Friday, May 30, 2008

111 Countries Agree Cluster Bomb Ban

The Dublin Conference on Cluster Munitions has concluded with a landmark international agreement banning the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions, as well as providing help for the victims of such weapons and committing signatories to the clearing of areas previously bombed within 10 years. The agreement requires the destruction of existing stockpiles within 8 years.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the new agreement as "a new international standard that will enhance the protection of civilians, strengthen human rights and improve prospects for development."

The agreement is the culmination of a process of negotiation that began with the Oslo Process of February 2007 and was furthered at the Wellington Conference in February 2007. The agreement has been signed despite the absence of many major producers of cluster bombs - the United States, China, Russia, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin, hosting the conference, expressed the hope that the new agreement will "stigmatise" the use of cluster weapons in any further conflict, even on the part of non-signatories. A similar pattern followed the banning of land mines, which the United States initially refused to sign up to.

The decision of the British government to drop its previous objections to the agreement represented a significant moment of breakthrough in the conference - although it was obtained as a result of a vague compromise clause which allows for the possible development of future more precise weapons in the future.

Steve Goose, from Human Rights Watch, expressed the belief that as a result of the historic agreement, "Cluster munitions have been tossed on the ash heap of history." The video below provides some background to today's treaty.

Further posts on this blog on the subject of cluster munitions can be viewed here and here.

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