM—“marks a major step forward in global efforts to protect civilians and control the noxious spread of deadly, inhumane weapons,” wrote the Secretary-General in a message to the Oslo signing event.
The SG’s statement (full text) was read in Oslo by Mr. Sergio Duarte, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
“The horrific humanitarian impact of cluster munitions is well known,” the SG added. “During and long after conflict, they have maimed and killed scores of refugees, nurses, journalists, passers-by, women and men working in fields and orchards, and children helping with household chores or at play.”
At least 15 countries and a number of non-state actors are known to have used cluster munitions in at least 32 countries or territories. Thirty-four countries have produced more than 200 types of cluster munitions. Billions of these munitions are stockpiled in 75 countries.
The CCM was adopted by 107 States at a conference in Dublin , Ireland , last May. A list of states signing the convention in Norway is expected to be online soon.
The CCM will enter into force six months after 30 States ratify it and deposit their “instruments of ratification” with the Secretary-General.
“The conclusion of this Convention indicates a significant and fundamental change in the position of many governments that, until recently, regarded cluster munitions as essential to their security policies and military doctrines,” the Secretary-General noted.
The CCM defines a cluster munition as a “conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms…” The CCM therefore applies to all types of cluster munitions that have been used so far.
“Cluster bombs” are typically dropped from an aircraft or fired by rockets or artillery and then release hundreds of small “sub-munitions” that disperse over a wide area and explode on impact. In most cases, a percentage of the sub-munitions fail to detonate on impact and may land where civilians live or work. The unexploded sub-munitions remain volatile, capable of detonating when handled or disturbed by a person or a vehicle.
“There remains much work to do in mitigating the dreadful humanitarian suffering caused by cluster weapons, and the United Nations is firmly committed to continuing those efforts,” the Secretary-General said.
In addition to the so-called “Oslo Process,” which culminated in the new CCM, the United Nations has been supporting a similar initiative through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and negotiations are expected to continue in 2009.
More on mine action
The United Nations Mine Action Team comprises representatives from the 14 United Nations departments, agencies, programs and funds that are involved in mine action.
In 2009, the United Nations Mine Action Team will support projects to remove and destroy cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war, teach people how to stay out of harm’s way, and assist the victims of these devices in
Cambodia , Chad , Ethiopia , the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, southern Lebanon , Tajikistan , Western Sahara, and Zambia .
A description of these initiatives will appear in the 2009 edition of the annual “Portfolio of Mine Action Projects” to be released on Thursday.
The Portfolio describes 300 mine action initiatives planned in 33 countries, territories or peacekeeping missions in 2009. These initiatives will cost $459 million in 2009.
The Portfolio is an annual analysis of the impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war in countries or territories with mine action programs. The Portfolio also provides proposals for mine action projects and details their costs.
Countries profiled in the 2009 edition of the Portfolio have so far secured only about 5 percent of the total funding needed for the coming year, leaving a funding gap of $437 million.
“Remarkable progress has been made in eliminating the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war,” says Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain LeRoy. “We hope that our donors will help sustain that progress by closing the funding gap by early 2009.”
About 75 countries are affected by landmines or explosive remnants of war, which together claimed nearly 6,000 casualties—half of them children—around the world last year. Landmines and explosive remnants of war also take a heavy toll on people’s livelihoods, countries’ economic and social development, and international peace-building efforts.
United Nations support ranges from building capacities of national mine action institutions, to backstopping humanitarian relief initiatives, and ensuring the safe deployment of peacekeepers and United Nations political missions in Afghanistan, Chad, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Lebanon, Nepal, Sudan, and Western Sahara.
The Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2009 is published jointly by the United Nations Mine Action Service in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Office for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
The 2009 edition includes 300 projects covering all five pillars of mine action: clearance and marking of hazardous areas, mine risk education, victim assistance, destruction of stockpiled landmines, and advocacy for international agreements related to landmines and explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.