Campaigners celebrate adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin at end of negotiations in May 2008.

Campaigners celebrate adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin at end of negotiations in May 2008.

Five years ago on 30 May 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was formally adopted by 107 states, following two intensive weeks of diplomatic negotiations in Dublin.

The treaty bans an entire category of weapons, bringing about the most significant humanitarian disarmament instrument since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

On the day that the treaty was formally adopted, then CMC Coordinator Thomas Nash said in the CMC’s final closing statement that “the categorical prohibition on all cluster munitions is a resounding success that many had thought of as impossible.”… “We will leave Dublin knowing that we have achieved something extraordinary – an accord of historic importance that shows just how much good we can do as civil society, states and organisations working together for a common cause.”

The ban treaty was brought into existence before the use of cluster munitions had become widespread, helping to prevent further loss of lives and limbs and contamination on a scale thought could far outweigh the heavy contamination seen with anti-personnel landmines.

At the end of the negotiations, CMC Co-Chair Steve Goose, also of Human Rights Watch said “this can only be characterized as an extraordinary convention, one that is certain to save thousands and thousands of civilian lives for decades to come, and to provide both immediate and long-term relief and assistance to those already affected by the weapon. This outcome without doubt exceeds the expectations of nearly everyone”.

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It requires states to clear land contaminated by cluster munitions within ten years, and to destroy stockpiles within eight years. The treaty contains groundbreaking provisions to assist communities that have been affected by these weapons.

In the Convention’s young life, great strides have already been made. 112 states have joined the Convention. Stockpile destruction is well underway by States Parties and all are expected to complete within the timeframe allowed, and already some countries have declared that they have completed clearance and are now cluster munition-free.

Since this date, use of cluster munitions has been vastly reduced and any use has been limited to outlier states that have not joined the Convention, and regime’s with no respect for the protection civilians including government forces in Syria and Gaddafi’s forces in Libya and has been met with international condemnation.

The treaty process that brought about the Convention on Cluster Munitions is an important example of the importance of partnerships between civil society, like-minded governments, and international organisations. Such visionary leadership creates a powerful force that can deliver meaningful and strong responses, changing the behavior of many and helping to establish new norms.

Let’s hope that this recipe for international action on humanitarian problems can also be applied to current challenges including curbing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and banning nuclear weapons and prohibiting fully autonomous weapons – to name but a few issues that require urgent attention.

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