Internationally banned cluster munitions causing civilian casualties
Mines Action Canada strongly condemns the ongoing use of cluster munitions in Ukraine. The confirmed use of cluster munitions has resulted in civilian casualties in multiple Ukrainian cities. Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, human rights organizations and investigative journalists have documented multiple cluster munition strikes in civilian areas. Mines Action Canada is deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of these banned weapons and calls for the immediate end to their use.
Cluster munitions are weapons that contain multiple smaller submunitions that are released in the air to land randomly over an area the size of a football field. Civilians often make up over 90% of the casualties of cluster munitions at the time of use and when they fail to function as intended becoming de facto landmines. Over 100 countries including Canada have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the possession and use of these weapons because of their unacceptable humanitarian impact. Russia and Ukraine remain outside the Convention.
“We know that when cluster munitions are used civilians pay the price. It is shocking to see these inhumane weapons used in Ukrainian cities. The bombing and shelling of cities is never acceptable, but the reported cluster munition strikes on a hospital and a pre-school bring a new level of horror to this conflict” said Program Manager, Erin Hunt. “The civilian harm caused by Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2015 and in Syria from 2015 has been well documented. Mines Action Canada calls on Russia to stop the use of this internationally banned weapon before more civilians are killed.”
The use of cluster munitions in Ukrainian cities over the past week will have a long term impact on life in Ukraine. Photos from Ukraine indicate that unexploded submunitions now contaminate residential areas in Kharhiv and other cities putting civilians at risk of death or injury. The threat from unexploded submunitions, which are more lethal than landmines, will linger for years to come preventing Ukrainians from living safely in affected areas and costing lives and limbs.
“Shopping mall parking lots, city streets and residential areas are now contaminated with unexploded submunitions. Canada can take action to help Ukrainian communities affected by cluster munitions by funding humanitarian mine action operators to carry out risk education and eventually clearance operations” added Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “Risk education, which warns people about dangerous explosive remnants of war like submunitions, is an urgent need as most civilians in Ukrainian cities have never seen these weapons before. These life-saving messages can be shared during the conflict through social media, radio and television so there is no time to waste. Canada has a long history of funding mine action operations in Ukraine which needs to continue throughout the war and into peace time.”
In addition, Mines Action Canada calls on the Government of Canada and all States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to continue to condemn the use of cluster munitions and strengthen the global stigma against these inhumane weapons.
Canadians should urge all family and friends in Ukraine to not touch any unexploded munitions or unknown items found after bombing or shelling and to alert local emergency services to the presence of dangerous items. Please do not share videos or photos of people picking up such lethal items.
Today, the Mine Action Fellows addressed the 2nd Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions via a video statement.
The full text of the statement can be found here. Thank you to the Swiss Presidency for working with the Mine Action Fellows over the past two years and to all our donors for supporting youth engagement in disarmament.
Mine action is and should be everybody’s concern – and for very obvious reasons. The effects of landmines are felt by men, women and children in different ways, but all are affected and so the solutions to end this problem should be sought and supported by all. Unfortunately, women remain under represented in this field of work. Discussions on the subject are normally dominated by men with little representation from women (unless it’s a discussion about women’s involvement or gender equality but that’s a discussion for another day); when it comes to women’s involvement, a lot still needs to be done to ensure that they, like men, are permitted to add a meaningful voice to inform policy, actions and decisions.
Mines Action Canada has worked since 1998 to train, mentor and empower youth to address the impacts of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons. The Mine Action Fellows Program, started by MAC in 2018, has 45 youth from 25 countries enrolled so far. These are young people who are interested in or are already involved with civil society organizations working in mine action. The 2018 and 2019 cohorts focused on young women and deliberately so, to increase female involvement in mine action. This program brings to life a famous slogan, “Nothing about us without us” originally coined in Latin as; nihil de nobis, sine nobis. Each year the Mine Action Fellows have an in-person assembly at a forum organized to run alongside a global diplomatic meeting that brings together various stakeholders in mine action, including governments and civil society organizations. During the forum the youth undergo various training in topics relevant to their role as youth leaders; they also witness the major international diplomatic meeting in action; as well as meet and learn from fellow campaigners from around the world.
