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Laos: launching the global ban on cluster munitions

09-11-2010 News Release 10/200

Geneva/Bangkok (ICRC) – The first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is taking place from 9 to 12 November in Laos, the country worst affected by cluster munitions, to convert the Convention's lifesaving obligations into action.

“Laos is a tragic example of something that must never happen again. Cluster munitions used some 40 years ago are continuing to kill and injure on a large scale, to deny land for agriculture and to impede development,” said Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The objective of bringing together States Parties to the Convention, UN agencies, international organizations, civil society, and cluster bomb survivors is to share progress and to establish plans for implementing the Convention and monitoring its application.

“We are here today to ensure that the lives of communities, victims and survivors are improved through risk reduction, the clearance of contaminated land, medical care, rehabilitation, psycho-social support and economic opportunities,” added Madame Beerli.

According to the Laotian authorities, the country is contaminated by some 80 million cluster submunitions, which affect all 17 provinces and result in 300 casualties per year.

“By virtue of this Convention, cluster munitions are now stigmatized as unacceptable, and millions of these devices will be destroyed. This is already a great victory, and will prevent tremendous suffering. But improving the daily lives of people already affected by cluster munitions means drawing up national plans and mobilizing the resources needed to clear affected areas, assist victims and their communities and destroy stockpiles,” explained Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s arms unit.

More than half the world's States have now rejected these weapons by signing (and in many cases ratifying) the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Before the Convention, cluster munitions and the suffering they inflict were set to proliferate indefinitely. In large parts of the world this has now been halted.

The Cluster Munitions Convention entered into force on 1 August 2010. As of 9 November 2010, 108 States had signed the Convention, of which 46* had also ratified it. Millions of submunitions have already been destroyed as a result of the Convention, and States Parties will be destroying many more in the coming months.

 

For further information, please contact:

Eman M'oankar, ICRC Bangkok, tel: +66 081 950 1270
(who can arrange interviews in Laos with Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s arms unit)

Christian Cardon, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2426 or +41 79 251 93 02

* Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Comoros, Croatia, Denmark, Equador, Fiji, France, Germany, Guatemala, The Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Luxembourg, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Zambia