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Cluster Munitions

Cluster Munitions

What are cluster bombs?

Cluster bombs or cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release dozens or hundreds of smaller sub-munitions  Sub munitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called “bomblets,” while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as “grenades.” Cluster munitions are the most basic weapons that contain a canister that opens up in mid-air and fuses out dozens, sometimes hundreds of smaller explosives bomblets or sub-munitions. There are many types of these weapons but what they have in common is a wide air effect they spread out indiscriminately over a very wide area. And they leave behind large numbers of duds that in essence are little anti-personnel landmines. Wherever these weapons have been used they have caused numerous casualties to civilians both during the time of attack that is when they either drop off aircraft or short off artillery or short of rocket systems. Whenever they have been used they have caused excessive civilian casualties at the time of attack and it cause excessive casualties after the conflict has ended because they leave behind these large number of hazardous duds.

What’s the problem with this weapon?

Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many sub-munitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving sub munition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.

Why is a ban on cluster munitions necessary?

Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel’s massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008.

What are the similarities between cluster munitions and landmines?

The ICBL made a decision last year in December 2006 to expand its work into Cluster munitions; it’s still going to focus primarily on anti-personnel landmines which is very significant. For the first time ICBL has agreed to devote significant work to campaigning on something other than anti-personnel landmines and it is done so for several reasons.

One, as I have already mentioned, Cluster Munitions are left behind in a large number after they have been used as a large number of them fail to explode. They are the weapons that function just like anti-personnel landmines if you pick them, step on them, or kick them they go off. They are victim-activated pieces of unexploded ordnance. So in many ways Cluster munitions pose the same kinds of threat like anti-personnel landmines. They have an indiscriminate effect. It cannot tell soldiers from children. They create huge problems in terms of need for clearance and long-term need to assist the survivors of cluster munitions incidents. There’s a lot of overlap impact and the effect and the approach that is needed to deal with the issue in the long run.

What is the Oslo Process?

In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin.

Who is banning cluster bombs?


The Oslo Process

Norway launched an initiative in February 2007, known as the Oslo Process, following the failure of government talks within the traditional forum for discussing weapons issues – the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Led by Norway and other supportive governments including Austria, the Holy See, Ireland, New Zealand, Mexico and Peru, the Oslo Process set out to create an international treaty by the end of 2008. The February 2007 “Oslo Declaration” was endorsed by 46 countries and committed them to conclude a treaty that would prohibit the use, transfer, and production of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, would require the destruction of existing stockpiles, and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas.

Oslo Declaration, 23 February 2007 (Official Document)

A group of States, United Nations Organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Cluster Munition Coalition and other humanitarian organisations met in Oslo on 22 – 23 February 2007 to discuss how to effectively address the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.

Recognizing the grave consequences caused by the use of cluster munitions and the need for immediate action, states commit themselves to:

  1. Conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument that will:
    • prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and
    • establish a framework for cooperation and assistance that ensures adequate provision of care and rehabilitation to survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk education and destruction of stockpiles of prohibited cluster munitions.
  2. Consider taking steps at the national level to address these problems.
  3. Continue to address the humanitarian challenges posed by cluster munitions within the framework of international humanitarian law and in all relevant fora.
  4. Meet again to continue their work, including in Lima in May/June and Vienna in November/December 2007, and in Dublin in early 2008, and welcome the announcement of Belgium to organise a regional meeting.

Following the meeting in Oslo, a series of international conferences were hosted by other supportive governments to discuss the terms of the treaty in Peru, Austria, New Zealand and Ireland. Around 140 countries participated in one or more of the Oslo Process conferences including major user and producer states, affected states and states that stockpile cluster bombs. Regional conferences have also been held in Belgium, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand and Zambia. Serbia also hosted a conference for states affected by cluster munitions.

Timeline of international Oslo Process conferences
Feb 2007 Oslo Process is launched in Oslo, Norway
May 2007 Lima conference on cluster munitions, Peru
Dec 2007 Vienna conference on cluster munitions, Austria
Feb 2008 Wellington conference on cluster munitions, New Zealand
May 2008 Dublin negotiating conference on cluster munitions, Ireland
Dec 2008 Treaty banning cluster bombs to be signed, Norway

The treaty, or the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), was negotiated and adopted by 111 countries at the Dublin conference in May 2008. When it enters into force, the treaty will be a legally binding international instrument that prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and obliges states to clear up contaminated areas, and to assist people and communities affected by cluster bombs. The treaty will be open for signature at a signing ceremony in Oslo, Norway on 3 December 2008.