Last year the Mine Action Fellow’s Forum that was held from November 24 to November 29 in Oslo, Norway was attended by 32 female youth from 13 different countries. Among them were three landmine survivors and 22 were from landmine affected countries. Having survivors at this forum was important for us because they hold the lived experience of the harmful effects of landmines and their stories are such a powerful force to compliment all the statistics and data collected and shared to inform policy and decisions. Landmine survivors are truly experts in landmines. The forum took place alongside the 4th Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty. The Review Conference is a formal diplomatic meeting of all states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty that reviews progress made in achieving the treaty obligations and set an action plan for the next five years. These young women were exposed to formal plenary discussions and after some basic training in lobbying, they also got an opportunity to speak with governments that had not yet submitted their annual Article 7 transparency reports and encouraged them to do so. It was interesting to see these young women confidently and in certain instances persistently take on governments and ask them to account for their Article 7 reports. The assertive manner with which they did this could not go unnoticed – they sure did make MAC proud. What I saw in these youth was the future of Mine Action in good hands.
During this time the youth also drafted and presented a statement to the conference delegates, in which they called for increased resources, political will and concrete support by all states parties to finish the job by 2025. They were very clear about having the job done by 2025, and in their call to get this done they stated very boldly; “Our generation is ready to help finish the job on landmines, but in many of our countries we still need your support. We cannot wait forever so we are giving you only 5 (more) years”. The youth statement was the highlight of the Forum and for many, the Review Conference as well. The conference ended on a high with this powerful statement which was read out by four of the young women, each taking a part in one of the UN languages, namely English, French, Arabic and Spanish.
From this unforgettable experience for those involved, MAC sent a strong message to the world; that you cannot leave out such an important group when you discuss something that affects the communities they live in. Young women should be involved at every level of mine action because just as the problem affects them, they should also be part of the solution. And because this year’s theme for International women’s day, Each for Equal is about collective individualism, we believe that each of the young women who represented their community at the conference went back to add their voice and effort to the field for a bigger impact as they clearly put it in their statement:
“Each of us present here is proof that if there is a strong commitment to a better world, whatever language you speak, whatever country you come from, by uniting your strengths you will be able to achieve your goals”
Diane Mukuka is Mines Action Canada's Project Officer
Today, Mines Action Canada released a new paper on women's employment in mine action.
"Gender and Employment in Mine Action by the Numbers" contains the results of a pilot study on employment of women by non-governmental organizations in landmine clearance and related fields. A short survey was carried out in the first quarter of 2019 by a graduate student Research Associate and the collected data was analyzed by Mines Action Canada staff later in the year.
MAC is sharing the results of this survey as the international community meets in Geneva for the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting.
In addition to providing some limited answers to questions like how many women work in mine action, Mines Action Canada hopes to shed some light on the success of gender mainstreaming in mine action and highlight areas of improvement for the sector.
The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and mine action are closely related, but too often the communities working on these two topics are distinct and separate. To achieve the goals of the WPS agenda, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, states and civil society need to keep both sectors in mind.
As the 2025 goal set by States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty fast approaches and the States Parties to the Convention Cluster Munitions strive to implement the treaty as effectively and efficiently as possible, it is crucially important to capitalize on all intersections between mine action and the WPS agenda.
Read the short delegate briefing paper on the intersections between the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, released at the 9th Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions here.
The expanded paper covering both the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions is available here.
Ban treaty advances progress in eliminating humanitarian threat of cluster bombs, with deadly
exception of ongoing attacks in Syria
(Geneva, 29 August 2019) – As the treaty banning cluster munitions nears its ten-year anniversary since entering into force in 2010, it remains an effective agreement that is making the world safer, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor, an annual monitoring report released today by the Cluster Munition Coalition.
