9 November 2010
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, at Meeting on Cluster Munitions Treaty, Seeks Action


on Comparable Issues: Anti-Vehicle Mines, Explosives in Populated Areas


This is the text of remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today at the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic:

It is an honour to address this historic First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, here in hospitable Vientiane.  And I am pleased to bring warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  I commend the people and Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for hosting it.

Cluster weapons are indiscriminate and inhumane.  For more than half a century, these weapons have robbed lives and limbs from the people of Laos.  You have counted more than 50,000 casualties from unexploded ordnance.  The social, economic and environmental impact has been profound.  By hosting this meeting, your Government is demonstrating its commitment to human security — here and throughout the world.

That commitment is shared by the Parties to the Convention.  I am also encouraged to see so many representatives of States that are not yet parties.  As Depositary of the Convention, the Secretary-General has called on all States to become party to the Convention without delay.  I reiterate that call today.

Let me also pay a special tribute to the many civil society organizations, large and small, that have joined us.  This landmark Convention would not have come about without your vigorous advocacy, your determined and successful campaigning and your engagement with States, the United Nations system and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions has given a great boost to international humanitarian law.  It is unambiguous in banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions.  It sets out clear obligations for clearing unexploded ordnance, for educating populations about the risks they face and for assisting victims.  It provides a framework for action in post-conflict scenarios, with strong provisions for international assistance and national planning.  It is, in short, an excellent example of multilateralism at work.

Until recently, many Governments considered cluster munitions indispensable to their military strategies.  But they proved themselves open to the arguments of those who said that such policies and practices were out of step with international norms — that they caused indiscriminate harm, and could jeopardize a country’s recovery and development.  Today we celebrate the results: an evolution in global thinking and the bold choice of many Governments, some with considerable defence responsibilities, to accept the consequences of this new awareness.

Allow me to suggest that the world would benefit greatly if we could see similar resolve and flexibility in other multilateral areas where progress is needed urgently, such as climate change, nuclear disarmament, human rights, the empowerment of women — the list is long indeed.

The Cluster Munitions Convention is underpinned by an abhorrence of a specific weapon.  We should be just as appalled by the persistence of large military budgets, which continue to divert resources away from social and economic development.  Last year, global military expenditure reached more than $1.5 trillion — a 50 per cent increase in just one decade.  Let us recall that, under the United Nations Charter, States should seek “the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”.  This is crucial if the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  We must ensure the Convention is effective.

This week, you will take important decisions on the Convention’s architecture.  The United Nations stands ready to work closely with Parties and other stakeholders to help establish an appropriate machinery to support the Convention’s implementation.

I also call on you to explore what can be done on two additional issues of international humanitarian law that need our further attention.  First is the question of anti-vehicle mines.  These continue to cause many casualties, including growing numbers of civilians.  They restrict the movement of people and humanitarian aid, and pose similar obstacles to recovery and development as cluster munitions.  Second is the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  This, again, causes profound suffering to civilians.

As representatives of your Governments and influential members of civil society, you are well placed to generate further progress in both areas.

A Laotian proverb states that “If you like things easy, you will have difficulties; if you like problems, you’ll succeed.”  Our work presents no simple solutions, but if we tackle its problems with vision and determination, we will continue to see the kinds of success that we celebrate today.  The United Nations will continue to provide whatever assistance the Convention needs for its full, timely and successful implementation.  I wish you a most productive meeting.

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For information media • not an official record