16 May 2011

Convention on Cluster Munitions takes effect in Lebanon

Cluster munition survivors and civil society representatives join the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative to mark the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lebanon, and to formally announce that the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions will take place in Beirut from 12 – 16 September. Cluster Munition Coalition members and cluster bomb survivors joined Lebanese government officials and United Nations representatives in Beirut on 6 May to welcome the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lebanon, and to announce that Lebanon will host a global meeting to discuss the Convention this September."My family and I have felt horrible effects of cluster munitions," explained 12-year-old Mohammad Abdel Aal, who lost his brother and was permanently injured by a cluster munition accident in Helta. "I hope that with this Convention no one will use cluster munitions ever again, and that all survivors in the world will get the help they need. I want all countries to join the Convention."The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes groundbreaking provisions for assistance to victims and affected communities.On 1 May, the Convention entered into force in Lebanon, meaning that Lebanon now has 10 years to clear all known contaminated areas, and must continue to provide strong assistance for survivors, their families, and their communities so that they can be fully included in society and enjoy their fundamental human rights.In addition to implementing the Convention, Foreign Minister Dr. Al Chami announced that Lebanon will host the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions from 12-16 September in Beirut. More than 100 governments are expected to take part alongside UN agencies, international organizations, civil society and survivors to assess the progress of the treaty’s implementation, and to agree on the best way forward to end the suffering caused by cluster munitions.Holding the meeting in Lebanon will provide a unique opportunity to highlight the challenges facing countries that have suffered from cluster munition contamination, and to demonstrate that the problem can be solved through a collaborative effort."Civil society organizations will present a rich programme of activities demonstrating how the problem can be solved through the combined efforts of all partners," explained Ms. Habbouba Aoun, Coordinator of the Landmines Resource Centre in Beirut, speaking on behalf of non-governmental organisations working on the issue. "When governments come to Beirut this September, we expect to hear clear reports on progress States Parties to the Convention have made to implement the treaty as well as announcements from governments outside of the treaty on steps they are taking to join."Lebanon ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in November 2010, and has been actively engaged from the very beginning of the diplomatic Oslo Process to negotiate the Convention, which began in February 2007. Globally, 108 countries have signed the treaty, including the majority of former producers and users of the weapon as well as affected states including 57 that have ratified.Although cluster munitions have been used in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Tunisia is the only other country in the region aside from Lebanon to have ratified the treaty. Iraq – another contaminated country – has signed but not yet ratified.Southern Lebanon is contaminated with unexploded submunitions left over from Israeli cluster munition strikes in 1978, 1982 and 2006. In August 2006, the Israel Defense Forces fired millions of submunitions into southern Lebanon, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of deadly duds in many populated areas. Cluster submunitions have been identified as the cause of at least 690 casualties since 1978, and unexploded remnants continue to injure and kill civilians to this day. With continued support and collaboration to implement the Convention, Lebanon can fully clear contaminated areas and provide assistance to survivors to end for all time the horrific impact of cluster munitions.