Excellencies, friends and colleagues,
Welcome to Oslo. And welcome to the opening session of the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).
To many of you I should of course say welcome back to Oslo.
Some of you were here in February 2007 when we had invited states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) to what was to become the launch of the Oslo Process, the series of meetings that culminated in Dublin in May 2008. Even more of you were here for the Signing Conference in December 2008. Indeed, the fact that the whole process, from 2007 to 2008, went so incredibly fast – should inspire us in similar undertakings in the future.
It is a pleasure to see all of you in my own city, at a time when the Convention has become an effective instrument of international humanitarian law.
So far 111 states have joined the Convention, and the number of ratifications continues to grow – we already have 75 States Parties.
Now, we see that the Convention is ensuring concrete improvements on the ground. That it has been a process – from visions, ideas, words, texts – to action.
I would particularly like to welcome my fellow panellists:
To my right, His Excellency, Dr Adnan Mansour, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon and President of the Second Meeting of States Parties.
To my left, Ms Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the ICRC, and a key partner in our work.
To my far right, Mr. Neil Buhne, Director of the Geneva Liaison Office of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.
And finally, to my far left, Mr Branislav Kapetanovic, representing the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a key partner and important ally in this work.
At the Signing Conference in 2008, our strong and common message was the need to start implementing the Convention as soon as possible.
Since then, we have seen major progress on the ground. Improved methods for clearing areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants have dramatically shortened the time it takes to make these areas safe again.
Even in the worst affected areas, our timeframe is now one or two decades rather than centuries. This is a remarkable achievement. The majority of contaminated states can be cleared in less than five years, provided there are adequate resources and political will.
And stockpiles of cluster munitions are being destroyed faster and at less cost than anticipated.
Many compare – and this is a good comparison – the cluster munitions problem of today with the landmine problem in the first years after the adoption of the Mine Ban Convention in 1997. Fortunately, the situations are different because we were able to stop the use of cluster munitions before the problem became as widespread as that of landmines.
Clearing areas contaminated by cluster munitions and destroying stockpiles is a smaller challenge than it was – and in many respects still is – with landmines. We can tackle a substantial part of the cluster munition problem over the next 10 years – if we want to, if we have the will and the dedication to do it.
However, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is not just about destroying the lethal munitions. It is also about people, their lives and livelihoods, their stories, their communities.
Far too many have paid the price these weapons entail. And many have to pay this price every day, for the rest of their lives. The timeframe for these victims is an entire lifespan, not just a matter of years.
The Convention has become a benchmark because it places these victims at the centre – and adds a strong humanitarian dimension to this disarmament measure.
Nevertheless, we know that more needs to be done. The Norwegian Government has presented a proposal to the Norwegian Parliament on Norwegian ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
As I said, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a key instrument for protecting civilians. It effectively stopped the use of cluster munitions before they became widely used. And as my friends here on the podium can testify, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We have, as you know, seen isolated instances of the use of cluster munitions since the Convention was adopted, but a very clear pattern is emerging.
These weapons have been stigmatised. Had it not been for the Convention, the few states that have used – and use – cluster munitions would not have tried to deny it.
No responsible state, whether party or non-party to the Convention, wants to be associated with the use of cluster munitions. The political cost is simply too high.
Therefore, friends and colleagues, our Convention is working.
The market for cluster munitions has practically disappeared.
Use has virtually stopped.
These weapons are universally considered to be unacceptable. We are creating a new norm, we are implementing a new standard.
The Convention has also strengthened the international normative framework protecting civilians.
To further support this process, we have distributed a background paper on the relationship between the CCM and international humanitarian law. And we have invited you to address some of these issues during the general exchange of views later today.
We talk about the Oslo Process, and many have attributed the Convention’s inception to Norway. Well, while I appreciate that, let there be no doubt that the Convention was brought about by decades of tireless efforts by dedicated men and women from all over the world, in states, in NGOs (like the Norwegian Red Cross, and Norwegian People’s Aid – in 2012 they mark 20 years of mine action), the ICRC and the UN.
The Oslo Process was a catalyst. It spurred a concerted and targeted effort by a broad range of actors and forged a unique partnership. These efforts enabled us to meet clearly defined common goals. They have also revitalised the use of diplomacy in such processes.
I would like to acknowledge the particularly close and fruitful cooperation Norway, as President-Designate, has had with the outgoing President, Lebanon.
Let me assure you that Norway will do its utmost to follow in Lebanon’s footsteps and build upon the progress achieved during its Presidency.
I am also very pleased that Zambia has offered to host the next Meeting of States Parties, and that the Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Given Lubinda (together with other members of the Zambian Government) has come to Oslo to present the country’s candidature.
It is the states that conclude treaties and bear the legal responsibility for implementing them. But we would not have got anywhere without the dynamic interaction we have had with the ICRC, the United Nations and the Cluster Munition Coalition.
The successes of first the Mine Ban Convention and then the CCM clearly demonstrate that this partnership model is effective and efficient.
This is exactly the route we need to take – that of common efforts – if we are to ensure continued progress in the areas of protection of civilians in armed conflict and disarmament. And not only when it comes to mines and cluster munitions – but also in new areas.
Let us keep on working together – in partnerships – to tackle new challenges as they arise.
Excellencies, friends and colleagues,
I wish you a successful Third Meeting of States Parties, and I look forward to seeing you all again when we reach the next milestone.