07 July 2008

Update from the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)

The Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions met for its third session today against the background of the achievement of the CCM in Dublin. The day's proceedings offered nothing surprising. The Chair (Ambassador Wigotski of Denmark) reiterated the mandate of the group to "negotiate a proposal" but asked countries not to discuss the definition of cluster munitions (in contrast to the position taken by Denmark and others during the Oslo Process where they insisted on determining the definition of cluster munitions before considering other elements.) In a subdued atmosphere that generally lacked energy and creativity there was some support for the Chairman's text as a basis for work, but significant divergence between Oslo Process and non-Oslo Process states on the way forward as well as varying views within CCM adopters and refuseniks.Although the Chair discouraged general statements at the outset, in fact the morning session consisted in fact only of such statements. At the conclusion of this exchange of views, delegations were not ready to move into substantive work as the Chair requested and the meeting was adjourned until the afternoon.17 countries and CMC spoke during the exchange of views - our statement is attached and included below. A number of Oslo Process countries noted the importance of the CCM setting a new standard and changing the international context on cluster munitions. Argentina, Ireland and Switzerland all noted that the prohibition on cluster munitions is the basis for their approach. Austria and Mexico made particularly strong interventions in this regard emphasising the normative function of the CCM as prohibiting these weapons internationally and rejecting any provisions in the CCW that might legitimise the use of cluster munitions.Non-Oslo Process countries, such as the U.S., Russia, Pakistan, India, ROK also recognised the Dublin agreement, but played down its normative significance and insisted that cluster munitions are lawful weapons if used properly. The U.S. promoted a technical fix to cluster munitions while Brazil, India, Pakistan and Russia all raised concerns about a selective ban on some cluster munitions but not others. The rumoured U.S. announcement on its national policy review on Wednesday is likely to influence deliberations here with many delegations expectant about what this position might be. France on behalf of the EU, Canada and Norway all argued for a prohibition within the CCW on "cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm" raising the question of what cluster munitions they believe might not cause unacceptable harm, particularly given that in the CCM they have agreed to a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions as a category of weapons.The afternoon session focused on protection of civilians with divergent views again between Oslo and non-Oslo countries. New Zealand noted that the best way to protect civilians was comprehensively to ban all cluster munitions and Canada, Germany, Senegal, Switzerland, ICRC and to some extent the UK shared New Zealand's concerns that a CCW instrument listing certain rules of IHL might undermine the general application of these rules to all weapons and if it failed to mention certain other rules this could in fact roll back IHL rather than develop it. The U.S., Russia and Israel rejected these concerns, the U.S. proclaiming that they were based on arguments that were "simply wrong" and Israel and Russia contending that existing IHL was adequate anyway with regard to cluster munitions.The morning session lasted for less than 2 hours as did the afternoon session. Deliberations tomorrow will continue on protection of civilians under the Japanese Friend of the Chair and victim assistance under the Austrian Friend of the Chair.CMC statement 070708Austria statement 070708France statement 070708India statement 070708Pakistan statement 070708Republic of Korea statement 070708