Refusal to condemn cluster munition use undermines UK claims to leadership on the protection of civilians
The UK’s attempt to prevent states from condemning “any cluster munition use, by any actor” through the Dubrovnik Declaration continues a long-standing pattern of persistent but ultimately futile efforts to resist the overriding humanitarian imperative for civilian protection in the context of cluster munitions.
The history of UK diplomatic engagement on cluster munitions, reviewed in this new briefing paper, provides grounds to question the UK’s claim that their opposition to condemnation of use is motivated by concern to promote the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). Rather it should be seen as an attempt to avoid fully promoting the norms of the Convention and to avoid undertaking, collectively, the best effort to discourage the use of cluster munitions. Both of those are obligations under article 21 of the CCM.
The UK’s attempt to justify its refusal to condemn cluster munition use on the basis of article 21 is not founded in legal analysis but in political desperation. The UK’s objection to condemnation of use should be rejected by committed states parties.
If the UK continues to refuse to modify its position on this point then, whatever the outcome, it clearly raises concerns about the UK’s claim to act as a leader on the UN Security Council regarding the Protection of Civilians in armed conflict. This is all the more challenging in an international context where the Security Council is widely seen as failing to deal with the most pressing humanitarian emergencies.
The protection of civilians is best served by strong international condemnation of any cluster munition use by any actor, not by a ‘pick and choose’ approach of condemning use by certain actors whilst refusing to condemn use by allies. The protection of civilians demands that we transcend such politicisation. If the UK cannot do this then it is not in a position to provide leadership on the protection of civilians.
Download this briefing paper
The says it is a global humanitarian leader, so why won’t it condemn banned weapons? – blog from Thomas Nash on Huffington Post UK