Secretary-General Ban issues call to eliminate scourge of cluster munitions
The devices are “inherently inaccurate and often malfunction,” and they pose “a very real danger to civilians, both at the time of use and long after conflicts have ended,” Mr. Ban said in a video message to the opening of the two-week Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, which opened today in Dublin.
More than 100 governments have converged in the Irish capital to hammer out an international treaty to ban the weapons, a process which began last February in Oslo.
The Secretary-General pointed to breakthroughs in efforts to further disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, including the mine ban treaty and the recent protocol on explosive remnants of war.
“But the quest for a safer world continues,” the Secretary-General said.
Curbing cluster munitions could slash deaths, suffering and deprivation that civilians face during conflicts, he noted, while ridding the world of these weapons could also allow refugees and displaced people to return to their homes, while freeing up land to be used productively.
“And we can add a new chapter to international humanitarian law, alongside those on landmines and explosive remnants of war,” Mr. Ban stressed, calling for an international treaty to prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.
The new pact should also require the destruction of existing stockpiles and help to clear the weapons and assist victims, he added.
Also addressing the Conference was Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who emphasized the devastating impact of the devices on development.
“Cluster munitions kill and maim individuals – not only at the time of use but for generations afterwards,” Mr. Melkert, who was speaking on behalf of the UN Mine Action Team, said.
The weapons also contaminate farmland and kill livestock, as well as impede individuals’ rights to adequate living standards, personal safety, health and education.
“In short, in affected countries, unexploded sub-munitions are yet another major obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” Mr. Melkert pointed out, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets which have a collective 2015 deadline.
At least 75 countries have stocks of cluster munitions, he said, noting that the consequences would be devastating if these weapons were to proliferate, including among non-State armed groups, for use in current and future conflicts.
“A strong and comprehensive treaty could stop the proliferation and use of these cluster munitions by prohibiting transfers and ensuring that stockpiles of cluster munitions are subject to prompt and safe destruction,” the Associate Administrator stated.
Stressing the effect cluster munitions have on children, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also called on all countries to conclude a new legal instrument to do away with the devices.
Some 40 per cent of victims of these weapons are children who are injured or killed long after direct hostilities have drawn to a close, the agency highlighted. Children are particularly at risk because they are drawn to the devices, which are often small and shiny.
Used for more than six decades, cluster munitions have contaminated countries such as Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia for over 30 years, while more recently they have been used in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and in southern Lebanon.
UNICEF estimates that there are billions of these weapons still in existing scattered across over 70 countries.