Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today praised the parties to a convention banning cluster munitions and urged more States to support the international agreement that outlaws their use.
Addressing delegates at the first meeting of parties to the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is taking place in Vientiane, Laos, and Ms. Migiro said the treaty gave “a great boost” to international humanitarian law.
“It is unambiguous in banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.”
In addition to its prohibitions, the Convention requires States to give assistance to victims of the weapons and provides a framework for donor assistance and cooperation to affected countries. It entered into force on 1 August 2010 and 108 nations have signed the agreement with 46 of those countries having also ratified it.
Ms. Migiro reiterated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for all States to become party to the Convention without delay and paid tribute to Laos, the country most affected by cluster munitions, for holding the meeting.
“For more than half a century, these weapons have robbed lives and limbs from the people of Laos. You have counted more than 50,000 casualties from unexploded ordnance. The social, economic and environmental impact has been profound. By hosting this meeting, your Government is demonstrating its commitment to human security – here and throughout the world,” she said.
The Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), Maxwell Kerley, echoed Ms. Migiro’s call for States to support the Convention to end the needless loss of innocent lives caused by the explosives. He noted that the effect of the munitions extends beyond the immediate risk posed to people’s personal safety.
“They land on roads in orchards and farms. They make land impassable, disrupt livelihoods and prevent aid distribution and resettlement of refugees.”
The head of the UN’s de-mining service added that the Convention was the most important step for global conventional disarmament since the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, which entered into force in 1999. The Treaty called for countries to destroy all their stockpiled mines within four years, and to remove all mines from the ground in their countries within 10 years, with extensions available for severely affected countries.
The new convention aims to have a similar effect on cluster munitions, bombs that contain dozens of smaller explosives designed to disperse over an area the size of a football field, but which often fail to detonate, creating large de facto minefields.
In the six decades since they were first used, cluster munitions have been deployed in 39 countries and areas around the world by at least 18 countries – by the end of 2009, 16,816 cluster munitions casualties were recorded. However, due to significant under-reporting, the actual number of casualties might be as high as 85,000 worldwide.