13 November 2007


(Geneva, Switzerland, 13 November 2007.) Cluster munition talks proved fruitless in Geneva today as the focus shifts to a major international conference in Vienna to develop a ban treaty. Cluster munitions have been the central issue at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) at the United Nations this week, as proposals for future work were consistently weakened in the backrooms and almost no substantive work was undertaken on the issue.

“The decision here is a road to nowhere on cluster munitions that will never lead to a ban. Fortunately the real work to develop a ban treaty is well advanced and will stride forward in Vienna next month,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).

During a week-long session, nations that are members of the CCW rejected a European Union proposal to negotiate in 2008 a prohibition on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Instead, they settled for a weak mandate that does not specify that a future CCW instrument should be legally-binding or that it should include any kind of prohibition, and that does not have a timeline.

“This long overdue focus on cluster munitions in the CCW is a direct result of the progress made within the Oslo Process. The lack of concrete work or any clear direction reminds us why the Oslo Process is the only realistic option for developing a new international instrument that will ban cluster munitions by 2008,” said Nash.

The Oslo Process is a multilateral treaty initiative that emerged this year after the first international conference on cluster munitions was held in the Norwegian capital in February 2007. The UN, International Committee of the Red Cross and the Cluster Munition Coalition have been active participants in the Oslo Process since its inception. Following a meeting in Lima in May, the next round of treaty talks will be held in Vienna from 4-7 December 2007. This freestanding process has engaged a broad range of over 80 countries, including most CCW states parties and has spent 9 months developing the substance of a new treaty on cluster munitions. Against this background the CCW met in Geneva for five days of work.

At the opening of the meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on states to address the “atrocious inhumane impact of cluster munitions” and to conclude a legally binding instrument of international law that should prohibit the use, development, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. “Ban Ki-moon’s condemnation of the impact of cluster munitions echoes the commitment of more than eighty Oslo Process nations to negotiate a ban on cluster munitions. The Oslo Process will prevent a new arms race across the developing world,” said Simon Conway, Director of Landmine Action and Co-Chair of the CMC.

Virtually the entire meeting was taken up in so-called informal consultations outside the conference room discussing a mandate for future work on cluster munitions. Russia was the most visible and adamant country in initially opposing any negotiating mandate, and others expressing strong concerns included Belarus, China and Cuba.  A number of other states indicated that they could not support a negotiating mandate if it was explicitly aimed at any sort of prohibition, or had a deadline for conclusion of an instrument, including Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Korea, and the United States.

In 1996 the failure of the CCW to agree to a ban on antipersonnel mines led to the so-called Ottawa process that culminated in the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. Today ten years later that treaty has 155 states parties and the use of antipersonnel mines has almost completely stopped. In a similar way, last November as 30 states pushed for an international agreement on cluster munitions in the CCW, its failure to take action sparked the announcement of a freestanding conference and the establishment of the Oslo Process.

“Just as the Mine Ban Treaty was a response to the CCW’s failure to deal with antipersonnel mines ten years ago, the Oslo Process is a response to the CCW’s continuing failure to deal with cluster munitions. States with real concerns about this problem will come to Vienna ready to discuss the substance of the new treaty,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition.





The CCW meeting took place in the wake of the Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs on 5 November which saw public actions in 40 countries around the world and a joint UN and civil society advertisement campaign in international newspapers. Civil society used the day to call on all governments to adopt an immediate moratorium on cluster bombs and attend discussions on a new comprehensive ban treaty in Vienna.

During the CCW meeting, Bulgaria and Croatia announced that they expect soon to finish the internal procedures that will permit them to announce a unilateral domestic moratorium on use of cluster munitions.

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