SPEECH: UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Minh Pham on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM)

03 Aug 2013

I am privileged and honored to be here today to participate in the celebration of the Third Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Cluster munitions are designed to kill and maim indiscriminately, both at the time of use and, because of their high failure rate, often for many years after conflict has ended.  Nowhere is this more evident than here in Lao PDR.

Cluster munitions were first used 70 years ago during World War II. They have since been used in 35 countries – most recently in Syria. More than 90% of all recorded cluster munitions casualties have been civilians – mostly farmers and children.

Since cluster munitions were initially developed, the Geneva Conventions have embedded in international law an unequivocal obligation (in addition to a pre-existing moral obligation) on all parties to conflict to discriminate between legitimate military targets and civilians; indeed, to take all reasonable measures to protect civilians from the dangers of war.  

The United Nations holds profoundly dear the belief that there can be peaceful resolution to all conflicts between and within States.

If war is being waged, however, then the means and methods employed by combatants must comply with the requirements of international law concerning the conduct of war, especially as regards the protection of civilians.

Weapons such as cluster munitions that inflict such extensive ‘collateral damage’ to civilians, clearly do not meet the high standards of international humanitarian law.  

In the era of cyber weapons, and as militaries strive for weapons of greater – even ‘surgical’ accuracy, cluster munitions are increasingly regarded as a deadly anachronism to be relegated to the dust-bin of history.

With this objective in mind, Norway initiated a process in 2007 that brought 108 countries together to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions that prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Cluster Munitions, and requires assistance to victims.

Today, there are 112 signatories and others will join in the future. With every new country that joins the Convention, the global norm rejecting this weapon and addressing the consequences of its use, is further strengthened.

Lao PDR played a vital role in the development of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and has been a leading State Party in promoting its universalization and adherence to the international norms it has established.  

I would like to congratulate Lao PDR for your remarkable work in this regard, and also for your sustained national effort to eliminate the threat of Cluster Munitions and other unexploded ordnance in this country.  

This Convention is first and foremost about saving lives.  It is also about people like you – people who care deeply about this issue and are part of the international effort to address it.  I urge all, youth and adult, to take part in this global effort and to reach out to our friends, families, neighbors, and communities – to encourage them to become part of this global campaign as well.  

UNDP is proud to be part of this work and to assist the efforts of government and civil society in this and other sectors of development. In April this year, UNDP appointed Ms. Alexandra Bounxouei, to be our first National Goodwill Ambassador for Lao PDR.  

Ms. Alexandra is focusing her first advocacy work on UXO issues and is one of the artists who will perform at the concert this evening, which we hope you can all attend.  

Today is indeed a day for reflection on the horror of cluster munitions and celebrations of the efforts gained this far. It is also a day to acknowledge and congratulate the many thousands of people here and around the world who are working to free the world of the legacy of cluster munitions and other threats to civilians.  

I would also like to recognize the significant financial and technical contributions from the international community to the UXO sector, without which this wouldn’t be possible.

Thank you.