The end of the line for an insidious weapon of war? | Neil Buhne

14 Sep 2012

Intact cluster bomb at war memorial in Seoul, ROK. Aaron Hartwell Intact cluster bomb at war memorial in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Photo credit: Aaron Hartwell

I remember first learning of “clusters” when I worked in Pakistan in the early 90s and saw injured Afghan children who had picked one up, losing an arm or their sight in the process. Cluster munitions destroy lives – very often those of children, in too many countries. They have killed thousands of civilians and continue to pose a threat, because they  are typically used in populated areas.

According to a recent report, an estimated 94 percent of their victims are civilians and because these weapons are prone to failure they remain hazardous for many years, “efficiently” killing and maiming long after a conflict has ended. Once dropped, unexploded cluster bombs prohibit access to land that could be used for agriculture and development, and they are costly and time consuming to remove.

This week, I was in Oslo where states, international organizations, and NGOs came together for the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Norwegians, instrumental in developing the Convention and committed supporters of the cause, were excellent hosts. For me it was one of those times when you see that our work is really worthwhile!

The Convention which UNDP helped to draft, aims to stop the tragedy of cluster munitions accidents by prohibiting their use, stockpiling, transfer, manufacture and production. It was opened for signature in December 2008. So far, 111 states have signed up, with 75 countries ratifying or acceding to its conditions.

The Convention so far has been a success. On Tuesday the Cluster Munitions Coalition released their annual monitoring report which detailed huge progress in stockpile destruction of cluster munitions and new methods of clearance, which will make it faster to clear contaminated areas. Perhaps most importantly, now any country accused of using cluster munitions, faces stigmatization.

But it is a work in progress. Huge parts of the world remain contaminated and people continue to die. There are still 30 countries affected by cluster munitions that are yet to sign the Convention, including 17 producer nations.

There is still much work to do for UNDP and other organisations committed to eliminating this scourge. But we will continue to work in this area because it helps people recover from conflict--and most importantly--saves lives, and prevents them being destroyed by this weapon.

Talk to us: What can be done to convince more countries to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions?

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