Ban Advocates and Handicap International call on all countries to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions
The Ban Advocates, survivors of cluster munitions, and Handicap International Belgium call on all governments to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions on the eve of the Santiago Conference on Cluster Munitions. It is the last international meeting for signatory and non-signatory states, before the entry into force of the convention on 1 August 2010.
Ban Advocates from Afghanistan, Croatia, Ethiopia, Laos (PDR), Serbia and the USA, call on the non-signatory states present at the conference, including Argentina, Finland, Georgia, Nepal, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, to announce their clear intentions of joining the convention.They deplore in particular the absence of Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Serbia. Brazil has produced and stockpiled cluster munitions and is crucial to making Latin America free of cluster munitions. As a highly affected country, Cambodia knows the devastating effects of cluster munition use on families and on the development of the affected regions. Serbia hosted the Belgrade Conference of States Affected by Cluster Munitions from 3-4 October 2007 and followed the Oslo Process all along. These countries have not signed as yet.
“No reason can be found for not joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions, since civilians are the first victims of those unacceptable and illegal weapons”, says Aynelem Zenebe, who got injured during a cluster munitions strike on the Ayder School in Mekele, Ethiopia, when she was only six. She calls on her country as well as Brazil, Cambodia and Serbia to sign the treaty.
The Ban Advocates and Handicap International Belgium urge countries to ratify the Convention as soon as possible and to invest more in clearance and victim assistance activities in affected countries. “The already poor communities affected by mines and cluster munitions very often just struggle to survive in an extremely difficult context”, says Bruno Leclercq, Head of the Policy Unit of Handicap International Belgium and former director of the Handicap International program in Cambodia. “The survivors as well as all persons with disabilities should have timely access to the services they need. They not only need urgent medical care but continuous medical follow up and rehabilitation. It is a lifelong investment the families, communities and governments have to take responsibility for and for which the international community has to provide the appropriate funding. I call on the donor states, present at the Santiago Conference, to continue investing in victim assistance programs and to coordinate more effectively with affected states to support the communities still suffering from the impact of cluster munitions.”
At the Santiago Conference, states and civil society will start a dialogue on the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and on the Action Plan that will be adopted at the conference in Vientiane, Laos, to be held from 8-12 November 2010. “Only a clear Vientiane Action Plan will bring the most needed support to survivors”, says Mina Zunac, Ban Advocate from Croatia. “Affected communities and individuals should be involved in the planning of national victim assistance plans. For the benefit of all stakeholders, they should be the first ones to be consulted and kept involved in the implementation of victim assistance programs, before any decisions have been taken. Support has to be based on their needs. Therefore each country should undertake a comprehensive needs assessment. Without delay, the national governments should designate an actively functioning focal point with a clear mandate and authority for the coordination of victim assistance efforts. In coordination and even in monitoring, survivors have a particular role to play.”