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Cluster munitions remain in use five years after the ban convention entered into force

Explosive weapons

1st August 2015 is the 5th anniversary of the entry into force of the Oslo Convention banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. Despite the clear success of the convention, which has been signed by 117 countries to date, cluster munitions were still being used in conflicts in 2015.

Blu 24 cluster munitions found in Laos.

Blu 24 cluster munitions found in Laos. | © Z. Johnson / Handicap International

These weapons have been used by parties to conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Ukraine, although it is not possible to clearly determine responsibility in several cases.  The international community has strongly condemned these actions.
 
Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster munitions are designed to open in the air, releasing cluster munitions over an area that can be as large as several football fields. They kill and maim civilians and military personnel indiscriminately. According to the 2014 Cluster Munition Monitor report , more than 90% of recorded victims of cluster munitions are civilians. Up to 40% of these cluster munitions do not explode on impact, endangering the lives of civilians sometimes for decades after a conflict, disrupting the economic and social life of polluted areas.

Towards the universalisation of the convention

Despite this depressing finding, significant steps have been made towards the universalisation of the convention over the last five years. Four new States signed the convention in early 2015 alone: the Palestinian Territories, Canada, South Africa, Paraguay and Slovakia since July 27th. A total of 117 countries have signed the convention to date, including 92 States Parties, making it a powerful arms control instrument.
 
Major advances have also been made towards eradicating these weapons. Since the convention entered into force, 22 States Parties have destroyed 1.16 million cluster munitions, equivalent to 80% of cluster munitions declared stockpiled by States Parties under the convention.

Obligations of States Parties

When it came into force on 1st August 2010, the Oslo Convention became an international instrument binding at international law, banning cluster munitions and requiring States Parties to destroy their stockpiles, provide assistance to victims, clear contaminated areas and provide risk reduction education to civilians. The Oslo Convention is the most important disarmament treaty since the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997.

From 7th to 11th September 2015, the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia will play host to the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, when each State Party will review progress towards meeting their obligations under the convention, particularly in terms of the destruction of stockpiles, clearance and victim assistance. This conference will also provide States Parties with an opportunity to underline their commitment to the universalisation of the convention and to unanimously condemn any future use of cluster munitions.

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