Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Convention on Cluster Munitions Ratified

On February 17th, Burkina Faso and Moldova ratified the international convention banning cluster munitions, bringing the total ratifications to 30, the required number for the convention to enter into force.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) will enter into force on August 1, 2010, and Laos will host the First Meeting of the State Parties in late 2010. The 104 signatory nations agree to prohibit all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Other provisions deal with victim assistance, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles.

While most European countries have signed the CCM, the United States, Israel, Russia, China and India have not.

The CCM ratification is the conclusion of a three-year process, which began in February 2007 with the Oslo Declaration and will lead to the First Meeting of State Parties later this year in Vientiane, Laos. As the most heavily bombed country in history, Laos was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the CCM and is set to host the First Meeting of the State Parties in late 2010.

Vietnam War-era bombings by the U.S. from 1964 to 1973 left nearly half of the country contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Today, close to 78 million cluster submunitions litter forests, rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads, and other populated areas. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured by UXO in Laos since the bombing ceased; each year there are more than 300 new casualties, most of whom are children. Nearly 40 years on, only a fraction of these munitions have been destroyed.

The U.S. spent $2 million per day for nine years bombing Laos. However, the U.S. has only provided an average of $2.7 million per year for UXO clearance in Laos over the past 15 years. Put another way, the U.S. spent more in three days dropping bombs on Laos than they have spent in the last 15 years cleaning them up.

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