Twenty-two of the 26 affected states participated in the Belgrade Conference of States Affected by Cluster Munitions, the latest development in the Oslo Process for a new treaty banning these weapons, which has gathered the support of 82 countries in just seven months.
"Just as we were making our way to the conference, six-year old Ali Dakdouk was making his way to school when he was killed by a cluster munition in Sultaniyeh in southern Lebanon. This is a stark and tragic reminder of how urgent it is to ban these weapons," said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munitions Coalition.
During the conference, Albania announced it would not produce or trade in cluster bombs, pending the negotiations of a new treaty. Uganda and Montenegro announced they will destroy their stockpiles. Serbia declared it is considering a moratorium.
Survivors from Afghanistan to Uganda were united in their demand for a strong, effective treaty to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of all cluster bombs. Clearance of contaminated land, upholding the rights of victims to rebuild their lives, and international financial assistance were equally appealed for.
"Governments must recognise that they don't have a choice, they have an obligation to ensure that the human rights of survivors are upheld," said Margaret Arach Orech, Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The new treaty on cluster munitions would reinforce the recently signed Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which sets standards for governments in improving the lives of all people with disabilities.
"I want a strong treaty that not only bans cluster munitions but also protects the victims. We the survivors are not only here to advocate for our own rights, but also to safeguard the lives of countless people who are not yet inured," added Firoz Ali Alizada, Communications and Advocacy Director for Handicap International Afghanistan.
"Cluster bombs like landmines take away lives, limbs and land from the poorest people on earth. We need to act now to avoid a global catastrophe that could surpass the landmine crisis. The progress made so far gives us confidence that will achieve an outright ban by 2008," concluded Thomas Nash.
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Notes to Editors
The CMC is an international network of over 200 civil society organisations in 50 countries committed to protecting civilians from the effects of cluster munitions. Members of the CMC network work together on an international campaign calling on governments to conclude a new international treaty banning cluster munitions by 2008. More information on the CMC is available online at www.stopclustermunitions.org.
Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse up to several hundreds of smaller submunitions - sometimes referred to as "bomblets" - over wide areas. They have indiscriminate wide area effects that kill and injure civilians during attacks and they leave severe and lasting humanitarian and development consequences from large quantities of post-conflict unexploded ordnance.
The process to ban these weapons was launched last February in Oslo, Norway, where 46 countries committed to conclude, by 2008, a treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Following an international conference in Lima, Peru and a Latin American Conference in Costa Rica the number of countries participating in the Oslo Process rose to 80. The next international meeting to develop the treaty will be held in Vienna in December, then in New Zealand in February, with formal negotiations in Ireland in May 2008.
The following states and areas are affected by cluster munitions: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Chechnya, DR Congo, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands/Malvinas, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Nagorno Karabakh, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Syria, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, Vietnam and Western Sahara. Other states such as Yemen are suspected of being affected. (States in bold participate in the Oslo Process.)
At least 75 countries stockpile cluster munitions and 34 are known to have produced more than 210 types of cluster munitions. 14 states have used cluster munitions in at least 30 countries and territories.