“As more countries join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and take measures to end the threat cluster munitions pose, we are progressing toward a world free of these inhumane weapons” said Hector Guerra, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “Syria must immediately stop using cluster munitions and Russia must refrain from being complicit in this use, and all countries should commit to addressing the harm caused by these nefarious weapons."
For the first time since 2015, the Monitor did not report new use of cluster munitions in Yemen in the year prior to its publication.
It also found that in Syria the number of reported cluster munition attacks has decreased since mid-2017 as government forces have regained areas previously held by non-state armed groups. In 2018, 80 cluster munition casualties were recorded in the country, the lowest annual figure since use resumed there in 2012. The report warns that the actual number of casualties and instances of use are likely far higher as access to Syria is limited and many activities go unrecorded.
Cluster Munition Monitor 2019 reports that three countries have ratified the treaty in the past year—the Gambia, Namibia, and the Philippines—bringing the total number of States Parties to 106.
“The stigma against cluster munitions is growing stronger by the day, as shown by the dedicated work to destroy stocks, clear remnants, and ensure the ban convention is functioning effectively,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, ban policy editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2019. "States that have not joined this convention should reconsider that position and take steps to accede without delay.”
The Cluster Munition Coalition urges states outside the convention to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions ahead of its milestone Second Review Conference in September 2020.
The annual report also finds that States Parties to the convention have already destroyed 99% of their stockpiled cluster munitions, eliminating a collective total of nearly 1.5 million cluster munitions and more than 178 million submunitions. Since the last edition of Cluster Munition Monitor was published in August 2018, Botswana and Switzerland completed destruction of their stockpiles. Guinea-Bissau, however, did not meet its stockpile destruction deadline of 1 May 2019—the first time a state has violated the treaty's eightyear stockpile destruction deadline.
In total, Cluster Munition Monitor 2019 identified at least 149 new cluster munition casualties globally in 2018, a continuation of the significant decrease compared to the annual total of 971 in 2016 and 289 in 2017. While all the casualties recorded due to attacks occurred in Syria (65) in 2018, Yemen had the most recorded casualties due to cluster munition remnants (31), surpassing the annual remnants casualties reported for Syria (15) or Lao PDR (21) for the first time. Casualties related to remnants from earlier conflicts were also recorded in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, South Sudan, Ukraine, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Civilians accounted for 99% of all casualties whose status was recorded in 2018, consistent with statistics on cluster munition casualties for all time, and due to the indiscriminate and inhumane nature of the weapon.
"Our reporting demonstrates clearly that each year nearly all victims of cluster munitions are civilians, with children accounting for more than half of the casualties reported in 2018 due to the explosion of deadly remnant submunitions,” said Loren Persi, casualties and victim assistance editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2019. “States and the international community need to urgently prioritize assistance and increase resources in order to better address the needs of cluster munition survivors, their families and communities."
States Parties with cluster munition victims have obligations to provide adequate assistance and these provisions have improved the situation for victims since the convention was adopted. Significant challenges remain, however. In the last year, for example, declines in funding for community-based work has left local organizations struggling to maintain their operations. As a result some victims in affected states were not able to reach, or access, vital services.
At least 26 states remain contaminated by these weapons, including 12 States Parties to the convention. No state completed cluster munition clearance in the past year. In all, 10 countries, eight of which are States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, have completed clearance of cluster munition-contaminated land.
Cluster munitions are fired by artillery and rockets or dropped by aircraft, and open in the air to release multiple smaller bomblets or submunitions over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving dangerous remnants that pose the same danger as landmines until cleared and destroyed. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted and opened for signature in 2008, and entered into force on 1 August 2010. It comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of
stockpiles within eight years, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years, and the provision of assistance for victims of the weapon.
Read the 2019 Cluster Munition Monitor here.
From February 5th to 8th, Mines Action Canada attended the National Mine Action Directors' Meeting for the first time. The National Mine Action Directors' Meeting is a technical meeting focused on field operations rather than the Ottawa Treaty but this year, our Program Manager, Erin Hunt, was asked to address the plenary during a panel discussion on Building Stronger Communities: Youth and Women in Mine Action. Her presentation focused on our youth programming and on gender equality.
