Rede von Außenministerin Ursula Plassnik zur Streumunitionskonferenz in Wien (nur in Englisch)
Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions
Civil Society Forum
Statement by Ursula Plassnik
Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs
Vienna, 4 December 2007
Dear Mrs. Majlath,
Ladies and Gentleman!
Two weeks ago a hailstorm in southern Lebanon triggered the explosion of several cluster munitions left from last year’s conflict. Fortunately, nobody was harmed by these events, but they made clear once more how dangerous this weapon is, how long it stays part of our environment and how urgent it is to work on its ban.
We have come together here in Vienna and we are working around the world, so that children can play in their natural environment and farmers can work their fields without being afraid of becoming victims of these terrible weapons.
In my speech to the United Nations General Assembly this fall, I said that I sometimes wonder why disarmament and arms control has managed to slip down from the top of the global agenda. Austria has always been up front with arms control and disarmament efforts. Combating particularly terrible weapons - including cluster munitions - is part of our deep conviction that human security is at the centre of our foreign policy efforts.
As a successful role model, the Ottawa-Convention is going to serve all of us as a source of inspiration, a proof that you can make a difference.
New partnerships, new forms of partnerships: I think it is very important that civil society and governments join forces on important international issues. There is a new type of networking, and we should use it, we should become partners. International policy has long stopped being done merely by diplomats and foreign ministers. Each and everyone participates. NGOs play an increasing role. It is not always possible to join forces of each and every issue - but where we can, we should not avoid making the effort.
This is why I am happy to welcome you to Vienna, to this conference. You have come with difference backgrounds and different experiences, with different contributions to make, but we all share a common commitment to achieve a ban of cluster munitions.
We have already achieved a lot in 2007: We started with a handful of countries. 127 countries will be represented at tomorrow’s conference and I think that in itself is a massive show of interest. We know that we have not been able to achieve everything yet, but the Vienna Conference will be a part of this mobilizing effort, this positive energy that will continue on the international level.
In parallel to the international level, we have also worked on the national level: Legal proceedings are on the way and we should be able to adopt in the Austrian parliament a ban on cluster munitions as of the day after tomorrow. The law prohibits the development, production, supply, sale, procurement, import, export, transit, use and possession of cluster munitions.
And in our law there are
- no exceptions for sensor-fused submunitions,
- no exceptions based on self-destruct mechanisms,
- no exceptions based on failure rates,
- no exceptions for soldiers participating in joint operations.
So the new Austrian law demonstrates clearly that for us a ban on cluster munitions means just that: No more cluster munitions! I hope that this will become a standard setter.
This morning in a press conference with the minister of defence and the President of the Austrian parliament I was asked by journalists: "What about those who do not yet participate? When will they come along?" I’m not a prophet; I’m just somebody who is going to walk on her two feet and does one step after the other. I think the important part is to raise awareness: about the nature of these weapons, about the lack of necessity of actually having such weapons.
This will lead us to a dialogue, a discussion that makes clear also to those responsible in governments that the possible military use as opposed to the potential damage to whole societies is marginal or can be described as marginal. I’m not a military strategist. But I think to raise awareness is one f the main issues that we can contribute. Civil society, governments, parliamentarians, school children, survivors and medical doctors, international organisations, journalists, those with an expertise as de-miners, people form academia, soldiers, human rights activists, diplomats: There is a new alliance forming around this issue.
This is why I would like to encourage your work, and be encouraged by your work for mine: A new type of partnership that I hope we will continue and expand. My hope is that as many as possible will join this trend as soon as possible because there is urgency in what we do.
Thank you and all the best.