Cluster munitions are large explosive weapons, which are deployed from the air (e.g. air-dropped bombs, missiles) and from the ground (e.g. rockets, artillery), and function by opening in mid-air to release multiple smaller submunitions. Cluster munitions pose two main problems to civilians: first their wide dispersal means they threaten military targets and civilians alike, especially when used in or near populated areas. Second, many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended.

The development of cluster munitions intensified during the Cold War and they were used massively by the US in its bombing campaigns in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently they were used in the Balkan conflicts, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. In 2003 a group of non-governmental organisations established the Cluster Munition Coalition to address the humanitarian suffering caused by these weapons. In 2008, as a result of sustained and coordinated civil society pressure and leadership from the Norwegian government, 107 states adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a comprehensive treaty banning the weapon and requiring clearance of land and assistance to victims. So far, 108 states have signed the treaty and 50 have ratified.

Article 36 calls on all states to accede to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay and to ratify it if they have already signed. In the meantime, states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions should end transfer of cluster munitions and place a moratorium on use and production. Article 36 believes States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to end ongoing negotiations on a lower standard of international law on cluster munitions and focus on national measures as interim steps to joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

To learn more and take action in your country, visit the Cluster Munition Coalition.

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