Convention on Cluster Munitions to enter into force on 1 August 2010
On 16 February Burkina Faso became the 30th State to deposit its instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is an historic event as it means that the number of States required for the Convention to enter into force has now been reached. Interview with Peter Herby, head of the ICRC's Arms Unit.
What is the significance of this event?
The deposit of the 30th ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a major milestone on the way to stigmatising and eventually eliminating a weapon that has caused so much suffering in communities around the world. It triggers the countdown to the Convention's entry into force and the timetable for implementation of its obligations. The treaty's obligations will become legally binding on the 30 ratifying States on 1 August 2010 and subsequently for other ratifying States. It enables States Parties to confirm plans for their first Meeting of States Parties in Laos late this year. Most importantly, States will now begin to operationalize the Convention. That is to say, they will begin to fully implement its provisions nationally and work together internationally to prevent cluster munitions from causing further civilian suffering, to help countries currently affected by the weapons and to bring victims the care and rehabilitation they require.
The 30th ratification was achieved only 15 months after the Convention was opened for signature in Oslo. This is great news. It demonstrates the momentum behind the Convention and is likely to speed up ratification efforts in other States. It demonstrates the depth and breadth of political support, particularly within national parliaments, for this Convention and for the international humanitarian law rules upon which it is based. We expect many more ratifications in 2010 and 2011.
What is the objective of the Convention on Cluster Munitions?
The Convention will end the use and address the effects of a weapon that has killed and maimed civilians for decades. Their use in conflicts over the past 50 years has demonstrated that cluster munitions are inaccurate and unreliable weapons that continue killing and maiming long after they are used. The Convention comprehensively responds to this humanitarian problem by prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions as well as committing States to clearance of contaminated areas, destruction of existing stockpiles and to assistance to individual victims and their communities. The Convention also establishes an international humanitarian law norm that must be taken into account even by States that have not yet adhered to it. Its existence has already begun to affect their policies and practice.
How will progress be measured once the treaty comes into force?
The first measure of progress will be the lives not lost through continued proliferation and use of this weapon. It will be seen as the lives of existing victims and contaminated communities improves in the months and years to come. It will be counted as stockpiles are reduced to zero. It will be recorded as States report annually on how they are implementing the Convention and benefiting from it.
What is the position of the ICRC with regards to ratification and the treaty's implementation?
The ICRC wholeheartedly welcomes the 30th ratification and the Convention's approaching entry into force. Our staff have witnessed for decades the terrible impact of cluster munitions on civilians in war-affected countries. This is why the ICRC publicly raised the humanitarian issue of cluster munitions ten years ago, following the Kosovo conflict, advocated the adoption of this treaty and played a key role in its negotiation. We strongly support the Convention and will work globally in the years to come to promote its implementation. The ICRC has called on all States to sign and ratify the Convention.
What are the next steps for States that have ratified the Convention?
States that have ratified the Convention will need to take a variety of concrete steps to implement its obligations. These include the adoption of domestic law and regulations to ensure implementation of the Conve ntion at the national level. It entails the identification of resources for clearance, stockpile destruction, victim assistance and international cooperation to fulfil the treaty's objectives. States with cluster munitions stocks will need to prepare timelines for completion of stockpile destruction within an eight year period and begin the process of destruction. States affected by unexploded submunitions will need to put in place specific plans for fulfilling the Convention’s time-bound clearance obligations and its far reaching commitments to victims and their communities.
Collectively, the States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions must now begin working together both formally and informally to promote adherence among States not yet party to the Convention, to develop reporting tools and to agree on a program of meetings to promote and monitor implementation. They will also need to mobilise resources to assist victims and affected countries in a timely manner. Though less dramatic than negotiating or ratifying the Convention it is these steps that will ensure that the decades of suffering caused by cluster munitions is ended and that future generations are spared.