For Immediate Release
International Conference on Cluster Munitions: Handicap International Welcomes the Adoption of the Beirut Declaration
WASHINGTON - The second Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the Oslo Treaty) concludes Friday with the unanimous adoption of the Beirut Declaration. Handicap International was pleased to see the measures that States have undertaken to ensure that people threatened by these weapons are able to reclaim normal lives. The presence of State producers and users of cluster munitions, such as China and Russia, exemplifies their recognition of the Convention. The association calls on all countries to join the Convention, so that these weapons, which were used recently by Libya, will never again cause harm.
Assistance to victims at the heart of debates
More than 120 states were present in the conference in Beirut, held from September 12-16. On Friday, States Parties unanimously adopted the Beirut Declaration, which defines their obligations to the treaty over the next four years. Handicap International welcomes the significant progress made in the fight against cluster bombs.
"Today, victim assistance has been confirmed as one of the top priorities of the Convention against cluster munitions," said Aynalem Zenebe, an Ethiopian survivor of an accident involving submunitions. "States are realizing the barbarity of these weapons. The thousands of victims -- men, women and children -- who have been unfairly injured, can finally become the first beneficiaries of this Treaty,” she added.
During the Conference, States must testify about their mechanisms of data collection on victims of these weapons, as well as financial and technical resources deployed to ensure their rehabilitation. "This is a great step in the fight against cluster munitions,” announced Paul Vermeulen, director of advocacy and political action at Handicap International. “Governments need to be involved in the identification of victims and each State Party has the obligation to provide adequate responses to their needs."
The increasing involvement of states
Other advances show the commitment of States Parties to the Oslo Treaty:
- 12 States announced the destruction of stockpiles of 600,000 cluster bombs, containing more than 25 million submunitions.
- 17 States have become States Parties since the first Conference in Vientiane in November 2010, including Afghanistan, one of the countries most polluted by these weapons.
- More than 16 million square meters have been cleared to date. In addition, new methods for more accurate identification of polluted areas will allow for better use of resources.
In addition, non-parties, such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, came to the conference in Beirut as observers. Their presence proves that the Oslo Treaty is increasingly seen as the international norm for cluster munitions, and that its humanitarian objectives are recognized even by states that have not joined. The stigma of these weapons is such that even non-States Parties to the Convention must justify their position at these conferences. Although this attitude is encouraging, Handicap International maintains that accession to the Treaty of Oslo is the only effective way to eradicate the scourge of cluster munitions and to ensure that all victims of these weapons receive the assistance they need.
Mobilization must continue, including in Libya
It is important that citizens and States remain committed to mobilizing against cluster munitions, which still affect 31 countries and territories worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of people are threatened daily by these weapons, such as people in Libya. After the use of cluster bombs in April by Col. Gadhafi’s forces, Handicap International deployed an emergency response team to provide mine-risk education. The association works to raise awareness of these weapons among threatened populations in eastern Libya, focusing particularly on children, who are especially vulnerable to these weapons, which often resemble toys. To date, the association has implemented awareness projects that have benefitted tens of thousands of people.
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization working in situations of poverty, exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.