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Historic step forward for cluster bomb ban

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Historic step forward for treaty to ban cluster bombs

After week of tough talks, nations agree to move forward

Wellington, 22nd February 2008 – After a week of tough diplomatic talks, the voice of survivors and committed states has prevailed and a draft treaty to ban cluster munitions has been endorsed for formal negotiation. The so called “Wellington Declaration” provides the draft treaty text to be negotiated and agreed in Dublin in May 2008 to ban cluster munitions, assist survivors and ensure clearance of their land.

“We are encouraged that the draft agreement was not weakened or compromised over the course of this crucial meeting,” said Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, Oxfam New Zealand. “New Zealanders played a significant part in achieving this outcome by expressing their strong support for a clear and unequivocal ban on cluster munitions.”

More than 500 representatives from 122 governments as well as campaigners and survivors of cluster bombs from 38 countries gathered in New Zealand for the penultimate meeting of the Oslo Process.

After intense discussion, there was broad agreement on the text of articles about victim assistance, clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas and the destruction of stockpiles. Earlier proposals by certain countries to dilute and insert exceptions to the draft treaty were unsuccessful, but will be considered again during negotiations in Dublin. At the end of the week, the strong text of the treaty remains unchanged.

“We commend past user, producer and stockpiler states who have endorsed the Wellington Declaration, for showing the vision to negotiate this landmark new treaty to prevent civilian deaths and assist victims for decades to come” Said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

The most contentious issues revolved around possible exemptions to the ban for some types of cluster munitions, possible transition periods in which cluster munitions could still be used after being banned, and the use of cluster munitions in joint military operations by states that are not part of the future treaty. The responsibility of countries which have used cluster munitions in the past to help clear them up was also an issue.

“Cluster munitions have had their day – they are a weapon of the cold war designed for use against massed Warsaw Pact tanks on the Central European plain,’ said Simon Conway, Director of Landmine action and co chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “When cluster munitions are used in the olive groves of Lebanon and in the crowded suburbs of Basra, they inevitably kill civilians and achieve no military gain” he added.

During the course of the week the developing world put up a strong stand in favour of a comprehensive ban.

States such as Laos, Lebanon, Indonesia and Nigeria called for the strongest possible treaty with no exception or exemptions for ‘technical fixes’ which they claim they will never be able to afford.

The concerns of a minority of states have been compiled in a separate document for consideration in Dublin, but this does not have the same weight as the treaty text.

"I lost my eye and my life was devastated when my uncle and brother were killed by a cluster bomb attack, we urgently need a treaty to ban these deadly weapons and to help survivors rebuild their lives”, said Umarbek Pulodov, a survivor from Tajikistan.

--

Note to the editors:

The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is a global network of 200 civil society organisations working in over 70 countries to end the harm caused by cluster munitions. Founding members include Human Rights Watch and other leaders from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines which secured the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

ENDS

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