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Cluster munitions: ICRC hails convention as a major step forward

30-05-2008 Statement

Statement by Peter Herby, head of the ICRC's arms unit, Dublin Conference on Cluster Munitions, Closing Ceremony, 30 May 2008

See also :

  ICRC calls for a strong treaty
Statement by Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the opening ceremony of the Dublin Diplomatic Conference.  

  Interview
with the head of the ICRC's arms unit, Peter Herby   TV News footage   Film
Cluster munitions: time to act

  Convention on cluster munitions (PDF - 79kb)  
 

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I would like to begin by expressing the great appreciation of the ICRC to all of you here who have contributed to this historic success. You have shown great commitment, humanity and persistence in bringing us to this point. And you, Mr. President, have embodied all of these qualities in the way you have chaired these negotiations.
 
" In a world in which so much seems to be beyond our control we have demonstrated that humanity, collectively, can summon the capacity, the will and the wisdom to eliminate a weapon which should not exist. " 
At the opening of this conference the ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger called on all of us to rise to the challenge of determining where, in 2008, the necessities of war must yield to the requirements of humanity. You have done so decisively on behalf of humanity. You have confirmed that cluster munitions which have caused so much loss in past decades are not only morally repugnant but are now considered illegal under international humanitarian law. We have a very strong treaty which recognises all those who have needlessly died or had their lives shattered by the weapons you have now banned. The implementation of this treaty will undoubtedly allow many children in future conflict zones the chance to grow up to be adults. It will also afford their parents the chance to feed those children from the harvests of lands not contaminated with cluster munitions.

In adopting this Convention you have put in place the last essential element in an international legal regime to address the effects of weapons that can’t stop killing. With the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War and the new Cluster Munitions Convention we now have the tools to prevent or remedy the often tragic consequences for civilians of all explosive munitions used in armed conflicts. We have also established a broader norm that those who engage in armed conflict can no longer just walk away from the long term consequences of the munitions they use and leave the burden to local communities, often in the poorest countries on earth, to deal with.

In a world in which so much seems to be beyond our control we have demonstrated that humanity, collectively, can summon the capacity, the will and the wisdom to eliminate a weapon which should not exist. It is sad that it took so long to get here. And clearly much more time, energy and resources will be needed to implement this new norm. But we have taken a momentous step forward.

As we stand at the beginning of new waves of technological development in such fields as biotechnology, chemistry and nanotechnology we urge States and civil society to constantly keep in mind the lessons from the sad history of cluster munitions. Some technologies should not exist. New technologies can provide great benefits for humanity. But making the choices which will prevent the awful human suffering we have witnessed from cluster munitions will require vigilance, a strong individual and public conscience and scrupulous respect for the principles and rules of international humanitarian law.