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Global Push Against Cluster Munitions: Major Strides in Stockpile Elimination

The global stance against cluster munitions strengthens as three nations – Bulgaria, Slovakia, and South Africa – have successfully obliterated their stockpiles. This noteworthy development comes amidst concerns over the continued use, production, and transfers by countries that have yet to prohibit these deadly weapons, according to Human Rights Watch.

The 11th assembly of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, attended by 112 countries, was hosted from September 11 to 14, 2023, in Geneva. The three aforementioned countries formally verified the termination of their stockpiled cluster munitions, amounting to 9,582 cluster munitions and a staggering 585,422 submunitions.

Mary Wareham, the acting arms director at Human Rights Watch, commented, “The steadfast dedication of countries committed to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is evident in their persistent efforts to eradicate stockpiles and remnants, and denounce its deployment. However, the pressing issue remains with nations that haven’t outlawed these weapons and might potentially deploy them.”

It’s pivotal to note that ever since the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin, 2008, no state party has been reported or accused of deploying, producing, or transferring cluster munitions.

Noteworthy insights from the 11th meeting:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina achieved the clearing of cluster munition remnants from its grounds spanning over 14 square kilometers. Their anti-landmine operations persist.
  • Peru is poised to eliminate its remaining cluster munition stocks by April 1, 2024.
  • Both Nigeria and South Sudan, the recent convention ratifiers of 2023, reaffirmed their robust support and implementation intentions.
  • Six of the 12 countries, yet to ratify the treaty, participated, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo which aims to ratify by 2023-end.
  • Nine non-signatories observed the proceedings, with Turkey emphasizing its non-engagement with cluster munitions since 2005.

Cluster munitions, with their expansive damage range due to aerial dispersion of bomblets, pose lingering threats akin to landmines owing to unexploded ordnances.

The meeting’s final report emphasized the inviolable duty of state parties against the development, stockpiling, and use of cluster munitions. It expressed deep distress over the escalation of civilian casualties due to cluster munitions since 2021, particularly highlighting Ukraine.

The “Cluster Munition Monitor 2023” report revealed that 95% of reported cluster munition victims in 2022 were civilians, with the bulk, 890 individuals, being in Ukraine. Notably, neither Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar, nor Syria are signatories or ratifiers of the cluster munitions treaty.

Recent news indicates a potential transfer of US cluster munitions to Ukraine, a move divergent from the Convention’s norms and ignorant of the lasting humanitarian repercussions.

Dr. Iain Overton of AOAV remarked, “The evident global momentum against cluster munitions needs to be matched with unequivocal condemnation of any nation still resorting to their use.”