“As a matter of urgency, I call on all States to implement an immediate freeze on the use of cluster munitions. This freeze is essential until the international community puts in place effective legal instruments to address urgent humanitarian concerns about their use,” said Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator ahead of the convening of the Third Review Conference on the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which opened today in Geneva.
“I welcome the entry into force of Protocol V to the Convention. I call upon all States to ratify and implement it in order to help us in the humanitarian community address the challenges posed by cluster munitions in post-conflict settings,” added Mr. Egeland.
In November 2003, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which brings together United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Bank and three major consortia of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), called for an immediate freeze on the use of cluster munitions. While some progress has been made in the intervening years, these weapons have continued to be used with devastating effect, most recently in Lebanon and Israel by both sides to the conflict.
The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) in southern Lebanon reports that the density of cluster munitions in Lebanon is higher than in Kosovo and Iraq, and denser in built-up areas. Unexploded cluster munitions pose a constant threat to the return of some 200,000 refugees and internally displaced persons, to the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who have returned to or remained in their homes and villages, and to the lives of humanitarian and reconstruction workers and peacekeeping personnel.
Lebanon is only the most recent of countries to be challenged by the legacy of unexploded cluster munitions. Countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam continue to bear the burden of unexploded cluster munitions some 30 years after the end of conflict, impeding the safe cultivation of land and the development of infrastructure.
“Ultimately, as long as there is no effective ban, these weapons will continue to disproportionately affect civilians, maiming and killing women, children, and other vulnerable groups,” concluded Mr. Egeland. “The States gathered for the Review Conference should commit to immediately freeze the use of cluster munitions and strengthen existing international humanitarian law,” he added.
For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.