Governments must deliver action plan on cluster bomb ban
States at historic meeting in Laos urged to keep up momentum to save lives
(Vientiane, Lao PDR, 9 November 2010) – Governments have no time to waste to turn the promises of the new international treaty banning cluster munitions into concrete, live-saving actions, said the Cluster Munition Coalition today. The treaty’s historic First Meeting of States Parties is being held from 9-12 November in Lao PDR.
“By bringing this landmark treaty into effect so quickly, nations have sent a resounding message that cluster bombs have no place in today’s world,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “We’re encouraged that at least seven countries have already destroyed their stockpiles under the treaty. States must keep up the momentum and deliver on all of their treaty obligations.”
This is a defining moment in the life of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the most significant disarmament treaty in over a decade, which entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010. The Convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires the destruction of stockpiles, clearance of cluster munition remnants from affected land and the provision of assistance to victims and affected communities. To date, 108 countries have signed the treaty and 46 have already ratified, including three in the past week – Guatemala and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Lebanon, one of the most heavily affected countries in the world.
More than 110 governments are attending the Vientiane meeting – including over two dozen countries outside the treaty – as well as UN agencies, international organisations and more than 400 representatives of global civil society, including cluster bomb survivors, under the umbrella of the CMC. At least 18 governments have sent ministerial-level representatives to the meeting, which was opened today by Lao President Choummaly Sayasone and will be chaired by Lao Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.
“While we are pleased Canada is attending this historic conference were are very disappointed they are not doing so as a full State Party. Canada was among the first countries in the world to sign the Convention, but now two years later Canada has still not ratified it” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “We know there is all party support for Canada to ratify this treaty now. Canada has never used or produced the weapon and has begun to destroy its small stockpile. There really is no justification for the delay.”
The Vientiane meeting will adopt a political declaration – the “Vientiane Declaration” – that reaffirms the global commitment to eradicate cluster bombs and end the harm they have caused. States will also adopt a far-reaching “Vientiane Action Plan”, containing 65 concrete steps nations will take to implement their legal obligations under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. States will also adopt a format for transparency reporting and a programme of work for 2011.
While much remains to be done, countries have already begun work to implement their treaty obligations. Since the treaty was signed: Albania and Zambia have declared their territory free of cluster munition contamination; millions of stockpiled cluster munitions have been destroyed in countries including Belgium, Colombia, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Norway and Spain; and new donor funding has been secured for affected countries such as Lao PDR.
“Lifesaving work to clear cluster munitions is already going on and we know what’s needed to assist victims and survivors,” said Thoummy Silamphan, a Laotian who lost his left hand in a cluster munition incident when he was 8 years old and now campaigns on behalf of the Ban Advocates initiative of Handicap International-Belgium, a CMC member. “We just need the world to speed up and expand this work so that we can end the harm and ensure there are no more victims of ‘bombies,’ in Laos or anywhere else.”
Among the delegates at the conference are 42 participants from 33 countries attending Mines Action Canada’s (MAC) Youth Leaders Forum – a forum organized annually by MAC alongside official treaty meetings to give the next generation of ban advocates a unique ‘real-time’ experience in lobbying and advocacy with governments.
“We are very pleased to be hosting our largest ever youth forum alongside this historic treaty meeting with thirty-seven of our delegates coming from some of the most landmine and cluster bomb affected countries in the world”, said Nancy Ingram, MAC’s Program Manager. “If we are to realize a mine and cluster bomb free world in our lifetime, it is critical that the next generation be provided with not only the skills, information, network and mentoring opportunities to become effective advocates – but the opportunity to put that knowledge into immediate practice. This is exactly the opportunity the Youth Leader Forum provides.”
All countries affected by cluster munition use should be encouraged by the leadership role Lao PDR has taken, the CMC said. As the most heavily cluster-bombed country in the world, Lao PDR is a strong example of why urgent action is needed. Following an intensive US bombing campaign from 1964-1973, millions of unexploded cluster submunitions – locally known as “bombies” – affect 25% of all villages in Lao PDR nearly four decades after armed conflict ended and continue to devastate communities and the economy.
The CMC urges all states to ratify or accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay. The high level of participation at the Vientiane meeting by states that have not yet joined the treaty shows that the norm is growing.
“This Convention is the death knell for cluster munitions,” said Steve Goose, co-chair of the CMC and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. “Even those countries that have not yet joined are feeling the power of its stigmatisation of the weapon. No one should ever again recklessly and knowingly threaten civilian lives by using cluster munitions.”
The CMC will continue to monitor how states implement the Convention of Cluster Munitions, and the findings will be published annually by Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. The first annual Cluster Munition Monitor was launched in Bangkok, Thailand on 1 November 2010, and the report can be found online at http://www.the-monitor.org/index.php/publications/display?url=cmm/2010/
For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:
In Vientiane, Lao PDR, Samantha Bolton (English, French, Italian): +856-20-5457-9110 (Lao mobile); +41-79-239-2366 (Swiss mobile); or