NZ takes lead against cluster munitions

Press Release: New Zealand Government Hon Phil Goff Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control New Zealand will be at the forefront of international discussions on dealing with the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions at a conference in Norway starting today, says Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff.


Media statement

From 22-23 February, Norway will host the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, an international meeting to kick-start action on cluster munitions.

New Zealand's leadership in this area has been recognised with the invitation to co-chair the first two sessions, on the challenges posed by cluster munitions and the complexities of addressing cluster munitions.

The Oslo meeting will seek agreement on a plan of action towards controlling cluster munitions. We will work with other like minded countries to build support for this initiative, after the UN Review Conference failed to agree last year on a mandate to launch negotiations to restrict the use of such munitions.

Cluster munitions are not a new problem. Many countries, including Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos in our region, suffer from contamination of unexploded cluster munitions in civilian areas.

Last years conflict in Lebanon left an unprecedented legacy of over 900,000 cluster munitions and 400,000 mines which continue to cause the maiming and deaths of innocent civilians. More needs to be done to counter this humanitarian tragedy and prevent this from happening again.

New Zealand has a proud record for the work it has done internationally in this area. A fortnight ago I had the privilege of farewelling the first of two, ten person explosive ordnance disposal teams to UN operations in Southern Lebanon. The team will work in one of the most heavily contaminated areas to locate and destroy cluster munitions, mines and unexploded shells.
"This represents an important contribution towards helping people and communities rebuild their lives", Mr Goff said.

A cluster munition is a canister containing several sub-munitions or bomblets, which are dispersed over a wide area to destroy moving or unseen targets. While designed to explode on impact, many of the bomblets fail and become a serious humanitarian hazard for people returning to those areas post-conflict.

Von: 22 February 2007

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