More Countries Join Cluster Munition Ban

3/25/2009 // Today two more countries, Lao PDR and DR Congo, ratified (LPDR) and signed (DRC) the Convention on Cluster Munitions when United Nations held an event for countries interested in committing to the treaty. Since Norway launched an initiative in 2007, that led to negotiation and formal adoption of the treaty, now 96 countries have signed, including five that have also ratified.    

Norway made a statement during the signing event, saying that we have all reason to believe that the convention will become binding international law in the near future.

Cluster Munition Coalition, the international coalition working to protect civilians from the effects of cluster munitions by promoting full implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions made a press release Wednesday:

(New York, 18 March 2009) – The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the country most affected by cluster bombs in the world today ratified the treaty banning the deadly munitions and requiring their clearance, said the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). The ratification took place at a special event at the United Nations in New York on the Convention on Cluster Munitions attended by 75 countries.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, also a country affected by cluster bombs, signed the treaty today becoming the 96th government to join. Iraq made a statement indicating its intent to sign the treaty once its domestic steps have been completed.

“We congratulate both Lao PDR and the Democratic Republic of Congo for their commitments today,” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “Their actions will help this treaty to take effect swiftly and start making a difference to lives and livelihoods in countries where it is needed most.”

The treaty prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of the weapon. It also requires clearance of affected areas, assistance to victims and destruction of stockpiles.

Lao PDR is the fifth country to ratify the treaty after the Holy See, Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Norway. 30 ratifications are needed for the Convention to become an internationally binding instrument. During the UN event Austria and Mexico announced that their parliaments approved the treaty and that they would deposit their ratifications following the final step of presidential assent. Numerous other countries indicated that the ratification process was underway and would be completed soon.

“Each new ratification brings us one step closer to the life-saving promises of this treaty and each new signature increases the stigma against this weapon making it harder for any country to even contemplate future use,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, CMC Co-Chair. “We call on all countries that have not done so to sign and ratify the Convention without delay.”

Lao PDR played a leading role in the international process to ban cluster munitions. To date however, Indonesia, Lao PDR and the Philippines are the only Southeast Asian countries to have signed the treaty.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the third largest country in Africa and one of 10 African nations where unexploded sub-munitions have been found. African nations played a leading role in the process to ban cluster munitions, but a number have yet to sign the treaty.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions can be signed at any time at the United Nations in New York.

The Cluster Munition Coalition represents around 300 civil society organisations from more than 80 countries promoting universal adherence to and full implementation of the Convention. The CMC facilitates the efforts of NGOs worldwide to educate governments and the public about the problems of cluster munitions and the solution through the global treaty banning the weapon.

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