In what has now become an annual occurrence, delegates to a meeting of states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) agreed in November to continue work on proposals specifically addressing cluster munitions after failing to reach consensus during the past year. Meanwhile, a different treaty on the weapons grew closer to the number of ratifying states needed for its entry into force, drawing into question the role of future CCW efforts on the topic.
Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas that sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. An international outcry over use of cluster munitions in southern
Next year’s CCW group of governmental experts meetings are scheduled to take place April 12-16 and Aug. 30- Sept. 3 “to address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, while striking a balance between military and humanitarian considerations,” according to the resolution authorizing the group. Those meetings will take into account a draft protocol on cluster munitions prepared by this year’s experts group chairperson, Gustavo Ainchil of
That draft prohibits the use of cluster munitions unless they leave behind no more than 1 percent of unexploded ordnance or possess one of a number of safeguards. It includes a provision allowing for an eight-year deferral of this prohibition, with the possibility of an additional four-year extension if requested. These provisions differ from the CCM, as do other aspects of the draft.
Twenty-four countries have ratified the CCM, and 103 have signed it. The CCM will enter into force six months after 30 states ratify it.
Many delegates from countries that have already signed the CCM argued that a CCW protocol must not weaken progress on controlling the weapons. Calling her country a “strong supporter” of the CCM, Australian Ambassador Caroline Millar said in a Nov. 12 statement to the meeting of CCW states-parties that any future protocol “must provide for a strong humanitarian outcome and progress—not hinder—the development of international humanitarian law.” She listed five elements a CCW protocol should have at a minimum, including “definitional consistency” with the CCM.
A number of the world’s major producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions, including
He reiterated U.S. policy set by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2008 that, “by 2018, the U.S. armed forces will not use cluster munitions that, after arming, result in more than 1 percent of unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational conditions.” Critics of this approach have rejected failure-based criteria, pointing to data showing that failure rates in the field are often higher than in tests.
Koh also argued that the