The presentation explored MAC's understanding of empowerment and our TEAM approach to youth engagement before speaking about how masculinity affects who belongs in mine action. This image which includes phrases from over 15 languages all outlining a narrow understanding of masculinity.
The presentation included the following ideas about how the mine action sector can step up for a more inclusive mine action which will be a more successful mine action.
- One take away from our youth program is the importance of mentorship and action –getting to work with a leader who looks like you and seeing your work have an impact in empowering.
- We need to seek out and hear from expertise that looks and sounds different.
- We need to be careful that efforts to highlight diversity are not inadvertently cementing limiting stereotypes. For example, if you are profiling a female staff member, don’t refer to her as one of the few women or one of a select number of women working in mine action. Women in mine action are just regular women doing a job. Making it sound like women have to be special to work in mine action reduces the likelihood a woman would see themselves in the job and answer your job posting.
- Please remember youth and women are not homogenous groups and make sure that all sorts of people from those demographics are consulted and included.
- We should learn and talk about gender/diversity more. We often see the same faces at side events about gender or youth – and usually they are women. It would be great to see more people especially men showing up for these sessions so I’m issuing a challenge for everyone in this room to attend at least one meeting, lecture, side event, panel or training on gender or diversity this year.
- When in doubt talk to the Gender and Mine Action Program.
- Finally, if the structures, systems and environment we work in do not have space for youth, women or anyone else who doesn’t fit the current understandings of who belongs in mine action, we need to think creatively, adapt and change the structures.
We're celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). To mark this anniversary, we have been sharing facts about the CMC on our Facebook and Twitter. In 15 years, the CMC successfully campaigned for the negotiation and implementation of a ban on cluster munitions. The work isn't done yet but today we get to celebrate how far we've come.
It has been ten years since the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin. In those ten years, the treaty has been signed by 120 states, ratified by 103 states, entered into force, had 7 Meetings of States Parties and a Review Conference and destroyed millions of cluster munitions around the world.
Over the past ten years, victims have seen their access to services expanded in some countries and clearance operations have made land safe to walk on in communities large and small. Thousands of people have worked countless hours to make the words adopted in Dublin a reality for millions.
Also for those ten years, we have been waiting for 17 states to complete the ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They signed the treaty and still have not become full state parties. For ten years these countries have been one step away from stating clearly and forcefully that cluster munitions, with their over 90% civilian casualty rate, are inhumane, illegitimate and illegal.
Ten years is long enough. Help bring these states on board the Convention on Cluster Munitions this summer. Tell them the time is now - it is time to ratify.
Click below to tweet to each state.
(Geneva, 31 August 2017) – States are continuing to ratify and implement the international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions while new use of these notorious weapons in Syria and Yemen has caused even more civilian casualties, according to the annual monitoring report released today by the Cluster Munition Coalition at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva.
“Last year, cluster munition casualties doubled, and civilians accounted for nearly all of the victims. The only sure way to end this insidious menace is to have all states embrace and adhere to the international ban on these weapons,” said Jeff Abramson, coordinator of the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor initiative. “The humanitarian devastation caused by cluster munitions is particularly acute in Syria, where use has continued unabated since mid-2012.”
Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 identified at least 971 new cluster munition casualties globally in 2016, with 860 of these in Syria. This global number is certainly less than the actual total. Disturbingly, the number of casualties in 2016 is more than double the number recorded in 2015 (417), making it the second-highest annual figure since Cluster Munition Monitor reporting began in 2009 (highest was in 2013). When it was possible to identify their status, civilians made up 98% of casualties. Most of these casualties occurred during cluster munition attacks (837 in Syria and 20 in Yemen). Additionally, more than 100 people were known to have been killed or injured by previously unexploded cluster munition submunitions, the deadly landminelike remnants left over from earlier attacks. In Lao PDR, all of the 51 new casualties in 2016 were the result of remnants from cluster munitions used in the 1960s and 1970s. In total, casualties were recorded in 10 countries in 2016, but new attacks causing casualties were recorded only in Syria and Yemen.
