March 6, 2007
Success! Ceasefire.ca supporters push the reluctant Harper Government to join discussions on cluster bomb treaty
Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter,
Three weeks ago, I wrote to let you and other supporters know that the government was reluctant to support an international ban on cluster bombs. Practically overnight, more than a thousand Ceasefire.ca supporters responded by writing leters to Stephen Harper, other party leaders, and their local MPs through Ceasefire.ca. Together, Ceasefire.ca supporters pushed the government to sign on.
Nancy Ingram of Mines Action Canada, which is leading the campaign in Canada, wrote to me and said, “We were told that the letters your supporters wrote definitely helped get this decision made and the issue was brought to the attention of the highest levels. Thank you all so much for your support!”
But our work is not done. The Government could still drag its heels (in fact, most Conservative MPs voted against an anti-cluster bomb motion at the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs committee). We need to ensure that the issue does not go back to “business as usual” channels that will not result in a treaty banning cluster bombs.
That’s why we will continue to monitor this issue closely. In the meantime you can to sign the Mines Action Canada petition calling on Canada to stop clusters and start a new treaty: (http://www.minesactioncanada.org/home/index.cfm?fuse=Home.Petition).
Steve Steven Staples
The following article appeared in The Globe and Mail on February 23, 2007. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070223.wcluster0223/BNStory/International/)
Norway talks pass resolution against cluster bombs
Associated Press OSLO – A declaration calling for a treaty by 2008 banning cluster bombs was adopted Friday by 46 out of 49 countries attending a conference in Oslo, officials for the Norwegian government and two non-governmental groups said.Norway’s deputy foreign minister, Raymond Johansen, said Poland, Romania and Japan did not approve the final declaration. Officials for Human Rights Watch and the Cluster Munition Coalition also said those three countries dissented.The gathering was snubbed by some major players involved in making or using such munitions, including the United States, Russia, China and Israel.
Organizers, however, said other states needed to forge ahead regardless to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster posed by unexploded cluster munitions.
Although there was no formal vote, Canada was among the 46 countries approving the measure.
A declaration presented on the last day of the meeting urged countries to “conclude by 2008 a legally binding international instrument” to ban cluster bombs.
The treaty would “prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians,” the declaration said.
Cluster munitions involve packing hundreds of bomblets into artillery shells, bombs or missiles, which scatter them over vast areas, but some do not explode immediately. The unexploded bomblets can then lie dormant for years after conflicts end until they are disturbed, often by civilians.
As many as 60 per cent of the victims in Southeast Asia are children, the Cluster Munition Coalition said. The weapons have recently been used in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, it said.
The UN estimated that Israel dropped as many as four million bomblets in southern Lebanon during last year’s war with Hezbollah, with as many 40 per cent failing to explode on impact.
Children can be attracted to the unexploded weapons by their small size, shape and bright colours, activists say.
Friday’s declaration urged countries to take steps at a national level before the treaty takes effect. Norway has already done so, while Austria announced a moratorium on cluster bombs at the start of the conference.
“It is non-binding. It is not a legal document. But it is a statement of political will,” Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch said of the declaration.
Norway hopes the treaty would be similar to one outlawing anti-personnel land mines, negotiated in Oslo in 1997 and signed in Ottawa.
The U.S., China and Russia have refused to sign the land-mine treaty and oppose the Norwegian initiative on cluster bombs. They did not send representatives to the meeting. Australia, Israel, India and Pakistan also did not attend. Those countries say the weapons should be dealt with in other arenas, such as the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons, known as CCW.
Mr. Goose said the major powers do not need to be involved for the treaties to have an impact. Activists say the point is to stigmatize the weapons.
“If you need proof that you can conclude a treaty without the United States, Russia and China, look at the land-mine treaty,” he said.
Goose said even though major powers have rejected the treaty, they have stopped deploying land mines, and that the number of civilian casualties have been cut in half since 1997.
Before the meeting, activist groups feared some countries would seek to water down or even quash a declaration by insisting on a longer or non-existent deadline. But Mr. Nash said the first day of talks made it clear that there would be a declaration, with the 2008 deadline, even if some countries rejected it.
The declaration said work on the cluster-bomb treaty would be carried out in Lima in May or June; in Vienna in November or December, and in Dublin in early 2008.
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