Nearly 100 Countries Sign Treaty Banning Cluster Bombs

“It is time for countries to turn these binding words on paper into a reality on the ground”.

Countries including Laos, Lebanon and the United Kingdom gathered on December 3rd in Oslo to sign the first global treaty on banning cluster bombs. This historic occasion coincides with the 11-year anniversary of Mine Ban Treaty, signed on December 3, 1997 in Ottawa, Canada. At the last minute, Afghanistan agreed to join the treaty. Soraj Ghulam Habib, 17, who lost both legs to a cluster munition, and other campaigners had urged President Karzai to do so and were jubilant today in Oslo.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, which have killed and injured civilians in more than 30 countries. Like chemical, biological, and antipersonnel landmine conventions before, this treaty bans an entire category of weapons. Yet it sets the highest standard to date in international law for assistance to victims and their communities.

Non-governmental groups including representatives of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s Jody Williams say this treaty is an important accomplishment.

“Even in today’s difficult world, we proved once again that the model of partnerships between governments and civil society can bring about much needed change,” says Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the ICBL for her role in promoting the mine ban. “Governments are starting to see that together we can achieve a safer world for all.” For the treaty to enter into force it must be ratified by 30 countries. Four countries (the Holy See, Ireland, Norway and Sierra Leone) signed and ratified the treaty simultaneously today, launching the process.

Williams and other activists are quick to point out that the road ahead is long. “This is a time to celebrate, but the work doesn’t stop here,” says Steve Goose, Director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch.

“It is time for countries to turn these binding words on paper into a reality on the ground”.

Williams and the Nobel Women’s Initiative have supported the process leading up to the signing of the treaty, and encourage all governments to ratify as soon as possible.

To learn more, see:

Cluster Munition Coalition news and videos

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

WILPF Sweden’s publication launched today “Cluster Munitions and Gender – It Takes More Than A Ban”. Down the pdf here.

Media clips:

International Herald Tribune, 3 December 2008, 3 December 2008

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