Since August 2016, two countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Benin and Madagascar), bringing the total number of States Parties to 102. Another 17 states have signed but not yet ratified the convention. Last December, 141 states, including 32 non-signatories to the convention, adopted a key UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“Most countries in the world are now part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and working hard to implement its disarmament obligations,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, ban policy editor of Cluster Munition Monitor 2017. “The ongoing use of cluster munitions in Syria is an affront to that steady progress and must continue to be vigorously condemned without reservation.”
Syrian government forces have continued to use cluster munitions, with at least 238 cluster munition attacks recorded in opposition-held areas across the country between August 2016 and July 2017. Russia has participated in a joint military operation with Syrian forces since 30 September 2015. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states has used cluster munitions in Yemen, although the number of cluster munition attacks has declined following widespread international condemnation. None of these countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Cluster munitions are fired by artillery and rockets or dropped by aircraft, and open in the air to release multiple smaller bomblets or submunitions over an area the size of a football field. Submunitions often fail to 2 explode on initial impact, leaving dangerous remnants that pose the same danger as landmines until cleared and destroyed. The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010 and comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiles within eight years, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years, and the provision of assistance for victims of the weapon.
Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 28 States Parties have completed the destruction of nearly 1.4 million stockpiled cluster munitions containing more than 175 million submunitions. This represents the destruction of 97% of all cluster munitions and 98% of all submunitions declared as stockpiled under the treaty. During 2016, three State Parties (Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland) destroyed 56,171 cluster munitions and 2.8 million submunitions.
In 2016, operators surveyed and cleared at least 88 km2 of contaminated land worldwide resulting in the destruction of at least 140,000 submunitions, both increases compared to the previous year. Mozambique announced the completion of clearance of its contaminated areas in December 2016.
“Efforts to grow the convention's membership continue to be central to stigmatize the use of these weapons and to bring an end to the threat they pose. Convention members have a better understanding of the location and scale of contamination, and will more readily share information about it, compared with states outside the convention,” said Amelie Chayer, acting director of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
At least 26 states remain contaminated by cluster munitions, including 12 States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Continued conflict and insecurity, particularly in Syria and Yemen, is hampering clearance of cluster munitions.
Countries with obligations to improve their assistance to cluster munition victims boosted their commitments to addressing victims’ rights when they adopted a five-year action plan at the convention’s First Review Conference in 2015. The 14 States Parties with cluster munition victims, and national victims’ organizations, face serious challenges because resources made available for them do not measure up to the promise of adequate assistance.
About the Monitor: This eighth annual Cluster Munition Monitor report has been prepared by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) for dissemination at the Seventh Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions at the UN in Geneva on 4–6 September 2017. It is the sister publication to the Landmine Monitor report, issued annually since 1999 by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor is coordinated by a committee of ICBL-CMC staff and representatives from CMC member organizations, Danish Deming Group, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, and Mines Action Canada.
Using the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as its principal frame of reference, the report focuses on activities in calendar year 2016 with information included into August 2017 where possible. It covers global trends in ban policy and practice, survey and clearance of cluster munition remnants, cluster munition casualties, and efforts to guarantee the rights and meet the needs of cluster munition victims. These findings are drawn from updated country profiles published online.
- Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 and related documents: www.the-monitor.org/ and bit.ly/CMM17
- Cluster Munition Coalition - http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/
- Convention on Cluster Munitions - http://www.clusterconvention.org/
- CMC Twitter - https://twitter.com/banclusterbombs
- Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Twitter - https://twitter.com/MineMonitor
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact:
- Laila Rodriguez-Bloch, Media Consultant, Geneva (CEST), Mobile/WhatsApp +41 (0) 78 953 0720 or email media [at] icblcmc.org
- Jeff Abramson, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor Program Manager, United States (EDT), Mobile 1-646-527-5793 or email jeff [at] icblcmc.org
- Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, Ottawa (EDT), Mobile/Whatsapp +1-613-302-3088 or email erin [at] minesactioncanada.org