Cluster bombs are still in use today, six years after the ban treaty entered into force
1 August 2016 is the 6th anniversary of the entry into force of the Oslo Convention banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. Despite the undeniable success of the Convention, which has now been signed by 119 States, the use of cluster munitions has reached record levels since 2010.
Cluster munitions were used in five countries between July 2014 and July 2015: Libya, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen - all non-signatory States. Not since the Oslo Convention banning these weapons entered into force in 2010 have so many States or non-State actors been involved in the use of cluster munitions. According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), since summer 2015, sub-munitions have also been used on numerous occasions in Yemen and Syria.
Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs are designed to open in the air, releasing sub-munitions over an area that can be as large as several football fields. As a result, they kill and maim civilians and combatants indiscriminately. According to the 2015 report from the Cluster Munition Monitor, 92% of recorded victims of these weapons are civilians. Up to 40% of sub-munitions do not explode on impact, endangering the lives of civilians sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended, and disrupting the economic and social life of polluted areas.
Towards the universalisation of the Convention
Despite this depressing finding, significant steps have been made towards the universalisation of the Convention over the last six years. Several new States including Cuba recently joined the convention, which has now been signed by 119 countries, of which 100 are States Parties, making it a powerful arms control instrument.
Major advances have therefore been made towards eradicating these weapons. Since the Convention entered into force, 28 States Parties, recently including France, have destroyed 1.3 million cluster munitions, equivalent to 88% of cluster munitions declared stockpiled by States Parties.
Obligations of States Parties
When it came into force on 1 August 2010, the Oslo Convention became a binding instrument of international law, banning cluster munitions, and requiring States Parties to destroy their stockpiles, meet the needs of victims, clear contaminated areas and provide people with risk education. The Oslo Convention is the most important disarmament treaty since the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997.
From 5 to 7 September 2016, Geneva will play host to the 6th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, when each State Party will review progress towards meeting their obligations under the Convention, particularly in terms of the destruction of stockpiles, clearance and victim assistance. This conference will also provide States Parties with an opportunity to underline their commitment to the universalisation of the Convention and to unanimously condemn any future use of cluster munitions.