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Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control

Hon Phil Goff
Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control

17 February 2008
Media statement

Wellington to host New Zealand’s largest ever disarmament conference
A conference to be held in Wellington this week is a pivotal step in a process to produce a meaningful international treaty on cluster munitions, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff said today.

“The conference will be the largest ever disarmament conference held on New Zealand soil, with around 560 delegates from 124 countries,” Phil Goff said.

“The conference is a key step along the way in the Oslo Process, which New Zealand and six other countries started last year. We were frustrated that the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons had failed to deliver solutions or even make progress after five years.

“The Oslo Process is gaining traction. It is not a case of a small number of like-minded countries talking to themselves. Rather the process is supported by more than half of all countries affected by cluster munitions, more than half of those who stockpile or produce cluster munitions, and 25 states which are not party to the UN convention.

“The goal of the Oslo Process is to ban the use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.” Phil Goff said.

“Among other issues, the conference will try to establish which munitions should fall into this category. We seek a strong outcome from the conference, with a critical mass of countries signing a Wellington Declaration. This will create political momentum leading up to formal negotiations to be held at a diplomatic conference in Dublin in May, which aims to create a treaty banning those cluster munitions deemed unacceptable. This would be binding on signatory countries.

“Cluster munitions have been singled out because they act like land mines. Many fail to explode on impact and lie dormant for decades until stumbled upon by civilians, often years after the conflict has ended,” Phil Goff said.

“In Lebanon alone, 173 civilians have been maimed by cluster munitions since the end of the recent conflict, and 23 have been killed, a third of them children.

“Not every country is attending this week’s conference and not every country will sign up to the final treaty, but as the successful Ottawa Convention banning land mines showed a decade ago, a critical mass of countries can be very effective in stigmatising the use of cluster munitons even by those countries outside the process.

“The success of this conference is important because it will save lives and stop the maiming of 100s of civilians in a manner that is totally contrary to humanitarian principles,” Phil Goff said.


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