This December, a big step forward in rights for civilians living in war-zones has come that much closer to being achieved as almost 100 nations sign a UN Convention that calls for a ban on cluster bomb munitions and their production.
Specifically, the cluster bomb convention will prohibit the creation, stockpiling, trade and use of cluster munitions world wide, and puts the onus on those countries owning such weapons to both destroy all stockpiles, as well as clear areas affected by cluster munition bombings and provide general aid and funds for peoples of those areas.
The treaty, originally conceived in Dublin at the May 2008 talks, will be put into effect after 30 countries have ratified the legislature and the treaty is deposited with the United Nations in New York, however, there are still some major issues to tackle.
What are cluster bombs and why are they so deadly?
Cluster bombs are multiple explosives conglomerated into one container that are capable of widespread fallout, meaning maximum destruction for minimum effort and are used, primarily, to hamper transport for the opposition by using cluster-bombs to make air runway strips and roads unusable.
Cluster bombs comprise of many small bombs that are cast over a wide area but do not always detonate on impact and have, in areas like Lebanon, caused dramatic and devastating amounts of casualties as the 2006 Israeli and Lebanese conflict proved.
Furthermore, they hamper aid efforts when rebuilding is taking place, cutting off transportation routes for those who are trying to get water, food and basic provisions to those worst affected by the war-torn countries collapse of infrastructure.
A specific danger is that the unexploded cluster-bomb canisters are especially appealing to children, and, by in large, those civilians affected by cluster bombs are casualties under the age of 18.
The long road to the ban on cluster munitions
This treaty has been a long time in coming, primarily because cluster bomb manufacturing has been such a big business for countries such as Germany, the U.S. and Europe as a whole, as well as new rising powers such as China and India.
Back in 2003 a worldwide campaign was begun by victims of cluster bomb attacks, as well as various international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, who facilitated the groundwork for this month’s monumental treaty, as well as beginning the group called the CMC or Cluster Munitions Coalition.
The CMC estimates that 98 percent of victims from cluster bomb attacks are civilians and over 100,000 people have either lost their lives or been severely harmed by cluster bomb munitions since the year 1965.
The group took their guide from the 1997 legislation that banned anti-personnel landmines signed in Ottawa, of which now more than 150 individual states subscribe.
This has led to over 93 countries signing the cluster bomb treaty at the Oslo meeting of the UN council during the 3rd and 4th of December. However, not all countries were willing to make such a pledge.
Those not subscribing to the cluster bomb ban
Unfortunately the United States of America, China, Russia, India and Pakistan have dismissed the treaty and declined to sign, a particularly worrying turn of events given the size and impetus of each countries’ military power, and, whilst Germany has signed to the treaty, their doing so has caused some controversy.
Germany have developed what they are dubbing “intelligent” cluster bombs that are more precise and detonate on impact. They have been modified in such a way that they would not fall under the cluster bomb ban, as they can be programmed to strike calculated targets before deployment.This has caused outrage amongst some nations who see this as a way of side-stepping the issue and not considering the human cost.
George W. Bush’s reasons for not signing the treaty were similar, and his point blank refusal to even consider the treaty wasn’t that unexpected since cluster bomb munitions were a large part of the onslaught on Iraq, Afghanistan and South Ossetia, something the British government were also guilty of, buying large amounts of munitions from Israeli suppliers.
However, all is not lost for the U.S.A. as the Obama administration has pledged to return to the treaty when it is given over to the UN in New York, and a spokesperson for the president-elect said they would “carefully review” the decision Bush had made (a decision that his press secretary couldn’t remember the reason for when asked in a press conference this week) and that Obama wanted to “ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible” in order to preserve and protect the world’s civilians.
In order to let Obama know that the American and International public are serious about the ban on cluster bombs, please take a moment to sign the Care2 petition.Take action today and possibly save thousands of lives for the future. Thank you.
Photo used with kind permission under the Creative Commons attribution license, from Cactusbones.