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Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions

10-09-2013 Statement

Statement by Mr Olivier Vodoz, ICRC Vice-President, Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Lusaka, Zambia, 10 September 2013

Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here at the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is fitting that this event takes place in Lusaka given the lead role that Zambia played in the development of the Convention and by being one of the first countries to ratify it. On behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), I would like to commend Zambia for its efforts in promoting the Convention and in helping ensure its full implementation. We look forward to working with Zambia as the President of the Convention in the coming year.

The number and range of countries attending this meeting are a testament to the success that the Convention is having in helping to end the use of cluster munitions and reducing the suffering that they cause. Present here today are States that have used cluster munitions in past conflicts, those with stockpiles of these weapons, States with significant numbers of cluster munition victims on their territory and States with extensive cluster munition contamination. The meeting also includes countries that have never used, developed or stockpiled cluster munitions but which have nevertheless helped further the humanitarian goals of the Convention by providing assistance to affected countries and by ensuring that adequate laws and regulations are in place to prevent and suppress any prohibited activity. This diverse range of countries is an indication that cluster munitions are widely viewed as unacceptable weapons.

The ICRC welcomes the fact that the theme of this Conference is the universalization of the Convention. We believe that global acceptance of the Convention's obligations is crucial to the success of the treaty and its goal of "putting an end for all time to the suffering and casualties of cluster munitions." When all countries have ceased using cluster munitions, destroyed their stockpiles, cleared contaminated land, we can truly say that the dangers posed by cluster munitions are behind us.

And every year that goal gets closer. It is encouraging that the number of States joining the Convention continues to grow. As we have heard, eight States have ratified or acceded since the third meeting of States Parties, bringing the total number of States Parties to 83. Twenty-nine States remain signatories to the Convention, and through their signature, are committed to the goals of the Convention. I would take this opportunity to urge those signatory States to ratify the treaty as quickly as possible.

The promotion of the Convention is an important, but sometimes overlooked, obligation of each and every State Party. This requirement is spelled out in Article 21 whereby each State Party is obliged to encourage all countries to join the Convention with the aim of achieving universal adherence. No other treaty of international humanitarian law has such an express commitment.

An equally important obligation is the Convention's requirement for States Parties to discourage the use of cluster munitions. In the view of the ICRC, this requirement is crucial to universalizing the Convention's norms. We are pleased that many States Parties have expressed concern when cluster munitions have been used by States not party to the Convention. Fortunately, such use has been limited since the Convention entered into force in 2010. Nevertheless, voicing concern about the use of such weapons helps to further stigmatize cluster munitions and to further the perception that their use by any country or any armed group is unacceptable.

Promoting adherence to the Convention and discouraging the use of cluster munitions help bring us closer to a world free of these weapons. Yet, equally important, in the view of the ICRC, is to ensure that the Convention is fully implemented at the national level. It is self evident that the elimination of cluster munitions and the alleviation of their consequences depend on action being taken domestically by each and every State Party, regardless of whether or not they are affected by or have stockpiles of cluster munitions.  

Like other aspects of this Convention, States are making progress in adopting the legislative and administrative measures required at the national level to ensure the full implementation of the Convention. Yet, that progress, in our view, remains slow and we take this opportunity to urge those States that have not already done so, to develop and adopt such measures as a matter of urgency. Such measures will help ensure that the commitments accepted by States at the international level are more easily understood and followed by armed forces, and national agencies. Particularly important in our view is the adoption of national legislation to prevent and suppress violations of the Convention and the incorporation of the Convention's norms into military doctrine and training.

For its part, the ICRC continues to promote adherence to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and its full implementation. In many countries, we do so in cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and coordinate our efforts with those of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in promoting the Convention. To us, this treaty is fundamental to efforts to limit the civilian suffering caused by armed conflict and bring an end to the use of weapons that cause unacceptable harm. We are happy to share our perspectives on these efforts over the next few days, including, Mr President, on how regional approaches can be used to increase adherence to the Convention.

In closing, the ICRC believes that the universalization and implementation of the Convention are important elements of achieving a world free of cluster munitions. Through the collective efforts of States and organizations there has been steady progress in these areas, but more remains to be done. The continued use of cluster munitions by some States makes clear that we must intensify our efforts to expand acceptance of this Convention. The ICRC remains committed to this endeavour and we look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.  


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Olivier Vodoz, vice-president of the ICRC