Ireland leading the way on elimination of cluster bombs (IRELAND)

OPINION DERMOT AHERNAS I saw in Lebanon last year, cluster bombs have appalling and long-lasting consequences. That is one compelling reason the Programme for Government includes a commitment to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions. Nuala Ahern (Opinion and Analysis, March 4th) thinks the Government is dragging its feet. I value her commitment, but nothing could be further from the truth.


IRELAND 6 March 2008 (Irish Times)--

Ireland, as one of a small core group of like-minded countries, is in fact leading international efforts. Our objective is the conclusion in 2008 of the first international convention specifically targeting the production, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions. A diplomatic conference in Dublin in May should see the final stage in the negotiation of this Convention.
At a conference in New Zealand last month, more than 80 states endorsed the Wellington Declaration, which lays the foundation for the Dublin diplomatic conference. Many more states are expected to indicate their support in the coming months and to attend. I am confident that we are on track for the adoption of a convention which will be effective and will get a significant number of cluster munitions users and producers on board.
We think a convention will establish a new norm of international humanitarian law which will influence the behaviour of every state engaging in conflict, regardless of whether they have ratified the convention. This has been the experience of the Ottawa Convention in stigmatising the use of land mines, even by states not party to it.
We must also try to repair the damage already inflicted on societies and individuals by these weapons. The draft convention contains strong provisions for humanitarian assistance to victims, for the clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster munitions, for assistance in the destruction of stockpiles of these weapons and for risk education. The Government is committed to these objectives and is working to fulfil them, in close co-operation with non-governmental organisations and with United Nations agencies. Since 2000, Irish Aid has provided some €20 million to meet needs in this area and funding will be further increased.
Nuala Ahern suggests that we should enact a national ban even in advance of the forthcoming Dublin conference. I understand the desire to demonstrate symbolic leadership but I believe it makes good sense to wait to see what will be required in terms of legislation to ratify the convention. We have fully briefed NGOs and humanitarian organisations active in this field on our approach.
It is precisely to ensure that our legislation is of the highest possible quality that the Government is to establish the new national committee on humanitarian law. Its first task will be to consider the measures necessary to give effect to the future convention. These will be given the necessary priority in the Oireachtas timetable.
The question of investment related to the production or financing of cluster munitions has also been raised. With this in mind, I initiated contacts with my colleague, Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, and with the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, with a view to ensuring that no public funds are invested in any company involved in or associated with the production of cluster munitions.
I am proud that Ireland is leading efforts to combat cluster munitions and passionately hope that a convention will be agreed here in May.

Von: (c) 2008, The Irish Times.

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