TODAY -

Banning the Bomb
- A Historic Disarmament Treaty on Cluster Munitions -

Binalakshmi Nepram *

"No conventional Weapons pose greater danger to civilians than cluster munitions" It is rightly said by Mr Steve Goose, Director (Arms Division, Human Rights Watch). The latest use of cluster munitions can be traced in Lebanon 2006 and more recently Russia-Georgia 2008 with irreversible impacts on civilians.

In addition, unconfirmed reports cite use of cluster munitions in Colombia, Kashmir, Pakistan, Slovenia, Turkey, and Yemen. These weapons kills and injures people trying to rebuild their lives after conflict; stopping people from being able to use their land and access schools and hospitals and other basic amenities. These weapons has got an interesting size, shape and sometimes colours which resembles with that of a water-bottle, making children attracted towards it .

Thus, children are in the highest losing point in all the contaminated sites. More to it, these weapons have been used in less developed countries, hampering the developments efforts. It leaves the country with various social, economic, financial and environmental consequences.

A cluster munitions or a cluster bomb, is a weapon containing multiple explosive sub-munitions. It includes a variety of weapons that disperse from 10 to several hundred bomb-lets over a target area. They contain more explosive power and metal fragmentation, making them more likely to kill and to cause multiple casualties.

Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians; first, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas.

Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become De Facto Antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. Thus, they can remain a threat for decades. Most Cluster bombs are unguided, so they can miss their mark, hit nearby civilian objects and disperse over an area that is not always predictable.

Unlike landmines and other indiscriminate weapons, there is currently no provision in international law that addresses the problem of cluster munitions and their devastating effects on civilian population. Cluster munitions are shunned by people across the world, because of its humanitarian consequences. In short, we can say that Cluster bombs have caused severe problems to civilians wherever and whenever they have been used.

To counter this problem, Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 countries on 30 May 2008, at a historic diplomatic conference in Dublin, Ireland., a treaty was formed to bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles. The signing of the treaty will take place in Oslo, Norway on 3 December 2008,

Worldwide a total of over 47 governments have already committed to sign the treaty. However countries like India, China, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States which are among the major producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions are not signing this treaty.

Five different types of Cluster munitions are stockpiled in India, while Human Rights Watch says India makes one type of Cluster munitions called M395 of 155 projectiles. India focuses on effective regulation then the banning of such weapons in the context of maintaining a balance in addressing humanitarian and military perspectives of the use of Cluster munitions.

Control Arms Foundation of India has been in the forefront in India, to create a public discussion on this issue with various public engagement initiatives, bringing academics, civil societies members, retired defence personnel's and security think tanks for last two years.

With just 5 weeks remaining until the international treaty banning cluster bombs is opened for signature in Norway, Control Arms Foundation of India and civil society representatives are calling on Government of India to announce its intent to sign.

This week , 27 October 2008 till 2 November 2008 is dedicated to a vigorous campaign to increase awareness on the newly negotiated legally binding treaty Banning the use of cluster bombs/munitions. With regard to this, several volunteers of the Control Arms had already started commemorating the start of the Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs by collecting hundreds of Indian people's petition, calling upon the Government of India to ban cluster bombs by creating public awareness on the menace of cluster bombs across the world, wherever it is used.

Several petitions were being collected from Indian members of parliament this week. On 31 October, Control Arms is conducting a panel discussion on the newly concluded treaty on cluster munitions coalition at India International Centre, New Delhi and concluding by a "Lie Down" action at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to symbolising the repercussion of Cluster Munitions to mankind. Thus, it would be apt to state here that truly 'a simple action leads to a great change for all we need is the will to do it.' Let us all make it happento ban the Cluster Bomb.

To conclude, shower upon us rain, food and capacity for development, not steel rains/ cluster munitions, we cannot build countries with the steel that comes with death, destruction and suffering for time and again.




* Binalakshmi Nepram (founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network), based in New Delhi, is a regular contributor to e-pao.net . She can be contacted at BNepram(at)Yahoo(dot)co(dot)in . This was webcasted on October 31st 2008 on the eve of "Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs".

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