Skip to main content

Statement on Stockpile Destruction and Retention, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Meeting of States Parties

Delivered by Steve Goose, Director

Global Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions
Santiago, Chile

The destruction of stockpiles is a central obligation in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a convention that is in large part about prevention. The vast majority of the world's cluster munitions have never been used, so most of the cluster munition problem is still in stock. 

The Convention obliges States Parties to destroy stockpiles "as soon as possible," and the most important thing that states that possess stockpiles can do is to START NOW!

Strong political will is the key to the timely destruction of stockpiles. The first critical step in the process is to establish the type, quantity and, if possible, lot numbers of all stockpiled cluster munitions and explosive submunitions owned or possessed, and to report this information as required by Article 7.  

All states with stockpiles should, at a minimum, within one year or less of entry into force have a plan in place for the destruction of stocks that includes a timeline and budget. Physical destruction should begin within two years or less.

During the Oslo Process, undue emphasis was placed on the complexity and cost of the destruction of cluster munitions. The need for large-scale industrial solutions to destroy stockpiles was also exaggerated. While destruction of cluster munitions is more technically demanding than the destruction of most landmines, it is a perfectly feasible task for all states, no matter what their level of industrial development. There is already a solid body of knowledge and practical experience to draw from. It is a routine part of the destruction and demilitarization of old munitions in many countries.

The Convention does not create new costs for destruction; it simply accelerates the destruction timetable. Every state would have incurred the cost to destroy its cluster munition stocks at some point in the future, after the weapons exceeded their shelf-life.  Some savings will be realized by no longer having to pay for continued storage and maintenance of the cluster munition stocks. Other savings can occur through resource recovery and recycling during the destruction process.

Still, cooperation and assistance among States Parties will be vital in ensuring that they collectively succeed in destroying their stockpiles. Donor states should make assistance for stockpile destruction an integral part of their overall assistance under the Convention. 

It is important to ensure that problems (financial or technical) are disclosed in a timely manner to States Parties and relevant organizations in situations where assistance is required to meet stockpile destruction obligations. One important mechanism necessary to accomplish this goal is to create an effective and transparent structure to support the implementation of Article 3, like a standing committee.

Mr. Chairman, States Parties should make clear from the outset their expectation that there will be no extension requests, and that if the extension provision is used, it would only be for the most exceptional cases. States Parties should also make clear early on that extension requests from States Parties that have not made a good faith effort to meet the deadline will not be looked upon favorably.

The CMC would like to remind States Parties that they are required to destroy all stockpiles of cluster munitions under their "jurisdiction and control." If, under a bilateral or multilateral agreement, a foreign country maintains stocks of cluster munitions that fall under the jurisdiction and control of the State Party, it is obligated to ensure their destruction. If a foreign country maintains stocks on the territory of a State Party, but those stocks are not under the jurisdiction and control of the State Party, the State Party would still be in violation of the CCM if it assists with the foreign stockpiling.

If a foreign country maintains stocks of cluster munitions on the territory of a State Party, but those stocks are not under the jurisdiction and control of the State Party, the State Party should, to be consistent with the spirit of the treaty aimed at the total elimination of cluster munitions, insist on the removal of those foreign stockpiles as soon as possible, and certainly no later than the eight-year deadline for destruction of national stocks.

I would like to make a few points on the issue of the retention of cluster munitions. During the treaty negotiations, the CMC opposed the provision allowing for retention because states did not demonstrate that any of the purposes for retaining cluster munitions and submunitions were essential enough to justify an exception to the prohibition on stockpiling. For example, to our knowledge, no clearance organization accredited to the UN uses live submunitions for training. The technologies for the detection of unexploded submunitions already exist. Additionally, if the development of military countermeasures was such a vital requirement, states should have already acquired and tested samples as nearly all submunitions types have been available for many years. It is our hope that very few states will choose to retain cluster munitions or submunitions.

For those deciding to retain, it is critical that states reach a common understanding on what they believe the appropriate range would be for the minimum number of retained cluster munitions and submunitions absolutely necessary for permitted purposes. The number retained should decrease every year and there must be detailed annual reporting on this.  Cluster munitions not being consumed over time should be destroyed as excess to needs.

Finally, I note that to date, little is known about the stocks of signatories. Only 12 signatory states have provided information about the types and quantities of cluster munitions in their stockpiles. Collectively, these 12 states have stockpiled at least 662,000 cluster munitions containing more than 144 million submunitions. However, 23 signatories with stockpiles have not disclosed information on the quantities, and in some cases types, possessed. We encourage these states to be transparent about their stocks as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.