Vienna, 27 November 2007 - "One week prior to the beginning of the Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions it is evident that our expectations have been far exceeded: more than 100 states will participate in the conference, calling for a binding ban on the use of cluster munitions. The international process towards a total ban will gather irreversible momentum if it receives such widespread support," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in the lead-up to the Conference on Cluster Munitions to be held from 5-7 December at the Reed Exhibition Centre in Vienna.
"A year ago there were just a handful of states that vigorously advocated a worldwide ban on cluster munitions. Now there are more than 100 states that support this idea. This is a clear mandate which we will implement together," stated the Foreign Minister. In February 2007, 46 states, including Austria, launched an initiative in Oslo for a treaty against the use of cluster munitions that would be binding under international law. As many as 68 states attended the Conference on Cluster Munitions held this May in Lima. So far, 114 states have registered their participation in the Conference on Cluster Munitions in Vienna.
The new supporters were mainly poorer countries. "It was important to us to enable low-income states to participate in the conference. At the Conference in Ouagadougou in mid-November, which was jointly organised by Burkina Faso and Austria, I saw how important it was to include in humanitarian disarmament initiatives those states which are either already affected or which have a justified concern that they may be affected in the future. These states often lack the financial means to participate in international consultations. However, their voice must be heard nevertheless," stated Plassnik. Together with Norway, Austria had therefore launched a sponsorship programme administered by the UN to facilitate participation by these states in the Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions.
The high number of attendees was also attributable to Austria’s worldwide lobbying efforts. "We have used all channels to focus attention on the grave humanitarian problems caused by the use of cluster munitions and the unacceptable consequences for the civilian population and to explain the necessity of a binding ban," stated the Foreign Minister. "Austria continues to spearhead the international process against cluster munitions," said Plassnik.
The International Conference on Cluster Munitions in Vienna on 5-7 December will focus on the definition of cluster munitions, the provision of support for victims, the clearance of affected areas and the destruction of cluster munitions stocks. Visit the website of the Foreign Ministry at www.bmeia.gv.at for information on the conference and the topic of cluster munitions.
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