Today, November 13, marks 10 years since the launch of the Cluster Munition Coalition in The Hague, Netherlands at a conference hosted by Pax Christi with campaigners from around the world coming together with a mission to put an end for all time to the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.
Following the failure of government talks within the traditional forum for discussing weapons issues, Norway launched an initiative in February 2007, known as the Oslo Process. With the support of a host of other governments, the initiative led to the negotiation and formal adoption of an international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference in May 2008.
The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) played an instrumental role in pushing for the treaty, which entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010. It bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires countries to clear affected areas within 10 years and to destroy stockpiles of the weapon within eight years and includes groundbreaking provisions requiring assistance to survivors and affected communities.
Since the Convention entered into force, the CMC has gone from strength to strength and significant progress has been made in cementing the global norm supporting the ban. One hundred and thirteen States have now joined the treaty, of which 84 are States Parties. Seven signatories have ratified the convention in the past year, including two countries where cluster munitions have been used (Chad and Iraq) and one cluster munition stockpiler (Peru). Most of the remaining 29 signatories are in the process of ratifying.
Progress has also been made in the destruction of stockpiles, clearance of affected areas and support for cluster munition victims. Major stockpilers have indicated they will complete destruction years in advance of the deadline. In 2012, more than 59,171 unexploded submunitions were destroyed during clearance of almost 78km2 of land, 40% more land than in 2011.
One of the greatest achievements has been the steady decrease in the number of new cluster munition casualties recorded annually (until this year) and the assistance provided to victims. With Iraq’s ratification in May 2013, nearly three-quarters of cluster munition victims now live in States Parties to the convention. These states are legally obliged to ensure that victims are provided with adequate assistance, including those killed or injured as well as their families and affected communities.
These landmark achievements suffered a setback over the past year, with the use of cluster munitions in Syria and an increase in casualties recorded. Nevertheless, the strong momentum of the ban overall and the results achieved thus far are a testament to the hard work, dedication and passion of CMC campaigners worldwide and the vision of the founding organisations ten years ago.
Over the last decade CMC campaigners from over 100 countries have worked tirelessly together to develop highly successful national advocacy and campaigning strategies mobilizing governments worldwide to join the ban and push for progress on implementation.
Syria’s use of cluster munitions highlights the urgency and the importance of the work still to be done to prevent the unacceptable harm caused by these horrific weapons.