The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It also requires clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster munitions and establishes groundbreaking provisions for assistance to victims of the weapon.
“The first 30 states to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions should be proud of their central role in helping to put an end for all time to the suffering caused by these cruel and unjust weapons,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “For those not yet on board the Convention, 2010 is the year to get on the right side of history, to get in on the ground floor, and join the ban before the First Meeting of States Parties in November.”
Burkina Faso and Moldova both submitted their instruments of ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions at UN Headquarters in New York, ensuring that the pact prohibiting explosive remnants of war known as either cluster munitions or unexploded ordnance (UXO) becomes part of international law.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said the fact that the Convention was entering into forces just two years after countries adopted the treaty “demonstrates the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of these terrible weapons.”
While a total of 104 states have signed the convention, the United States has not. Those who have signed include most NATO members and other close U.S. allies. The Bush administration chose not to participate in developing or negotiating the convention, which was modeled on the 1997 treaty banning antipersonnel landmines. The Obama administration has not yet made its views on the convention known, but President Obama signed a law on March 11, 2009, banning the export of all but a very tiny fraction of the cluster munitions in the U.S. arsenal.
"Every signatory needs to ratify, and those who haven't signed need to come on board to keep more civilian lives and limbs from being needlessly lost," said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and co-chair of the international Cluster Munition Coalition.
The 30 states to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions include leaders of the "Oslo Process" diplomatic initiative, which created the Convention (Norway, Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, and New Zealand), countries where cluster munitions have been used (Albania, Croatia, Lao PDR, Sierra Leone, and Zambia), stockpilers of cluster munitions (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovenia), as well as Spain, the first signatory country to complete destruction of its stockpile. Other ratifying states are: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Luxembourg, Macedonia FYR, Malawi, Malta, Nicaragua, Niger, San Marino, and Uruguay.
First used in the Second World War, cluster munitions contain dozens of smaller explosives designed to disperse over an area the size of several football fields, but often fail to detonate on impact, creating large de facto minefields. They are also notoriously inaccurate.
The failure rate makes these weapons particularly dangerous for civilians, who continue to be maimed or killed for years after conflicts end. Ninety-eight percent of victims are civilians and cluster bombs have claimed over 10,000 civilian lives, 40 percent of whom are children, according to the UN.
Recovery from conflict is also hampered because the munitions place roads and lands off-limits to farmers and aid workers.
Mr. Ban called on all States that have not yet ratified to become a party to the Convention immediately.
“The United Nations is firmly committed to ending the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions and mitigating the suffering they cause,” he said.
“The rapid pace of reaching 30 ratifications – only 15 months – reflects the strong global commitment to get rid of these weapons urgently,” said Steve Goose, CMC co-chair and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. “Cluster munitions are already stigmatised to the point that no nation should ever use them again, even those who have not yet joined the Convention.”
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