10 April 2008

Global Cluster Bomb Ban On Track

Download Press Release(Geneva, 10 April 2008) As around 100 countries are poised to conclude an international ban on cluster munitions in Dublin next month even the world's reluctant military powers are inching along at a meeting on conventional weapons in Geneva -- although they cannot decide on what sort of action to take.The vast majority of states meeting in Geneva have already committed themselves to concluding this year an international prohibition on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. This global ban will be the product of the Oslo Process, which began in Norway in February 2007 and will culminate in a diplomatic negotiation in Dublin from 19-30 May. The US, Russia and China have remained outside this ban process but agreed last November to put cluster bombs on the agenda of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)."Today we can say that every single one of the major users, producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions has recognised that the specific humanitarian problems caused by these weapons require a specific international response,"said Norwegian Peoples' Aid's Grethe Østern, Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition.Although mandated to work for eight weeks in Geneva this year to find an urgent response to this humanitarian concern, certain countries including the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Belarus are focusing on a simple restatement of existing international humanitarian law (IHL) as the primary solution. Yet the basis for the Oslo Process aimed at a ban is the widespread recognition that new law is necessary on cluster munitions. However, far from distracting from the concrete work on an international ban, the session in Geneva - only convened for a few hours each day - has allowed committed governments to make progress informally on resolving the sticking points for the Dublin negotiations."An international ban is urgently required to prevent more lives from being shattered by cluster bombs. We are pleased that countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the UK have again emphasised that this week and we expect them to join the world community in adopting a strong ban treaty in Dublin next month,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition.Rather than considering any kind of legally binding prohibition on any cluster munitions, those states shunning the Oslo Process have refused to engage in substantive debate and limited themselves to considering a voluntary "best practices"approach. This has sharpened the distinctions between an effective and dynamic ban process that has met so far in Oslo, Lima, Vienna and Wellington and a severely limited and slow moving Geneva-based process, stifled by low ambition and the consensus rule."We are confident that a strong ban treaty will emerge from Dublin next month while there is little hope for meaningful results from the CCW, but the mere fact this meeting is taking place has already further stigmatised the weapon,"said Human Rights Watch's Steve Goose, Co-Chair of the CMC.For more information: Samantha Bolton, mob. +41 79 239 2366 samanthabolton@gmail.com or Thomas Nash on +44 771 19 267 30Download the full Press Release: Global cluster bomb ban on track as states prepare for Dublin negotiation next month