UN negotiations on cluster munitions, Geneva, November 2011

The CCW Review Conference in Geneva has closed with a resounding rejection of a US-back proposal for  Protocol that would allow continued cluster munition use.  Furthermore, the CCW did not adopt a mandate for any further work on cluster munitions, marking the end of a decade during which the weapons have been subject to vague discussions and then more recent focused negotiations in that forum.

Article 36 Director, Thomas Nash tweeted from the conference: “What we’ve seen at this Review Conference is the strength of the norm against cluster bombs and the strength of partnership between states, international organisation and civil society.”

The United Kingdom, that had previously expressed some support for agreement of a Protocol at the negotiations, was silent throughout the official sessions and did not join the small group of states that endorsed the protocol despite being bound by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an instrument that bans the weapons outright.  The UK’s silence served as an effective reinforcement of their commitment to the existing ban treaty.

Article 36 extends congratulations to all at the Cluster Munition Coalition and diplomats from the more than 50 states that spoke up to reject the draft Protocol.  Whilst difficult to be in a position of rejecting rather than promoting a legal instrument, the proposal would have effectively given endorsement to continued use of cluster munitions and so stood at odds to the best interests of civilian protection, development of international humanitarian law and work towards a world without cluster munitions.

Nash added:

“Those major producers and stockpilers that said they were willing to place restrictions on their cluster bombs under the protocol should go home and put them in place at a national level. If there was a humanitarian basis for taking these steps under the protocol then there is the same basis for doing it at the national level as the US is already doing.

“The rejection of this attempt to set up a weaker standard on cluster bombs serves to solidify the ban that we already put in place on these weapons in 2008.

“It shows that states can act on the basis of humanitarian imperatives and can prevail in the face of cynical pressure from other states. It shows that it is not only the US and other so called major powers that call the shots in international affairs, but that when small and medium sized countries work together with civil society and international organisations we can set the agenda and get results.”

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