Speech/statement | Date: 05/10/2007
- Our obligation is to remedy a disaster that has hit individuals and societies. And we have an equally important obligation to prevent that people loose lives and limbs in the future, Ambassador Steffen Kongstad said in his speech 03.10.07.
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Opening Statement by Ambassador Steffen Kongstad, Norway
Mr Minister, Excellencies, Colleagues and Friends:
Let me first of all thank the Government of Serbia for organising this important Conference of States Affected by Cluster Munitions. We are grateful for the opportunity to meet here in Belgrade to address some core issues in the work towards a new convention on cluster munitions, and also to be part of the partnership between affected and non-affected states, and between states, the UN and civil society. We are impressed by the large number of affected countries participating in this Conference.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the many mine action organisations, institutions working with people with disabilities, disabled people’s organisations, and others who have provided information, resources and expertise in raising the issue of cluster munitions.
Why was an international process on cluster munitions initiated?
The humanitarian suffering caused by the use of cluster munitions has been a well-known and well-documented problem for years. Despite several efforts made to address this issue in an effective way it has not been possible to agree on a negotiating process within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons - CCW, partly because this forum is largely focussed on the perceived needs of the users and producers, partly because CCW decisions requires consensus.
Seeing the use of cluster munitions as an increasingly pressing humanitarian and developmental problem rather than a simple arms control or disarmament issue, the Norwegian government decided to initiate an international process with the objective of prohibiting cluster munitions causing unacceptable humanitarian and developmental harm. The first Conference on Cluster Munitions took place in February this year, and resulted in the “Oslo Declaration” – at the time supported by 46 of the participating countries.
The Declaration spells out our commitment to negotiate an international legal instrument that prohibits cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians by the end of 2008. Today, seven months later, some 80 states are reported to support the Oslo Declaration.
As support for this new instrument is on the increase, it is important to remind ourselves that an international convention is a tool to ensure an end to the use of cluster munitions and to secure adequate assistance to affected peoples and communities, and not an objective in itself.
Cluster munitions as they are known today are weapons that were developed for conflict scenarios significantly different from those we are faced with today. There is a growing recognition that the humanitarian and political impact they cause during and long after conflicts far outweigh their considered military utility. In fact, the military utility of weapons that does more harm to civilians than to military targets is questionable, to say the least.
The urgent need to prevent proliferation is an important objective of a new treaty and a key issue on our agenda here in Belgrade. We welcome the announcements made over the last year from states who have decided to freeze the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions. We are encouraged by the announcement this morning by Foreign Minister Jeremic of Serbia, on the deliberations on a unilateral moratorium on Cluster Munitions in the near future.
Many of you can confirm the horrible consequences of the use of cluster munitions, and would agree that it is vital to prevent the proliferation of the billions of submunitions currently stockpiled. An instrument that prevents transfer of cluster munitions will be an instrument that prevents a humanitarian disaster of a larger magnitude than the landmines represented 10 years ago.
The Oslo Declaration is our action plan, with the conferences in Lima, Vienna, Wellington and Dublin as major milestones. But these conferences will not be successful without the variety of activities accompanying this process. Solid documentation of the impact on human beings and their social and economic circumstances is being produced. The military inadequacy of cluster munitions is also being documented to an extent we have not seen before. The various regional and thematic Conferences are crucial supporting and mobilising elements of the process.
One of the most important events taking place during this process is happening right now: The Belgrade Conference of States Affected by Cluster Munitions. Affected countries represent the reason why there is a process. These are the states that matter most in this context. This conference is the first conference ever dedicated specifically to the problems of affected countries. It is an opportunity to learn about the concerns and considerations of affected countries and to demonstrate commitment to address them. The Belgrade Conference will provide substantive input into the Vienna and Wellington discussions and the Dublin negotiations. This is how we can make the future treaty relevant and ensure that it will make a real difference on the ground. We welcome the leadership of affected countries to which the Government of Serbia now has been so instrumental.
We have heard from some quarters that the Oslo Process has taken the issue out of the United Nations. This is not correct. As we heard from Mr Lance Clark, UNDP, this morning, the United Nations is a very important partner in the Oslo Process. What we have done is that we have brought the relevant and operational United Nations organisations into a process that concerns the core values of the UN – the protection of civilians from armed conflicts. The UN has recently urged all Member States to address immediately the horrendous effects of cluster munitions by concluding a legally binding instrument, and called on States to until such a treaty is adopted take domestic measures to immediately freeze the use and transfer of all cluster munitions. This UN call deserves a clear and adequate response from Member States.
The Oslo Process is a joint, open and inclusive undertaking by likeminded states, the UN, the Cluster Munition Coalition, the ICRC and the Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement and other civil society organisations.
This Conference in Belgrade will focus on the topics of Victim Assistance, Clearance, Cooperation and Assistance and the need to prevent proliferation. We will have ample opportunity to discuss these elements over the next two days. Our objective is a new convention that provides us with a comprehensive way of addressing a multifaceted problem – based on co-operation and mutual committment. To achieve this, the provisions and obligations of the new treaty must be strong and committing – and provide us a framework for effective implementation and action.
The public concern over the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions has become a global demand for an effective international response to this problem. This process is not about military utility of an outdated weapon system, but a political process driven by humanitarian concerns. This is not about which conference rooms or forums we use. This is about people, communities and countries affected by the use and the remnants of the use of cluster munitions.
Our obligation is to remedy a disaster that has hit individuals and societies. And we have an equally important obligation to prevent that people loose lives and limbs in the future. To succeed we need to keep the process open to all interested states and in continued partnership with the UN, the ICRC and civil society. This conference is a key part of this process that will bring us a new international treaty banning such cluster munitions next year.