There are too many victims of cluster munitions, and the United States and other countries should remove them from their weapons stockpiles, according to the Vatican’s representative to the UN offices in Geneva.
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, called for the “universalization and full implementation” of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, “making sure that, in the future, the cluster munitions will never be a cause of human suffering.”
Cluster bombs and other munitions are larger devices which release smaller bomblets on a target. Because these bomblets cover a larger area, they pose greater danger to nearby civilian populations. Even worse, many of these sub-munitions do not explode as planned, they can pose a hazard for years after a conflict ends.
Over 10,000 civilians have been killed by leftover ordinance. In Vietnam, it is estimated at least 300 people die each year from cluster bombs used in the Vietnam War decades ago.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions was signed in 2008, banning the weapons. So far, 108 countries have signed the protocol. The Vatican was one of the first four countries to ratify the document.
However, the United States, China, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, Brazil, and several other countries have refused to sign the treaty, and continue to stockpile and – in some cases – use the weapons.
The United States suspended use of cluster munitions in 2003, citing the high rate – 5 percent – of unexploded ordinance. However, the U.S. military is trying to develop a more effective cluster bomb, and plans on having a more effective munition in 2018.
Cluster bombs have been reportedly used recently in Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen, and the weapons are still legally manufactured in non-signatory countries.
“Now, even more than when the CCM was adopted, it is imperative to uphold our moral responsibility to defend the dignity of the victims and to restate the prohibitions under the Convention through a humanitarian lens,” Jurkovič told the 7th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on September 4.
“Global adherence to the CCM, and upholding its standards, will contribute to the achievement of sustainable and integral human development. Clearance of contaminated areas, international cooperation and assistance to the victims are crucial to the SDGs and to prevent future tragedies,” the Vatican diplomat said.
Jurkovič appealed to all countries outside the convention to consider “joining the global efforts and our common goal in building together a more humane, more secure and more cooperative world,” adding, “We owe this to the too many victims of the past and to prevent further victims.”