On August 1st, we mark the one-year anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in more than a decade; 107 countries signed the treaty and 37 countries ratified it. It went into force on August 1st, 2010.
The Lao PDR, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history, and one of the first countries to sign the treaty, hosted the convention's First Meeting of State Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR, in November 2010. There, they developed an action plan to be used by all states to complete the legal obligations of the treaty, including support for clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance.
On average, the U.S. spends $2.7M per year, compared to the $17M per day (today's dollars) it spent during the 9 years of bombing (1964-1973). Groups like Legacies of War called for an increase in U.S. funding to $10M per year over the next 10 years in order to make a significant dent in the current cluster bomb problem in Laos and save thousands of lives in the future.
Last August 1, the "Beat the Drum" campaign featured drumming events in 70 countries to welcome the treaty into force and highlight the treaty's significance in communities affected by cluster bombs. Although the United States has not signed the treaty, events were held around the country to participate in the international campaign. Hopefully throughout this August we will see other celebrations and events to raise awareness of this issue.
Cluster bombs have a devastating effect on civilian communities as many bombs fail to detonate at the time they are dropped. Laos has been hit particularly hard by cluster munitions, which have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1974, after the war ended). Each year, there are 300 new casualties in Laos; 40 percent are children.
Please take time to learn more about the effect of cluster bombs around the world, including Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. For more information you can visit groups such as Legacies of War at www.legaciesofwar.com and the Mines Advisory Group at www.maginternational.org