Excellencies, friends and colleagues
Let me first congratulate the Democratic Republic of Congo with their signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions here today. Their decision to join strengthens the norm that use of cluster munitions are unacceptable and reflects the global importance of the Convention
Let me also congratulate the Lao People's Democratic Republic with the ratification of the Convention. This is a major step towards rapid entry into force.
The Oslo process that resulted in the Convention on cluster munitions was an unusual and fast-track multilateral process. Today it’s just over two years since 46 states agreed to work together to establish a prohibition on cluster munitions, that also includes obligations to assist victims and affected communities. We have all reason to believe that the convention will enter into force within the coming twelve months, and thus become binding international law. But to get there, we must work hard to ensure more ratifications as well as more new signatories.
The convention on cluster munitions is a humanitarian instrument, and a response to the threats to the security of individuals and communities around the world caused by the use of cluster munitions. It is also the instrument that ensures no new use of these weapons and the safe destruction of the stockpiles.
We have already seen how the process and the convention has changed the status of cluster munitions, from being seen as legitimate weapons to becoming politically unacceptable to use even among states that so far have distanced themselves from the process and the convention. Rapid entry into force is important both because it means that states parties have to start implementing the obligations of the Convention, and because it will strengthen the norm that cluster munitions are unacceptable, also for non-states parties.
We don’t need to wait with implementation until the formal enter into force of the convention. States, UN, ICRC and NGOs are already engaged in programmes to clear contaminated areas, to destroy stockpiles and assist the victims. But the rapid entry into force will ensure improved coordination of these efforts. It will also make it easier to identify and mobilise resources needed to support these actions, under the article on international cooperation and assistance.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is the result of an effective partnership between states, the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations organisations and the Cluster Munitions Coalition. A key feature of the process was to use the humanitarian consequences of the use of cluster munitions; in affected areas and as experienced by the victims – as the main point of reference for the process.
This was possible because other actors than states were accepted in as full participants in to the process. They were able to provide the specific expertise and knowledge into the negotiating process needed to ensure that the final text reflected the actual problems it was meant to address. This was particular important in the difficult negotiations on the definition of cluster munitions, and on the provisions for victim assistance.
The United Nations took active part ands were invaluable partners in developing the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The UN organisations participated and contributed both as experts on all the relevant substantial issues and as facilitator ensuring true global participation in the negotiations. The UN is the depositary of the Convention, and will continue to be an important partner for all states in implementing the Convention.
The Oslo Process came as a response to a humanitarian problem, caused by use of cluster munitions. While some countries are very much affected and will remain so for years to come, the cluster problem never reached the global scale as the landmines represented. However, with billions of cluster munitions in stockpile, there is a very concrete danger that we can be faced with a problem that is even larger than the landmines if this weapon is proliferated.
The only way to ensure that we will not again see a global problem like the landmine crisis is to ensure rapid entry into force of the convention on cluster munitions, and full compliance with the obligations. The convention is a framework for effective action to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy the enormous stockpiles. By making it work, a new humanitarian crisis will be avoided, thousands of lives and limbs will be spared, and millions of dollars can be spent on other important areas.
The event here today is an important step towards this aim, and I thank the UN Mine Action Team and the CMC for organising it.