Photo: Ambassador A.L.A Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, addressing the Eighth Meeting of Convention on Cluster Munition, accompanied by his team. Credit: Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva. - Photo: 2018

Sri Lanka Takes Over Presidency of a Landmark Convention Calling for ‘A World Free of Cluster Munition’

By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) – Sri Lanka has taken over the Presidency of the landmark Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) ten years after it was adopted, at the end of the Eighth Meeting of States Parties (8MSP) in Geneva from September 3-5, 2018. CCM is a legally binding international treaty that prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters ‘bomblets’ over an area.

Sri Lanka’s presidency will run through till September 2019 when the Ninth Meeting of States Parties (9MSP) will take place. The South Asian country’s Ambassador A.L.A Azeez, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, will preside over 9MSP that, he said, “is an important turning point for my country in its move towards humanitarian disarmament”.

Adopted on May 30, 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, the Convention opened for signature on December 3, 2008 in Oslo, Norway. It entered into force on August 1, 2010, six months after it was ratified by 30 States. As of March 2018, 108 States have signed the Convention, of which 104 have become full States parties.

Addressing the closing session of the Eighth Meeting, Azeez said: “Sri Lanka’s Presidency of the next meeting of the States Parties is historic for several reasons.”

Sri Lanka became a State Party to the Convention on March 1, 2018 as 103rd  State Party barely six months ago. “We did so after acceding to an important treaty, the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines,” explained Azeez,

This followed a very delicate national process, after having made considerable progress towards making Sri Lanka a landmine-free country. Taking resolute action to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning an injurious and indiscriminate conventional weapon category, which Sri Lanka had never used during its almost three decades-long conflict, was the next logical step to follow, he added.

Azeez emphasized that accession to the Ottawa Convention on Anti-personal Landmines further strengthened the positive image of Sri Lanka worldwide, as a country balancing civilian needs and national security imperatives. In his view, Sri Lanka’s Presidency is an opportunity to clearly manifest both the commitment as well as the progress made in advancing reconciliation and peacebuilding since President Maithripala Sirisena came to office in 2015.

“Our national effort as underlined in Vision 2025 is firmly embedded in a social-market economy that is competitive and business friendly with the aim of enhancing economic dividends for all. In this context, priorities that contribute to lasting peace and unity while yielding sustainable socio-economic benefits, were imperative,” said Azeez. Becoming a State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions was clearly identified as one of such priorities and a key enabler, he added.

Sri Lanka has been working closely with its international partners in consolidating the gains made in sustainable peace and development, Azeez explained further. Referring to the progress achieved in advancing reconciliation and sustainable peace in the country, following a three-decade long armed conflict, that ended in May 2009, he stressed: “Our leadership, built on the strength of national accomplishments, could therefore serve as a catalyst for and inspire other countries to appreciate the value of peacebuilding and national advancement in realizing sustainable, peaceful and inclusive societies.”

Sri Lanka delegation to the 8MSP included Major General Kumara Peiris, Chief Field Engineer, Samantha Jayasuriya, Deputy Permanent Representative and Shashika Somaratne, Minister Counsellor. Sri Lankan Civil Society was represented by Vidya Abeygunawardena, Coordinator, and Yanitra Kumaraguru, Campaigner for Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Addressing the Eighth Meeting, Steve Goose, Executive Director, Arms Division of Human Rights Watch praised the compliance by States Parties with the Convention on Cluster Munitions that he said has been “very impressive”.

He added: “Indeed, compliance with the core prohibitions has been perfect thus far. There have been no instances or even allegations of use, production, or transfer of cluster munitions by any State Party.

“The first stockpile destruction deadline was August 1, and every State Party with that deadline met it, some far in advance. In fact, most States Parties with upcoming deadlines have already completed destruction of their stocks. On this 10-year anniversary of the adoption and signing of the convention, we can say with great certainty that this is a convention that is working and working well.”

However, according to Goose, there are some compliance concerns, related to transparency and national laws.

Thirteen States Parties are late in providing their initial transparency report. Four of those were due in 2011. This is an 89 percent compliance rate, but this should be 100 percent. These reports are needed, among other reasons, to establish officially if a country has stocks of cluster munitions and if it is contaminated, Goose said. Moreover, far too many States Parties are late in submitting their annual updated report.

These remarks indicate the challenges Ambassador Azeez would face during his presidency of the CCM.

Apparently aware of such challenges, he told the Eighth Meeting that ushering in “a world free of cluster munitions,” will call for a clear demonstration of political will, commitment and perseverance to achieve tangible results, enabled by a strong notion of ethical and humanitarian norms and a legal framework, international cooperation and assistance.

However this goal, he added, will hardly be taken forward without the active national level implementation drives, and multi-stakeholder partnership and cooperation of the States Parties, particularly the defence establishments, the civil society, think-tanks, and international humanitarian organisations. The victims too, weigh in very much on the efforts towards prohibition and eventual total elimination of cluster munitions.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Cluster Munition Coalition deserve a special note of appreciation for their untiring efforts in this regard, he accentuated.

Addressing the eight meeting of States Parties to the Convention, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Vice-President, Dr Gilles Carbonnier said: “… The child left traumatized and permanently disabled after picking up what they thought was a toy. The farmers facing destitution because their land is unsafe to work. Entire communities displaced and unable to return home to rebuild their lives.”

Such stories might be familiar, he added, but we must stop repeating them. Because they bear witness to the wide-area effects and general lack of accuracy of cluster munitions, and the high proportion of submunitions that remain unexploded. “This is what drove States to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions a decade ago.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 September 2018]

Photo: Ambassador A.L.A Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, addressing the Eighth Meeting of Convention on Cluster Munition, accompanied by his team. Credit: Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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