08 December 2008

Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference - Update 3 December 2008

(Oslo, 3 December 2008) - 92 countries signed the new Convention on Cluster Munitions today in a truly historic and inspiring ceremony in Oslo. The day was filled with positive statements, congratulations, and thanks for all the hard work done throughout the Oslo Process - in particular by Norway, the core group, and the CMC. It was a day of hope and celebration, but one that also marked the beginning of future work to ensure the treaty will make the incredible impact on the world that was so often mentioned today in Oslo.It was a time to celebrate but also to focus on the steps needed to ensure the entry into force and universalization of the Convention and ensuring its provisions are fully implemented. Adding to the significance of the day, delegates recognized that today was also the international day for persons with disabilities and the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty.The Holy See, Ireland, Norway, and Sierra Leone led the way forward on the realization of the Convention by announcing that they were not only signing, but had deposited their instruments of ratification. Others, such as Burundi, Albania, Croatia, Lao, South Africa, Macedonia, and Panama stated they will ensure their ratification happens as quickly as possible and appear to be candidates to join the prestigious club of 30 States who will trigger the entry into force of the CCM.A momentous indication of the future impact of the treaty came with the most positive announcement of the day - that Afghanistan is signing the CCM! In an exceptionally memorable moment, Afghanistan announced that just two hours earlier, President Hamid Karzai approved instructions for Afghanistan to sign the CCM. Massive applause erupted from the City Hall.Until this morning, Afghanistan was not going to be a signatory, as Afghanistan is effectively at war, the representative said, and one of the most heavily affected countries by cluster munitions. However, the recognition of the plight of thousands of victims and Afghanistan's aspirations to a world that is free of arms and munitions meant that Afghanistan would sign the CCM.Afghanistan said that it needed to ensure its partners that are fighting the war on terror alongside the Afghani people that Afghanistan's signing will not affect its effort, but will in fact increase its ability, and is in-line with its vital national security interests. Afghanistan concluded by thanking the many Afghans whose efforts and activism lead the President to take the decision for Afghanistan to sign in Oslo today, in particular Soraj, Suleiman, and Firoz, who have spared not effort to bring their country on board.Immensely gratifying, countries that had previously sought to keep their cluster munitions took the floor proudly supporting and promoting the CCM. Others proudly stated their long-term commitment to the Oslo Process and appreciation for its extraordinary result.Reflecting on Norway's essential role in launching and driving the Oslo Process to secure a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions, Minister of Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, stated that when asked if this could be done, he replied with the most powerful slogan of 2008 - "Yes, we can!" State after state took the floor to thank Norway for its commitment to ensuring the remarkably successful and timely outcome of the Oslo Process.Foreign Minister Kouchner of France delivered one of the more refreshingly unscripted statements of the day. Referring back to Norway's statement, Mr. Kouchner said, ‘Yes, we can! We can, and the US can sign this treaty, Russia can, and China can.' He added that he will press President-elect Obama to sign. France's intervention was one of a number of uplifting interventions from significant stockpiler states indicating their strong commitment to the treaty.Other inspiring statements included strong words from the UK's Foreign Secretary David Miliband emphasizing that today's success is not the end, but only the beginning. We need to tell those not here in Oslo that the world has changed, and we have changed it, and a new norm has been created, Mr. Miliband said.Foreign Minister Steinmeier of Germany stated that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, overcoming the East-West division and the end of an era of weapons of mass destruction and their ‘cynical security.' Mr. Steinmeier announced that as of May 2008 Germany decided to remove cluster munitions from their munitions stockpiles and begin to destroy them. Germany also stated it will pledge 2 million euro for removal of cluster munitions and victim assistance.Indonesia called the Convention a ‘shining example' of carrying out disarmament as a humanitarian action.Spain noted that the Ministry of Defense announced yesterday that it will destroy its stockpiles of cluster munitions in just 7 months. Spain joined Norway in announcing that it is provisionally applying the provisions of Article 1 and had previously unilaterally stopped development of cluster munitions.South Africa announced that its small stockpile of outdated cluster munitions is slated for destruction and congratulated the overwhelming endorsement from African states for the Convention.Many countries highlighted the significance of the treaty's provisions for victim assistance. Others cited the critical importance of provision of international cooperation and assistance for implementation. Iceland, the Netherlands, Japan, and Germany announced funding pledges for assistance. Belgium stated that Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid has decided to patronize a Plan of Action on victim assistance that Belgium intends to launch.Luxembourg stated that in its national steps to implement the CCM it has also prohibited investment in cluster munition producers.With the amazing significance of the signing of the CCM beginning sink in for many campaigners here in Oslo today, the schedule for the future work for implementing the convention is becoming clearer. Lao announced that it will proudly hold the first meeting of States Parties and the Norwegian Foreign Minister in closing called on States to support this proposal by Lao. Chile notified participants of its intent to hold an international meeting next year.Representatives from the CMC team gave poignant and compelling interventions, along with the UNDP, UNHCR, ICRC, and a message from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Thomas Nash, Branislav Kapetanovic, Steve Goose, and Margaret Arach Orech, were truly inspirational in their comments on the strengths of the treaty, steps forward, victim assistance, and the role of survivors in the process.Branislav revealed a further addition to the significance of today's events, saying "It is a mere coincidence that tomorrow is my birthday and I think that I'm the happiest person in the world. I will get the best present ever - the official signing of the Treaty!"Let's wish Branislav a very happy birthday and celebrate the official signing of the CCM tomorrow!Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference - Update 3 December 2008 PHOTOS For more photos from the day check out the CMC Flickr site.