For a second year in a row, the Mine Action Fellows stated that “there is no room for cluster munitions in the future we are building.” It is an important message for the distinguished delegates of the 11th Meeting of States Parties (MSP) to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, this year led by the Iraqi Presidency. It reminds everyone in the room that cluster munitions are a lethal barrier development, and that the youth leaders of today are working hard to ensure that these lethal barriers are removed and prevented from being used.
This September, Mines Action Canada, with the support from the Governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, sponsored 11 Mine Action Fellows from nine different countries to attend the 11th MSP of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Fellows had a full week of attending plenary, participating in leadership sessions, lobbying with States, and finally delivering a youth statement which they drafted themselves.
The meeting opened with Mine Action Fellow Siliphone “Anna” Phommachanthone delivering an excellent speech as a representative from the Cluster Munition Coalition. With Anna’s experience being a Lao-American whose family left Laos because of the cluster munition contamination, she was perfectly placed to set the scene for the meeting and brought on the ground experience for the room to hear. It was the first time a Mine Action Fellow was included in the opening speeches of the Meeting, and we hope it won’t be the last because Anna proved that having an on-the-ground youth perspective is a valuable way to open the meeting.
Throughout the MSP, the Fellows met with important stakeholders such as the Director of the Implementation and Support Unit, the Iraqi President of the Meeting, and the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada and Switzerland. During the Plenary meeting, the Fellows lobbied over 15 States on topics such as Article 7 Transparency reports and universalization with significant successes in getting at least three states to follow up on missing annual reports. The Fellows also met with civil society experts including Humanity & Inclusion, HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group, and the Cluster Munition Monitor. These meetings were an opportunity for the Fellows to learn in-depth about different countries and aspects of implementation, and for States and civil society to learn more about the Fellows on the ground experience.
The MSP ended with the Fellows taking to the front of the room to deliver a very strong statement condemning any and all use of cluster munitions and reminding the room of the humanitarian aspects of cluster munition work. The statement showcased the Fellow’s diversity, as it was delivered by five Fellows in three different languages (Arabic, Spanish, and English). The room was listening, and they heard from youth leaders that more needs to be done to ensure that cluster munitions are never used, transferred, or produced again. The Fellows ended their statement reminding the room of what they stated last year: that there is no room for cluster munitions in the future they are building.