04 December 2007


(Vienna, Austria, 4 December 2007.) The third major international conference on cluster munitions opens tomorrow as 120 countries gather in Vienna to discuss a ban treaty to be signed in 2008. The conference is part of the so-called Oslo Process launched in February this year when states agreed on a declaration to conclude a new treaty next year.

“Well over half the world’s nations have come to Vienna to forge ahead in the Oslo Process this week. With global political will on this scale we are confident that a cluster munition ban treaty will be signed in 2008,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).

Over 140 civil society representatives from around 50 countries launch the conference with an international forum today, hosted by the Cluster Munition Coalition. States and civil society will spend three days discussing the key elements of the new treaty based on a comprehensive discussion text circulated last month.

“Quote from Steve on why the discussion text is the right approach – prohibition with positive obligations, etc.”

Building on the work of the last international conference in Lima and interim work at the conferences in Belgrade and Brussels, the Vienna Conference is likely to make progress on important areas of the text such as victim assistance, clearance and stockpile destruction.

“Quote from Simon on how these obligations will help those in need but also prevent future proliferation.”

The most contentious discussions at the conference will revolve around the definition of a cluster munition. While the Cluster Munition Coalition has circulated a broad definition and prohibition of cluster munitions, some countries are calling for exemptions for weapons such as those with self-destruct mechanisms. Most of the countries making such proposals are stockpilers of cluster munitions with self-destruct mechanisms, such as Finland, Switzerland and the UK, all stockpilers of the controversial Israeli M85 cluster munition. However a new report set to be released during the conference on the performance of the M85 in Lebanon last year contains damning conclusions on the value of self-destruct mechanisms as a solution to the problem.

“Quote from Grethe about the burden of proof being on governments to justify exemptions and how the M85 report findings undermine the self-destruct / failure rate approach.”

Following the Vienna Conference, the Oslo Process moves on to Wellington in February where the treaty text will be further discussed and where states will prepare the ground for negotiations. The final product of the Oslo Process, the new convention on cluster munitions is scheduled to be negotiated in Dublin at a conference in May.

Interviews:       Samantha Bolton, mob. +XXXXXXXXXXX, English, French

Thomas Nash, CMC Coordinator, mob. +447711926730, English, French, Spanish


Notes to editors:

o        Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse hundreds of smaller submunitions – sometimes referred to as “bomblets” - over wide areas. They have indiscriminate wide area effects that kill and injure civilians during attacks and they leave severe and lasting humanitarian and development consequences from large quantities of post-conflict unexploded ordnance.

o        The following 84 states are participating in the Oslo Process: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Chad, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lao PDR, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, UK, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.

o        The dates of the future Oslo Process conferences are: Vienna 4-7 December; Wellington 18-22 February; Dublin 19-30 May.

o        At least 75 countries stockpile cluster munitions and 34 are known to have produced more than 210 types of cluster munitions. 14 states have used cluster munitions in at least 29 countries and territories.

o        The CMC is an international network of over 200 civil society organisations in 50 countries committed to protecting civilians from the effects of cluster munitions. Members of the CMC network work together on an international campaign calling on governments to conclude a new international treaty banning cluster munitions by 2008.  More information on the CMC is available online at http://www.stopclustermunitions.org.