25 November 2010

CMC opening remarks at the CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties

The majority of the world's nations condemned cluster munitions at a milestone meeting this month in Vientiane, Lao PDR, yet some states outside the treaty banning cluster munitions want to roll back international humanitarian law and continue to produce and use the weapon. Photo credit: John Rodsted / CMC(Geneva, 25 November 2010) - Earlier this month, at the milestone First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, more than 120 states sent a resounding message that cluster munitions are thoroughly unacceptable weapons. Two weeks later in Geneva, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) took stock of the Vientiane meeting's success while calling on states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons to take national steps to move towards the emerging global norm aimed at ending the harm caused by cluster munitions, rather than negotiating a protocol that would set a lower standard in international humanitarian law.Below is the full text of the opening remarks as delivered by CMC Coordinator Thomas Nash:Cluster Munition Coalition opening remarks, CCW Meeting of High Contracting PartiesDelivered by Thomas Nash, Coordinator, Cluster Munition Coalition25 November 2010, Geneva, SwitzerlandThank you Mr. President.On behalf of the members of the Cluster Munition Coalition around the world, I would like to offer some reflections on the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on cluster munitions.Two weeks ago the majority of the world’s nations gathered in the Lao PDR, the country worst affected by cluster munitions. Over 120 states were there, together with the CMC, ICRC, UN and other organisations, for the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, taking place less than four months after its 1 August entry into force.At this historic meeting, the delegations in Vientiane sent a resounding message that cluster munitions are thoroughly unacceptable weapons. They also took the first formal steps to begin implementation of this comprehensive framework for eradicating the weapon and ending the suffering it has caused. The First Meeting of States Parties was also significant for the widespread government attendance, over 120 states, including 27 non-signatories who recognised the importance of the CCM by participating in this milestone meeting. Amongst those present in Vientiane were a great proportion of the states that have used and produced cluster munition, that have stockpiles and that are affected by the weapon.As several have noted here today, there is no doubt now that the CCM establishes a set of rules that will endure as a clear benchmark for the responsible conduct of armed conflict. In the words of the Vientiane Declaration the CCM represents ‘a sea change in the opinion of governments around the world’ toward cluster munitions and ‘sets a new standard by which states will be judged’.Mr President, gathered here, in a fourth year of intractably divergent discussions within a Group of Government Experts and almost two five year review cycles since cluster munitions were first raised in the CCW, it is impossible not to be struck by the contrasting aspects with the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The CCM’s successful first annual meeting – confidently hosted and chaired by the Lao PDR – was inclusive, open, diverse and creative from its preparation through to the running of the meeting. It was characterised by a sense of determination, a clear focus on humanitarian imperatives, and a demand for real impact on the ground and action-oriented outcomes, which it delivered through the Vientiane Action Plan. The side events on the margins of the meeting reflected the vibrant sphere of activity both within the context of the CCM, as well on a range of other humanitarian and disarmament initiatives.Two thirds of CCW States Parties are on board the CCM, either as States Parties or signatories. In Lao PDR, these states adopted an unequivocal ‘Vientiane Declaration’ that ‘condemns’ the use of cluster munitions. One cannot simultaneously condemn the use of cluster munitions, a practice that causes unacceptable harm to civilians, and support negotiations to allow the future use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.Mr President, the draft protocol proposed by the chairperson of the GGE, whilst different in various ways from its predecessor, establishes neither meaningful nor immediate prohibitions and it is certainly not compatible with the CCM. As Germany and Norway noted this morning, the pre-1980 weapons that would be prohibited need to be withdrawn anyway given that they have past their expiry date and are likely obsolete. An agreement based on such a hollow prohibition would certainly be an illusory achievement. We have heard a number of delegations referring to unknown data on global stockpiles today. We believe states should spend less time making speculative statements on what percentage of which stockpiles are covered by which instrument and more time releasing data on their existing stockpiles and efforts to withdraw and destroy specific cluster munitions.Rather than attempt to negotiate IHL in a backwards direction, States not yet on board the CCM should take national steps that move towards the emerging global norm aimed at ending the harm from cluster munitions. Some countries, including the US, have taken positive national steps towards restricting their use, production and transfer of cluster munitions. These policy developments, amongst others, are documented in the recently launched Cluster Munition Monitor 2010. We welcome such interim steps and urge states to also provide information about their stockpiles of cluster munitions, as some CCM non-signatories are beginning to do.Most importantly though, as noted by HRW on Monday at the launch of its new book ‘Meeting the Challenge’, states must realise that half measures will not solve the cluster munition problem. The Vientiane Declaration calls on States to ‘accelerate’ the rate of clearance, ‘expand’ the coverage of services to victims and ‘increase’ the resources to affected communities. All States in this room should be seized by this urgency to address a pressing humanitarian problem. This CCW process has not proven itself capable of responding to this urgency. We urge all States to get on board the CCM, to take national measures in the interim and to end right away these negotiations towards a lower standard of IHL.Thank you Mr President.

  • Download opening remarks by Steve Goose, Director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, at the CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties