JULY 30, 2010: Landmark Convention on Cluster Munitions Enters Into Force

Landmark Convention on Cluster Munitions Enters Into Force

SOURCE: United Nations Development Programme

Bangkok — A historic achievement in disarmament, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, will enter into force on 1 August 2010. The treaty provides a legal framework for ending cluster munitions' unacceptable harm to civilians, many of whom live in developing countries. Thirty-seven states have so far ratified the convention, and 107 countries are signatories.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons. It calls for the destruction of stockpiles within eight years of accession, and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years. The convention also responds to the suffering of civilians with a series of specific, measurable and gender-sensitive victims' assistance obligations.

"This treaty stigmatizes and will eventually eliminate a weapon that has caused so much suffering to people around the world," said Ian Holland, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Lao PDR in a press briefing on 30 July in Bangkok. "States, civil society and the United Nations all have a responsibility to work together to ensure that this treaty is implemented and universalized."

The First Meeting of States Parties (or 1MSP) to the convention will be held 9-12 November in Lao PDR, the world's most cluster-bombed country. The meeting will bring together states, civil society, UN agencies, international organizations, and cluster munitions survivors. Governments will delineate plans for action to implement the treaty's life-saving provisions by established deadlines.

The 1MSP will be a major milestone, but signatories' common goal is to tackle the long-lasting consequences of cluster munitions. UNDP will continue to advocate for universalization and the full implementation of the Convention worldwide to reduce the suffering of those affected by cluster munitions, as well as the weapons' impact on development. UNDP calls on all states to sign, ratify and implement the treaty.

Cluster munitions are canisters that open in mid-air, scattering numerous small explosive devices over a wide area. Their use in areas inhabited by civilians usually results in large numbers of civilian injuries and deaths, and hinders development by making areas of agricultural land inaccessible and generally limiting movement.

Dispersed cluster munitions can lay dormant for decades before exploding, and therefore constitute risks long after a conflict has ended. Casualty data from around the world demonstrate that cluster munitions are extremely hazardous and cause horrifying injuries. Since World War II, at least 15 countries have used cluster munitions in more than 20 countries. More than 80 countries have at some point stockpiled cluster munitions, containing billions of explosive devices.

Additionally, affected areas require substantial extra resources for clearance before any kind of development, such as road building, school construction or tourism development can take place. Concerted action against the weapons is therefore important to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

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