Cluster Munitions and the CCW: Is There a Happy Ending?

Article excerpt

As highlighted by François Rivasseau ("The Past and the Future of the CCW," March 2011), review conferences have been important landmarks in the evolution of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The conferences have been used by states-parties to adopt new protocols, strengthen existing provisions, and decide on proposals for work on new weapons issues. They also have adopted tools to facilitate compliance and implementation and to promote universalization. The conferences have added important protections to the fabric of international humanitarian law.

Nonetheless, these meetings also have struggled at times to find agreement on important issues. Despite three years of intense negotiations, CCW parties in 2006 were unable to finalize a protocol to improve the rules on anti-vehicle mines. As a result, 25 states committed themselves to new national standards on anti-vehicle mines similar to those proposed for a new protocol. Dissatisfaction with the modest amendments adopted for Protocol Il (on mines, booby traps, and other devices) in 1996 led to a process to develop a treaty outside the CCW to impose a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel mines.

As Rivasseau suggests, there is a risk that the 2011 CCW Review Conference could have a similar outcome, namely, that CCW parties again will fail to reach agreement on rules for a weapon about which there is widespread concern or, if they do agree, that the rules adopted are likely to be criticized and viewed by many states and organizations as inadequate. This time, the issue is cluster munitions. After deciding not to negotiate rules on cluster munitions in 2006, parties later changed course and have struggled over the past four years to develop a protocol to address the humanitarian impact of these weapons.

The CCW's work on cluster munitions is complicated by the fact that 73 out of 114 CCW parties already have signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons. The proposals currently under consideration in the CCW are far less comprehensive than those of the CCM and would allow the continued use, production, and transfer of models of cluster munitions known to have severe consequences for civilians. …