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States reject attempt to weaken cluster munitions ban
UNA-UK is pleased to report that a draft protocol that stood to weaken the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions was rejected at UN negotiations in Geneva on 25 November. We are pleased to note that during negotiations the UK did not support the protocol.
After more than 50 states rejected the protocol, it was clear that there was no consensus to adopt the new legislation backed by the US, Russia, China, India and Israel.
During the run-up to negotiations, UNA-UK Chairman Sir Jeremy Greenstock wrote to FCO Minister Alistair Burt urging the UK to reject the protocol (click here to read his reply), Lord Hannay, Chairman of the UN All-Party Parliamentary Group (UN APPG), made representations on the matter in the House of Lords, whilst UNA-UK urged all members of the UN APPG to sign an Early Day Motion against the proposal.
Sir Jeremy commented "I am glad to see that what Members of UNA-UK wanted to happen, and what the overwhelming proportion of supporters of the UN worldwide were asking for, has emerged from Geneva. We look forward to strict implementation of the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention."
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members and supporters who took action on cluster munitions via the Avaaz petition, as endorsed by UNA-UK and the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and to those who used Sir Jeremy's letter as a template to write to their MPs on the matter.
Cluster munitions pose the gravest threat to civilians since landmines, which were banned in 1997. They caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system.
Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas.
Second, because so many cluster munitions fail to work properly, large numbers of submunitions are left unexploded on the ground long after a conflict has ended – a particular danger to children. In 2006, Israel's use of the weapon in Lebanon resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year after the ceasefire and served as a catalyst for the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The draft protocol discussed at the UN stood to undermine the current Convention on Cluster Munitions, providing states with a less stringent alternative which includes the provision to use cluster munitions that have been produced after 1980. A protocol of this nature would have made it more likely that cluster munitions will be used, putting more civilian lives at risk.