31 May 2008 The United Nations refugee agency has added its voice to the chorus of support greeting yesterday's adoption of an international convention to end the manufacture, use and stockpiling of cluster bombs.
Delegations from 111 States agreed on the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions after two weeks of negotiations in Dublin that were also attended by representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The pact will now be signed in Oslo in December.
Manuel Jordao, UNHCR's representative in Ireland, welcomed the adoption of the convention, saying the issue was of particular concern to the agency because refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict or post-conflict zones are often exposed to the remnants of cluster munitions.
The devices are considered especially insidious because they comprise a bomb casing containing hundreds of small sub-munitions that are scattered over a wide area when the bomb nears the ground. Many of these so-called “bomblets” fail to explode on impact and then explode months or years later, killing or maiming victims.
After speaking with cluster bomb victims attending the negotiations, Mr. Jordao said “their stories show how indiscriminate a weapon it is, how it turns lives upside down at the most unexpected times, when conflict has ended, when people are returning home, when children are playing.”
He called for international efforts to focus on clearing contaminated areas so that affected communities can resume their lives and economic and social activities. UNHCR works with partners in many countries, including Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia and Lebanon, to clear mines, raise awareness about the threat they pose and assist victims.
One of the articles in the new convention calls on States to provide adequate assistance to all victims of cluster munitions, including their medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support.
Mr. Jordao's comments echo those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said yesterday in a statement issued by his spokesperson that he was delighted by the agreement and encouraged Member States to now ratify the text.
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