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Fourth Intersessional Meeting Concludes in Geneva


CMC Campaigner and Ban Advocate Lynn Bradach addresses the Intersessional Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Victim Assistance © CMC

(9 April-Geneva,Switzerland) The President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Zambian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Namulambe called on States to “remain committed to achieve the aims of the Convention,” today at the closing of the Treaty’s Intersessional Meeting. “ I urge signatories and states not yet party to expedite the process to reach a cluster munition-free world,” the President said.

The meeting takes place against the backdrop of ongoing cluster munitions use in Syria by government forces resulting in mounting casualties.

Cluster munitions have been used in some 224 locations in 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates between July 2012 and March 2014 according to a technical briefing note released on 4 April by CMC member, Human Rights Watch.

Concern was also expressed at the meeting over recent allegations of cluster munitions use in South Sudan.

“The solution to preventing cluster munition tragedies like the one in Syria, is to make sure all countries condemn use of this indiscriminate weapon and join the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” said CMC Director, Sarah Blakemore.

Cluster Munition Coalition members participated widely in the meeting including delivering statements on clearance and stockpile destruction, calling for adequate assistance to victims, and full and transparent reporting by States on the progress made to date under the Convention and challenges remaining. The CMC, along with the Netherlands, condemned recent and ongoing cluster munition use in Syria as well as expressing deep concern regarding use allegations in South Sudan. New Zealand also condemned all use of cluster munitions. The CMC also raised concerns over development of national implementation measures to give full effect to the Convention; so far only 22 States Parties – one quarter of the total – have passed national laws.

Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions has shown steady progress to date. Highlights from the meeting included the warmly received announcements from Denmark and the UK on the completion of destruction of their cluster munition stockpiles. FYR Macedonia also completed destruction of their stockpiles since the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2013, and signatory Canada announced it will likely finish by September of this year.

Norway reported completion of clearance of their cluster munition-contaminated firing range, and Mauritania announced the completion of verification of their cluster free status. Both states are expected to make announcements of completion of Article 4 obligations, at the next formal convention meeting in September.

Despite this strong progress, concerns were raised by the CMC over lack of development of national implementation measures to give full effect to the Convention; so far only 22 States Parties - one quarter of the total - have passed national laws.

Cluster munition Ban Advocates, including victims, participated in the meeting as well. “There are still many gaps in between what is guaranteed by the convention and reality,” said Ban Advocate Lynn Bradach, whose son Travis Bradach-Nall, was killed by cluster munition remnants while on duty with the US Army in Iraq in 2003.

Several States including Signatories and Non-signatories and primarily African countries, spoke out at the meeting on the priority to further expand Convention membership.

The Cluster Munition Coalition is working with the treaty presidency to ensure as that as many states as possible ratify or accede to the Convention in the run up to the Fifth Meeting of States Parties in San José, in September 2014. Zambia will pass treaty leadership to Costa Rica at that meeting.

CMC 2014 Intersessional webpage - CMC statements delivered during the meeting will be available on this webpage as well as links to official documents from the Intersessional Meeting
• For live updates throughout the Intersessional meeting follow @banclusterbombs on Twitter and Facebook


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Fourth Intersessional Meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions


 CCM ISM 2013
Intersessional Meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, Switzerland, 2013 © CMC

The Fourth Intersessional Meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 7-9 April 2014. The lifesaving Convention on Cluster Munitions bans cluster munitions and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims.

This Intersessional meeting brings together government representatives from States Parties, signatory states and non-signatory states to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in addition to UN agencies, international organizations, civil society and cluster munition survivors.

States Parties and Signatory states are invited to take stock of the progress made so far in implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and any challenges or obstacles they are facing, as well as any requirements for international assistance. It is an opportunity for signatory states to make announcements regarding ratification. Non-signatories are encouraged to attend to announce progress on acceding to the Convention and to learn more about the Convention and its obligations.

There will also be an update on the preparations for the Fifth Meeting of States Parties (5MSP) that will take place in San José, Costa Rica from 2-5 September 2014.

The CMC has a prominent role in these meetings, bringing expertise from the field – including the voices of survivors – sharing research and analysis of progress made under the treaty, lobbing governments to ensure they respect their commitments, and sharing information with global stakeholders and the media.

For more information, including links to official documents for Intersessional Meetings, please see the CMC 2014 Intersessional webpage. CMC statements delivered during the meeting will be available on this webpage.

For live updates throughout the Intersessional meeting please follow @banclusterbombs on Twitter and Facebook.

Watch statements on the CMC YouTube channel.

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When the ground isn’t safe – playing football in the shadow of cluster bombs


Mini and his team members in Sweden © Per Friske

19-year-old Mini Phanthavong is a talented football player from Phonsavan, a town about 400km north of Laos’ capital Vientiane. At the age of 16, he joined his football-playing friends on an incredible journey to Sweden, where they competed in the largest youth football tournament of the world.  

Playing football in Sweden is different from playing in Laos. Not only is Sweden on the other side of the world and has it got lots of lush flat grass to play on; in Sweden Mini did not have to fear kicking the ball off the football pitch into a cluster bomb contaminated area.

Laos is the country most heavily affected by cluster munitions in the world. Between 1964 and 1973 the US dropped at least 270 million cluster bomblets. Of those, it is thought that 80 million failed to explode as they fell on the ground.

