Governments banning cluster bombs meet in Lebanon

03 Oct 2011

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“We, the representatives of the States Parties to the  Convention on Cluster Munitions, together with representatives from other States present as signatories, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and other international and national organizations and institutions, gathered for the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Beirut, Lebanon, reaffirm our commitment to end the harm caused by cluster munitions, working, “together for a safer life” said the 2011 Beirut Declaration submitted by the President of the Second Meeting of States Parties held in Beirut.

Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants in cooperation with the UNDP in Lebanon, from 12 to 16 September 2011, the Second Meeting of States Parties gathered representatives from around 90 governments, 38 observer states and entities, and 60 national and international organizations. The conference was an opportunity to the States parties to discuss the updates on implementing their treaty obligations. States that have not yet joined the Convention were also present to give updates on steps they are taking towards joining.

Sessions of the Meeting focused on the procedural issues and general exchange of views, status and operation of the convention such as universalization, storage and stockpile destruction and retention as well as clearance, victim assistance and risk reduction methods. 

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes groundbreaking provisions for assistance to victims and affected communities.
 
Lebanon engaged strongly from the very beginning in the diplomatic Oslo Process to negotiate the convention. It was Israel’s large-scale use of cluster munitions on Lebanese territory in August 2006 that helped serve as a catalyst for the process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions. 

The UN estimates that in 2006, Israel used about four million sub munitions in Lebanon, of which hundreds of thousands failed to explode and were left behind after the attacks. It was estimated that following the 2006 strikes 54.9km2 were contaminated. As of May 2011, 18.1km2 was suspected to still be contaminated by cluster munitions remnants across 758 suspected hazardous areas. Cluster munitions are reported to have caused a total of 704 casualties from 1975 to December 2010. From the August 2006 strikes to the end of 2010, 366 casualties had been recorded. The overwhelming majority of casualties were caused by unexploded sub munitions remaining after the conflict ended. 

During the closing conference on 16 September, Mr. Robert Watkins, UNDP Resident Representative along with the Head of delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mr. Jurg Montani and the Chairman of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) Mr. Steve Goose discussed the progress made since last year’s conference in Vientiane, the Beirut Progress Report, the outcome of this year’s Conference and the way to go forward. They insisted that “much more needs to be done to meet the commitments made under the five-year Vientiane Action Plan”. 

In the victims’ declaration delivered during the Second Meeting of States Parties, mine victims welcomed the many countries that have ratified and acceded over the last year, including most recently Afghanistan and Swaziland. 

They called governments to take seriously all their obligations for action under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. 

“We dream of a world where cluster munitions are completely banned and our children live safely” said the victims’ declaration.
But Mohammed Abdel Aal, 12-years-old, couldn’t stay safe from Cluster bombs. He lost his leg when he was eight in a cluster bomb explosion in Halta, South Lebanon. 

"After the 2006 July War, I used to draw a circle around cluster bombs, so others would be careful. I didn’t see the one that injured me because it was buried in the ground. I immediately realized that I lost my leg. My brother carried me, and when we arrived to a paved road, a car transported me to the hospital,” Mohammed says, swallowing his tears. 

The 2011 Meeting decided to designate Ambassador Steffen Kongstad, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, as the president of the Third Meeting of States Parties, and also decided to hold the Third Meeting of States Parties on September 2012 in Norway. Meetings of States Parties will be held annually until the first Review Conference in 2015 – five years after the Convention’s entry into force.