18 April 2008

Latin America And Caribbean Push For Global Cluster Bomb Ban

Download Press Release(Mexico City, 17 April 2008)More than 20 Latin American and Caribbean governments have reaffirmed their commitment to a global ban on cluster bombs at a regional meeting in Mexico City one month ahead of the international negotiations in Dublin that will finalise an international treaty, with only Brazil and Cuba shunning the gathering.Governments from the region discussed the most controversial issues on the agenda for the negotiations, including possible exceptions to the ban, the question of joint military operations with non-state parties that may use cluster munitions and calls by some producer and stockpiler countries for transition periods to allow them to continue to use the banned weapon.“We have been delighted to hear the firm resolve of governments in this region this week for a treaty with no exceptions, no loopholes and no delays and this makes us even more confident that we will see a strong and comprehensive international ban agreed next month,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the CMC.Latin American countries have been strong supporters of the so-called Oslo Process launched by Norway in February 2007 with the goal of prohibiting by the end of 2008 cluster munitions “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.” Peru hosted the second major international conference of the process and Costa Rica hosted a regional conference for Latin America last year to promote a cluster munition free zone in the region.“This region is fortunate not to be affected by cluster munitions and by playing a leading role in this international process, Latin America and the Caribbean will ensure it never has to confront the human suffering caused by these indiscriminate weapons,” said CMC representative Wanda Muñoz of Handicap International. “The strong stand taken by the countries in the region to promote real and concrete advances in victim assistance is a testimony to their commitment to this cause,” Muñoz added.During the final preparatory meeting of the Oslo Process last February, most of the countries in the region endorsed the crucial Wellington Declaration which commits states to negotiate the new treaty on the basis of an agreed draft text. Several other states participating in the Mexico meeting this week indicated they would endorse the declaration, which is required for a state to be considered a full participant in the negotiations. Bolivia, El Salvador, Granada, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela indicated they would add their names to the list of negotiating countries in Dublin.Brazil, the region’s major producer and stockpiler of cluster munitions, did not attend the meeting, despite showing apparent willingness to engage in the Oslo Process after participating as an observer in the last international meeting in Wellington. Argentina and Chile, the regions other two past producer countries have both renounced future production and Argentina has destroyed its stockpile while Chile has announced that is in the process of doing so.“If Brazil does not sign this treaty it will not only be totally isolated in its own region, but will be keeping company countries who have failed to recognise the urgency of this humanitarian problem and who refuse to join the Oslo Process. We hope Brazil will make the right decision and show the leadership we expect,” said Cristian Wittman, CMC campaigner in Brazil.Brazil is expected to attend the negotiations in Dublin, but it is unclear whether it will attend as a full participant or as an observer.--For further information – In Mexico please call: Wanda Munoz +52 55 24 25 51 31, Thomas Nash +44 771 1926 730, Simona Beltrami +52 (044) 5543 7106 90