When we spoke with Mini he told us that he is well aware of the dangers of cluster munitions in his region. “I remember learning about bombs since I was a little child. My parents and all people around me always told me what bombs are. They told me to be careful and stay away from bombs. When I was in second year of primary school UXO Lao came to my school to tell about bombs and how dangerous they are.”

“With every step that I walk outside of the marked pathway, I am always concerned and scared of UXO [Unexploded Ordnance, such as cluster munitions]. I hear about the victims of UXO frequently, especially farmers on their farm land.”

However hard he tries, sometimes taking the risk and stepping into an area of land that has not been cleared of bombies (the way many people in Laos refer to cluster bombs) seems unavoidable for Mini. “When we kick the ball into a bush or the forest lawn, we have to go out of the playing field to collect the ball.”

In the area of Phonsavan, contamination by cluster bomb remnants is severe – to the extent that you might even find a cluster bomb where you should feel most safe, at home.  Ten years ago, Mini’s family discovered a bomb in their backyard, after they had been living in that house, and playing in that garden for four years without finding the bomb until that point.

Mini and his family were lucky to escape, but many people are less fortunate. Mini tells us about a man who got hurt by a cluster bomb while digging soil on his farmland. “A villager heard the sound and brought him to the hospital. He lost his hands.” As for many cluster bomb victims, the accident took away the man’s livelihood.

Today, on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners worldwide will highlight the terrible legacy of use of cluster munitions and call on governments to take action. In London, the Cluster Munition Coalition, in collaboration with the filmmaker Gareth Carter and the Swedish Embassy will show the film On Safer Ground. The film shows the journey that Mini and his team members make to compete in the Gothia cup in Sweden and the power of sport to overcome the challenges faced by the legacy of war in Laos.

Laos is a State Party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. The convention also obliges States Parties to clear contaminated land within ten years from the entry into force of the convention. Laos is obligated to have cleared its land by 2020. But due to the excessive amount of contamination in Laos, it is expected that this deadline will not be met.

With the international support needed for clearance, Laos and other countries affected by cluster munitions could be cleared within Mini’s lifetime.

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In a nationwide initiative organised by CMC member, Landmines Resource Centre for Lebanon, a member of the Lebanese army teaches school children about Mine Risk Education and the danger of cluster munitions, mines, UXO & ERW. ©Landmines Resource Centre for Lebanon

(London 4 April 2014): All states should prioritise the protection of civilians by joining the treaty banning cluster munitions and addressing their deadly legacy, said the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) today on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

“Ninety-four percent of cluster munition victims are civilians” said CMC Director, Sarah Blakemore. “The recent use of this indiscriminate weapon by Syrian Government forces continues to add to the toll of death and destruction. All countries should condemn this outrage and join the lifesaving Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay ” she added.

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions has succeeded in reducing the threat to civilians worldwide from this banned weapon.  A total of 84 states are party to the Convention, which bans cluster munitions and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims. Another 29 states have signed but not yet ratified the Convention.

As a result of the treaty significant progress has been make in clearing contaminated land and  22 States Parties have destroyed stockpiles totalling over 1 million cluster munitions and 122 million submunitions. This represents the destruction of 71% of all cluster munitions and 69% of all submunitions declared as stockpiled by States Parties.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions has also set the highest standards for victim assistance in international humanitarian law; with Iraq’s ratification in May 2013, the majority of cluster munition victims now live in States Parties to the convention, which are legally obliged to ensure that these victims are provided with adequate assistance.

April 4th was declared the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005. To mark Mine Action Day 2014, Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners from around the world including survivors will take part in national campaign actions to push every country in the world to join and implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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Zambian President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions visits most heavily affected country Laos


Cope, Laos
Soksai Sengvongkham shows Zambian Minister Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa  around the COPE visitor centre, Laos © COPE

In his capacity as President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Zambian Minister Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa has paid a visit to Laos.

Laos is the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munition remnants, left over from bombings during the Indochina War of the 1960s and 1970s. During this period the United States dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions. At least 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped as part of the bombing campaign; approximately 80 million failed to detonate.

The Zambian Minister visited Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) member COPE in Laos, an NGO which provides much-needed rehabilitation services to those injured by cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Soksai Sengvongkham, COPE’s Visitor Centre Operations Manager, gave Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa a tour of the centre, during which the Minister stated “Laos is a key nation in the effort to achieve a cluster munition-free world. My visit has proved very eye opening and has renewed commitment to rid the world of this indiscriminate and destructive weapon. Laos, you have our 100% support. Keep up the effort”.

The Minister also visited Xiengkhuang province — one of the provinces most severely affected by cluster munition contamination — to view first-hand the terrible legacy caused by use of this indiscriminate weapon.

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor unexploded submunitions were reported to have caused at least 7,580 casualties in the period 1964–2012, and approximately 2,500 survivors of this indiscriminate weapon live in Laos today. Sadly, every year people continue to fall victim to cluster munitions.

However, a significant effort to clear contaminated land is underway, with financial support from the global community and the clearance efforts of international NGOs such as CMC members NPAHI and MAG, as well as the national authorities.

Laos was one of the first parties to join the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, and was a former president of the Convention after hosting the First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane in 2010.

During his visit Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa discussed universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in the region with his Laos government counterparts. Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand have expressed support for the convention and are actively considering acceding to the life-saving ban on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions.

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