(Beirut) – The new international convention banning cluster bombs is already having a powerful impact despite the absence of the United States and other major powers, Human Rights Watch said on September 17, 2011, as a diplomatic meeting of the convention concluded in Beirut, Lebanon.
“This week’s meeting has shown how the cluster bomb ban is not only working, it is powering ahead in bringing more states on board and in destroying cluster munitions. The US and other nations should join them,” said Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and co-chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “Every cluster munition destroyed represents future lives saved.”
The week-long Second Meeting of States Parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions concluded on September 16 in Lebanon, a country which remains seriously contaminated by cluster munitions. A total of 131 governments participated in the meeting, including 40 observer nations that have not yet joined the convention, an extraordinarily high number.
Participants adopted the Beirut Declaration, a commitment of support for the convention that strongly condemns the use of cluster munitions by any actor and states, “Together, we are compelled to do more for to accomplish our collective goal – a world free of cluster munitions.”
During the meeting, Swaziland joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, becoming the 110th nation and 63rd state party. Many signatories, including Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and Mauritania, announced that their ratification of the convention is nearing completion. Delegates from non-signatory nations Malaysia, Gabon, Kiribati, Tajikistan, and newly independent South Sudan all indicated that they plan to accede to the convention.
Notable announcements at the meeting included Slovenia stating that it has finished destroying its stockpiled cluster munitions, making it the ninth state party to do so. The UK and Germany, both major stockpilers, announced that they each have destroyed more than 60 percent of their stockpiles.
“This extraordinarily rapid destruction of stockpiles just one year into the life of the convention demonstrates the strong commitment of governments to urgently tackle this issue,” said Goose.
At the Lebanon meeting, states parties formally agreed to an offer by Norway to host the Third Meeting of States Parties in Oslo, from September 12 to 16, 2012.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and requires destruction of stockpiles within eight years, clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years, and assistance to victims of the weapon. Since the convention entered into force on August 1, 2010, becoming binding international law, states wishing to join may no longer sign, but must accede, a process that essentially combines signature and ratification.
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions.