Austrian Initiatives to Ban Cluster Munitions
Cluster munitions cause unspeakable suffering among civilians in conflict and post-conflict areas around the world. Unexploded sub-munitions contaminate entire regions for decades after the fighting has ceased.
In Laos an estimated 80 million bomblets were dropped in the 1960s. Some 40 years later, these cluster munitions still cause casualties among the civilian population. Since 1999, millions of sub-munitions were dropped on Iraq, DR Congo, Afghanistan, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Israel.
In 2006 cluster munitions containing between 2.6 and 4 million sub-munitions were dropped in Lebanon. By January 2008, 192 civilian casualties had been reported by Mine Action Coordination Center South Lebanon. More than 30 countries around the world are still affected by this weapon.
Cluster munitions are currently stockpiled in over 70 States and the number of sub-munitions reaches into the billions worldwide.
To end the suffering caused by cluster munitions worldwide Austria has reacted both on the international and on the national level.
Multilateral cooperation for a legal ban
- In fall 2006, Austria together with 5 other States (Norway, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru) and the Holy See called for a ban against cluster munitions.
- In February 2007, 46 States signed the Oslo Declaration for a legally binding international instrument to ban cluster munitions.
- In December 2007, Austria hosted the Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions. The attendance of 138 states ensured global recognition of the issue. A draft text for an international treaty was presented and discussed. The Vienna Conference involved not only States and organizations in the negotiating process but also parliamentarians, civil society, cluster munitions survivors, the Red Cross and experts like the mine clearance community.
- At the end of May 2008, after months of meetings, consultations and negotiations, 107 States agreed in Dublin on a text of a Cluster Munitions Convention. The Convention will be signed in Oslo on 3 December 2008. Once in force, it can become the most important contribution to international humanitarian law and disarmament since the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. The Convention contains a categorical ban against cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm against civilians and sets new standards in the assistance of victims.
- Austria will actively promote the universalization and the implementation of the Convention and will continue working together with all interested states to ban cluster munitions and to assist victims of this weapon.
Individual Austrian initiatives
- On the national level, the Austrian Government issued a Moratorium on the use of cluster munitions in February 2007.
- In December 2007, coinciding with the Vienna Conference, the Austrian Parliament adopted a national law that bans the possession, use, production, development and transfer of cluster munitions. Under the law, which entered into force in early 2008, Austria will destroy all its stocks of cluster munitions within 3 years.
- Recently, Austria has supported the following projects in the fight against cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war:
- Project on explosive ordnance disposal in Lebanon, especially cluster munitions clearance (€ 400.000 in 2006)
- UNMAS: Post Conflict Remedial Measures to Minimize the Risks and Effects of Explosive Remnants of War - Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Western Sahara (€ 100.000 in 2007
- UNDP Thematic Trust Fund for Crisis Prevention and Recovery - Contribution to Sponsorship-Program for participants at the Vienna Cluster Munitions Conference (5-7 December 07) (€ 220.000)
- NATO/PfP Trust Fund to eliminate explosive remnants of war in Jordan (€ 36.127 in 2007)
- UNDP Thematic Trust Fund for Crisis Prevention and Recovery – Contribution to Sponsorship-Programm for participants at cluster munitions conference in Uganda in September 2008 (€ 200.000)
- In the related fields of mine clearance and demining, Austria has contributed more than € 1.1 Million in 2007. For 2008, the planned Austrian contributions to various projects amount to almost € 1.6 Million. The current regional focus is placed on Africa and South-Eastern Europe.