Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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Report From the Oslo Conference on Cluster Bombs

At the end of February, 100 NGOs from 30 countries met in Oslo for the first step towards a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs. The civil society event ran in parallel with the first in a series of high level negotiations between states to propagate a treaty outside the aegis of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Concerns over the use of cluster munitions (CM) have been increasing since the 70s where they were used in large numbers by the US in South East Asia. Israel dropped 4million in the 72 hours leading up to the end of the conflict in Lebanon in 2006. It was this, more than anything else, which sparked sufficient global interest in the problem to trigger the talks in Oslo.

However, unlike land mines but like DU, CMs are not as yet a global problem but have the potential to be. Around two dozen countries have been affected by their use but more than 75 governments have stockpiled them – the treaty aims to prevent a future crisis.
There are some stark parallels between ICBUW's work towards a DU treaty and the work of the Cluster Munition Coalition. Like clusters, DU is a hazardous and indiscriminate remnant of war and while the effects of clusters are more immediate and clear cut, there has still been denial of their effects among user nations.

The Norwegian conference was organised with the support of the Norwegian government and was the first step in a new treaty process. The aim of the first meeting was to consolidate political will, to that end there was no treaty text on the table – merely a declaration stating that there is a problem and that concrete steps should be taken, and taken quickly. The declaration aims to outlaw their production, use, transfer and stockpiling by 2008. There will also be obligations for clearance and victim assistance. The landmine treaty negotiations were completed within one year.

Of fundamental importance is to bypass the CCW. With only 100 members it isn’t representative of the global community, controlled as it is by the powerful western nations - the Security Council Permanent Members - where any single state can block proposals. Of the 47 countries taking part (the first landmine talks had six countries present) it was thought that 10 or 12 didn’t want a treaty and many others such as the UK would demand that the talks were carried out within the CCW. This was seen as a delaying and stalling tactic. Last June in Geneva just an hour and half was set aside for talks on CMs.

Once some supporting nations were found, the plan was to isolate the others. Their process places the onus on foreign ministries to take concrete steps. The CMC and Norwegians felt that the countries attending would be deeply shocked at the level of civil society interest – however it was thought necessary that national delegations should still feel empowered within the process and not overwhelmed.

The talks were held over two days in the Soria Moria Hotel near Oslo. National delegations were subject to intense lobbying by NGO members and CMC members made several presentations to delegates within the chamber. Particularly powerful among the NGOs were the victims - amputees from Afghanistan, the Balkans and Lebanon. There were also mine clearance specialists present who had suffered horrific injuries clearing submunitions.

The CMC cleverly released a pre conference declaration, which states would have to opt out of if they didn’t agree with it – a useful tool to isolate difficult countries. There were a lot of private discussions on the declaration’s content, most of which were largely ignored by the CCW.

After two days of heavy negotiations, 46 countries had signed up the declaration, including a reluctant UK. It seems that Hilary Benn MP had been very supportive and had been making statements in favour of a ban, against government policy. On March 19th the UK agreed to remove all its ageing clusters from service immediately. However they are trying to cling to their supposedly ‘smart’ clusters, to see how smart they are, please visit:

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Page last updated: 6th December 2002