19 October 2010 Commending nations for taking swift action to bring the United Nations-backed pact banning cluster munitions into force, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today urged all States – even those who have not signed on – to attend an upcoming gathering in Laos on the treaty’s implementation.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August, just two years after it opened for signature in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, demonstrating “the world’s collective revulsion at the impact of such weapons,” Ms. Migiro said.
Speaking at an even to commemorate the pact becoming part of international law, she spotlighted the role played by civil society, through their persistent and effective campaigning, in making the Convention – which prohibits explosive remnants of war known either as cluster munitions or unexploded ordnance (UXO) – possible.
Ms. Migiro also paid tribute to the brave mine action workers who risk their lives to make land safer in many countries, including Afghanistan, Sudan, Cambodia and Lebanon, “indeed, wherever the repugnant remnants of war are taking life and limb.”
First used in the Second World War, cluster munitions contain dozens of smaller explosives designed to disperse over an area the size of several football fields, but often fail to detonate upon impact, creating large de facto minefields.
The failure rate makes these weapons particularly dangerous for civilians, who continue to be maimed or killed for years after conflicts end. Some 98 per cent of victims are civilians and cluster bombs have claimed over 10,000 civilian lives, 40 per cent of whom are children.
The effects are especially acute in Laos, where an estimated 37 per cent the country’s territory remains contaminated three decades after end of war in the South-East Asian nation, and an average of 300 Laotians are killed each year as a result of cluster munitions – half the annual global total.
During the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate last month, Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone invited Member States to a November gathering in the capital, Vientiane, on the implementation of the Convention, stressing that the event will be an opportunity to reaffirm opposition to their use.
The meeting “will lay the foundation for the future of the Convention by drawing up a first action plan, and programme of work, for the treaty’s concrete implementation,” Ms. Migiro said today.
“Let us continue building on the momentum by removing the threat of these weapons,” she continued. “And let us work to assist survivors, care for damaged families, and educate all people living in affected areas – and especially boys and girls – about the risks they face.”
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