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More than 80 countries sign up - cluster munitions

2

Hon Phil Goff

Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control

22 February 2008

Media statement

More than 80 countries at cluster munitions conference have already signed up to Wellington Declaration – Goff

Eighty-two countries present at a conference in Wellington this week have signed the ‘Wellington Declaration’, a crucial step towards a meaningful international treaty on cluster munitions, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff said today.

The week-long conference, which ended today, was attended by officials from 103 countries. It has been a pivotal stage in the Oslo Process, which New Zealand and six other countries started last year following frustration at a lack of progress from the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Mr Goff said.

“The conference has, in the words of the Cluster Munition Coalition, been a ‘rousing success’. In five days we have achieved more than the UN convention was able to in five years.

“The Wellington Declaration creates political momentum and will form the basis of formal negotiations at a diplomatic conference in Dublin in May, which aims to create a treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

“Eighty two countries have already signed and we believe the majority of remaining countries involved will follow suit.

“This is a remarkable achievement. Countries present at the conference hold diverse views on cluster munitions and strong opinions have been expressed. But a tremendous amount of hard work has seen these differences narrow substantially and has moved the process forward. We have also made significant progress towards agreements on the destruction of cluster munitions stockpiles, clearance of contaminated areas and assistance for victims.

“We are closer than ever to a meaningful treaty which will save lives,” Phil Goff said.

“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.


“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.


“We could not have achieved this progress without two things: a willingness by different parties and countries to engage; and the support of civil society and the Cluster Munition Coalition in particular,” Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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