Oslo conference calls for new a treaty on cluster munitions as 40 governments meet
A clear commitment to develop, negotiate and conclude a new treaty by 2008 must emerge from the government meeting on cluster munitions in Norway this week, the Cluster Munition Coalition said today. Under the watchful eye of 50 civil society organisations from all over the world, government delegates from some 40 states gather in Oslo from 21 - 23 February.
The Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions (OCCM) aims to launch a new international process for a treaty rejecting the use of cluster munitions and dealing with the devastating effects of these weapons.
"Ten years after the historic ban on antipersonnel landmines, governments gathered at this conference must commit to a new international process to end the unacceptable harm caused by cluster munitions. Countries must not let this opportunity slip", said Thomas Nash today. He is coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), an international coalition of civil society groups working for a new treaty on cluster munitions.
Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse up to several hundreds of smaller submunitions ' sometimes referred to as "bomblets" - over wide areas. The danger of cluster munitions is twofold because many of the submunitions inevitably fail to detonate on impact, leaving them scattered on the ground like landmines, ready to kill and maim when disturbed or handled. Reports from humanitarian organisations have shown that civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs and children make up a high percentage in many countries.
More than 70 countries around the world stockpile cluster bombs and 34 are known to have produced them. The consequences of these weapons have been brought to light by recent conflicts including in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq where they continue to destroy lives and limbs. In Lebanon, more than 200 people have been killed or injured by unexploded cluster bombs since the ceasefire in August 2006.
"Cluster munition bomblets scatter everywhere and can fit in the palm of a child - they hang from trees and sit in school yards where they wait to maim and destroy. We urgently need an international legal framework that not only ends their use but also helps those affected by them," said Habbouba Aoun of the Landmine Resource Centre (LRC) in Lebanon. She witnessed first hand, the destruction caused by cluster munitions last year.
Despite this many governments, like the UK, US, Russia and China, still keep these weapons in their arsenals. Now international consensus is growing that a new treaty is needed to address these weapons. Belgium became the first country to ban the weapons in February 2006, followed by Norway, which introduced a moratorium in June. The OCCM, hosted by the Norwegian government, is the first step towards a treaty to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
"The Mine Ban Treaty started in similar difficult circumstances, but became a symbol of what is possible when civil society groups and progressive governments work together towards a common goal," said Grethe Østern, Co-Chair of the CMC, and policy advisor at the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA).
The CMC is an international network of over 200 civil society organizations in 50 countries committed to stopping the use of cluster munitions and protecting civilians from their effects.Members of the CMC network work together on an international campaign calling on governments to stop using cluster munitions and to work towards new international law to deal with this unjust weapon forever. More information on the CMC is available online at www.stopclustermunitions.org.
Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions (OCCM):
OCCM will take place from Thursday 22 to Friday 23 February 2007 at Soria Moria in Oslo, Norway.
The tentative list of participants to the conference includes: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Holy See, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
This list notably includes several states that are not party to the CCW, as well as a significant number of cluster munition producers and stockpilers.
Those expected to attend that have not yet expressed their support for a new treaty on cluster munitions include Egypt, Finland, France, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Among those not expected to attend the Oslo meeting are Australia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.
The CMC civil society forum, organised in partnership with Norwegian People's Aid, will be held in parallel to the government meeting with a series of events taking place in Oslo from Tuesday 20 to Friday 23 February 2007. Many leading international organisations will be attending including Amnesty International; Greenpeace; Human Rights Watch; Handicap International; International, Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL); the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Iraqi League of Doctors; Oxfam GB and War Child.
For more information, contact:
In Oslo, Thomas Nash, CMC, (English, French): +44 (0) 7711 926730
In Oslo, Habbouba Aoun, LRC, (English, Arabic, French): +96 13 658 573
In Oslo, Grethe Østern, NPA, (English, Norwegian): +47 900 78 208
Read the new Human Rights Watch Survey of Cluster Munition Policy and Practice for more information.
For other requests, contact Lars Glomnes, Media Coordinator, NPA, +47 909 60 829, larmolSPAMFLTER@SPATMFLTERnpaid.org
Source: International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
Von: 21.02.2007 www.peacejournalism.com