2008 is shaping up to be the international year of the cluster munition. There are not one but two multilateral process underway to try to address the weapon's humanitarian effects. There is work to "negotiate a proposal" on cluster munitions in the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). And there is a free-standing "Oslo Process" that emerged early in 2007 following the Norwegian Foreign Minister's decision to host an international conference in Norway's capital to kick-start efforts to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
Over the past year, Disarmament Insight has provided commentary on both processes, and will continue to do so in 2008. Many people have inquired with us about online resources on cluster munitions, and so we offer some suggestions below.
To search our blog for commentary on cluster munitions, the easiest method is to use the search box at right, or click on a relevant word in the word cloud below it. Useful key words or phrases include "cluster munition", "CCW", "Oslo Process" and "humanitarian impacts". UNIDIR's website also has a lot of information on cluster munitions, both in French and English.
For basic information about the Oslo Process, there is clusterprocess.org. For information about the CCW, visit the webpages of the Geneva Branch of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and follow the links. This is a useful source for CCW-related official documents, and there are also resources for other disarmament-related issues such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The next meeting of governmental experts in the CCW's calendar is from 7 to 11 April.
Before then, there will be a one-week meeting as part of the Oslo Process in Wellington, New Zealand. Official information, including on participation and logistics, is available here. Copies of the Wellington text, its draft declaration and explanatory notes are also available from the same source. For information about civil society activities connected with the Wellington Conference, check out the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition's website. The CMC's video press release for the Wellington Conference is worth watching.
There is no 'one-stop shop' on cluster munitions on the web, but there are a number of useful sites - most of them, not coincidentally, facilitated by civil society organizations keen to see cluster munitions restricted or banned.
A key site is that of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, which is the nerve centre of civil society campaigning on the issue. Several of the CMC's members also post resources, including Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Landmine Action UK, Mines Action Canada and Norwegian People's Aid. (Norwegian People's Aid has a great concrete-mixer destruction video.) There is also a new blog by the Ban Advocates project here. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has also thrown its weight behind the effort.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is active on cluster munition issues and has useful online resources from a humanitarian law perspective. And, to find out what the United Nations is doing and saying on cluster munitions issues, go here.
Statements and national resources on cluster munitions can be harder to find. The United States government has a CCW delegation homepage, and its Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement features some national statements on unexploded ordnance-related issues. But with many other countries it is a case of combing through their foreign ministry websites. A good source of info about what delegations have said at Oslo and CCW meetings, however, is thanks to the hard-working Katie Harrison at the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom: WILPF's notes and reports on various cluster munition international meetings are perhaps the most comprehensive out there - if unofficial.
Lastly, a video by the photographer John Rodsted we embedded into a post last May and shown earlier during the Oslo Conference - "cluster bombs that shouldn't exist" - is a must-see. These are just some of the resources out there to keep yourself informed on international efforts to address the humanitarian effects of cluster munitions. If you can think of some we've missed (and there must be many), please use the comment function below to bring them to our attention.
I'll be in New Zealand at the Wellington Conference from 18-22 February. Tune in to the Disarmament Insight blog for some impressions of that meeting.
Photo of a Landmine Action UK public billboard at Westminster Underground Station in London, taken by author. Very subtle guys.