111 states adopted the treaty at the Dublin Conference:

Albania, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.

Included in this 111 are:
14 out of the 26 countries affected by cluster bombs
38 out of the 78 countries that stockpile cluster bombs
17 out of the 34 countries that have produced cluster bombs
7 out of the 14 countries that have used cluster bombs

35 countries in Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Macedonia (FYR), Moldova, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

35 countries in Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia.

19 countries in the Americas: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.

19 countries in Asia and the Pacific: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu.

5 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Bahrain, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco and Qatar.

Dublin to Oslo: From Adoption to Signature

The CMC challenges every country in the world to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We expect every country who participated in the Oslo Process to sign the Convention. We aim for at least 123 governments to come to Oslo for the Convention on Cluster Munitions signing ceremony on 2-3 December 2008. In particular, we urge countries affected by cluster munitions—including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Serbia, Sierra Leone, and Vietnam—to be among the first states to sign the Convention this December.

We challenge governments, where possible, to complete their ratification process before the treaty is opened for signature in order to present their instruments of ratification at the signing ceremony in Oslo, Norway. If thirty governments ratify the Convention by 1 June 2009 (one year after adoption), this would trigger entry into force by the beginning of 2010. Such an achievement could make the Convention on Cluster Munitions the fastest multilateral humanitarian law agreement to enter into force in history.

When CMC campaigners return home from Dublin next week, we will urge our governments to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008. We will inform and work with media, NGOs, parliamentarians, government officials, and the public to accomplish the goals outlined in this Action Plan. We will encourage our governments to promote the Convention’s rapid entry into force in their statements, resolutions, and other actions between now and the December 2008 signing ceremony.

In Oslo this December, we intend to convene a campaign meeting to consider implementation and monitoring of the Convention. We would like to work closely with governments and others interested in ensuring the effective functioning of the Convention following its entry into force.

Oslo to Entry into Force: From Signature to 30 Ratification

We challenge signatory states to ratify the Convention without delay to enable it to take effect as soon as possible. The CMC will launch a public campaign for “The First Thirty,” the critical number of ratification necessary to trigger entry into force. Who with be the first to ratify? Who will be the 30th, triggering entry into force?

Until the Convention enters into force, the CMC will emphasize that according to international law (Article 18 of the Vienna Convention), all signatories should consider themselves bound by the object and purpose of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

What is Campaign against cluster munitions?

The weapon has not been used as extensively as anti-personnel landmines, it’s been used in about two dozen countries. In whatever ways it’s been used that has violated the International Humanitarian Law and has caused too many civilians to die and suffer injuries. Because of this the NGO’S (Non- governmental Organizations) came together in November 2003. It was in the wake of use of cluster monitions in Yugoslavia and Kosovo in 1999 and use of cluster munitions in huge numbers in invasion of Iraq in 2003. The NGO’s came together to form a coalition, a cluster munitions coalition that is dedicated to trying to get rid of these dangerous indiscriminate weapons. It now has several hundred members working together to bring about a treaty, which prohibits the dangerous Cluster munitions. The campaigners of Cluster Munition Coaliation (CMC) are working hard all over the world. This campaign is not only about helping those who have been infected by cluster munitions; it is very much about preventing the future disaster that could be more disastrous and worse than landmine crises.

What is the People’s Treaty?

The Cluster Munition Coalition, in collaboration with Mines Action Canada and Handicap International, launched the People’s Treaty on 30 May – the final day of the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions after the 111 participating states unanimously adopted the new treaty.

The People’s Treaty is a petition that people across the world will be asked to sign to make sure that as many states as possible sign the new treaty in Oslo from 2-3 December 2008. It is only six months between Dublin and Oslo to ensure that countries – your country – will be ready to sign and ratify the treaty so that it can become binding international law.

NCBL is going to organize a People’s Treaty at Kathmandu in October. We would like to urge to participate in People’s Treaty and put your signature to ensure the Nepal government will participate the Oslo Process and sign the Treaty.

Activities of NCBL

To ensure the participation of the Nepal government in signing ceremony in Oslo. Advocacy and lobbying: The NCBL is continuing advocacy and lobby programs to the government and encouraging to participate in international conferences and to be active in Oslo process and to take stand for it. Read in detail about our activities »

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