Cluster munitions: usage must be condemned


A new political declaration by States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the Oslo Convention) makes it an imperative that members systematically condemn all uses of cluster munitions. These barbaric weapons have been used intensively and repeatedly in Yemen and Syria since the start of 2015. The declaration was adopted during the Sixth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, held from Sept. 5-7, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting happened at the same time as U.S. President Barack Obama made an historic visit to Laos, the world’s most heavily cluster munition contaminated country, per capita. During the visit, he announced a doubling of U.S. funding—to $90 million over three years—to support the clean-up of Laos, which was heavily bombed by the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.

Campaigners also welcomed an announcement by Textron Systems, the last U.S. manufacturer of cluster munitions, on Aug. 30. The weapons manufacturer said it would halt the production of its Sensor Fuzed Weapon, due to a drop in global demand.

The Oslo Convention, which bans the production, use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, should become an undisputable international standard. “We need to take a zero-tolerance approach to these barbaric weapons,” explains Anne Héry, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “Our field observations have shown just how dangerous they are for civilians.”

Handicap International, co-founder of the campaigns to ban landmines and cluster munitions, as well as the new movement to ban the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, attended the meeting, and hosted a side-event.

Ninety-seven percent of recorded victims of cluster munitions are civilians, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016, an annual report co-produced by Handicap International. These weapons kill, injure, maim, and cause serious psychological trauma. Up to 40% of submunitions do not explode on impact. They render whole areas uninhabitable, prevent the return of normal social and economic life, and displace people from their homes. These explosive remnants pose a threat to civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended.

More than 80 State delegations attended the meeting. The Oslo Convention has been ratified or signed by 119 States. At the Meeting, three Signatory States—Madagascar, Namibia and Nigeria—announced their intention to ratify the Oslo Convention in the coming months.