Convention on Cluster Munitions Turns 10
After two years of intense consultations and negotiations, in 2009, delegates from 107 nations agreed to the final draft of a legally binding instrument that prohibits cluster munitions. 2 years later, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force on 1 August 2010 as it was deposited at the UN Secretary-General.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of CCM prohibiting the use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. For a decade, its signatories have been obliged to never under any circumstances:
- Use cluster munitions;
- Develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone cluster munitions;
- Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activities prohibited under CCM.
Cluster munitions (also identified as cluster bombs) are weapons made up of a hollow shell, which contains several small bombs, i.e. submunitions. They can be dropped from the air or released from the ground, where they are designed to explode in mid-air, releasing submunitions as far as an area of several football fields. Due to their malfunctioning nature, they often fail to detonate as intended, becoming a static and very well hidden killer. With their deadly bright colours, they represent a legacy of an armed conflict that decades later, preys on innocent civilians, potentially stealing them of their limbs or even lives. The colours are especially attractive to children, who mistake them for toys.
After 10 years and 108 signatories, cluster munitions continue to endanger civilians. The 2019 Cluster Munition Monitor reports recent use of cluster munitions in attacks in Syria, Yemen and Libya, with 149 reported new cluster munition casualties, out of which 99% are civilians. Causalities from cluster munitions remnants were also found in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Laos, South Sudan, Ukraine and Nagorno Karabakh. The report states that the latest data shows a significant decrease of cluster munitions causalities (149 in 2018, compared to 971 in 2016). However, this may not be a precise number as many causalities go unrecorded due to a lack of sufficient documentation. It is estimated that up to this day, at least 56,000 civilians were casualties of cluster munitions.
A decade of activities against cluster munition yielded substantial results, for instance the destruction of 1.5 million pieces of such munition. In many previously cluster munitions-contaminated areas, they have been removed and destroyed, and people are able to walk safely, cultivate their land and provide for their families. Children are able to enjoy their childhood without hesitation. This, however, does not change the fact that casualties still exist, waiting for adequate victim assistance as well as psychosocial and economic support.
Their medical conditions remain, with their needs unsatisfied. In addition, it is critical that we continue to strive towards the complete destruction of stockpiles and clearing of all contaminated areas, while also providing additional funds for assistance for all victims.
In 2008, the CCM was an important addition to the international humanitarian law, prohibiting the non-discriminatory use of cluster munitions. The so-called ‘immoral munitions were prohibited in the international fora for the first time, with the ultimate goal of protecting innocent people who lost their lives, limbs and the opportunity for a prosperous future. Now, we should work together to continue to break milestones on the number of destroyed cluster munitions and cleared areas. At the same time, we should not forget about the victims and their difficult circumstances - preventing victims, but also enhancing the security and wellbeing of existing ones should be at the forefront of our joint efforts.