Fourth Global Conference on Cluster Munitions Opens in Zambia - Survivor Calls for Affirmative Action

10 Sep 2013

imageAynalem Zenebe, a cluster bomb survivor from Ethiopia tells her story to delegates at the conference in Lusaka

A global conference aimed at speeding up efforts to persuade governments the world over to stop producing and using cluster bombs which continue to kill and wound tens of thousands of civilians has begun in Zambia.

Representatives from more than 100 countries, UN agencies and dozens of charity workers, civil society organizations and cluster munition survivors from Ethiopia, Vietnam, Laos and Tajikistan will spend four days devising an action plan for States to realize their obligations under the convention. UNDP supported the organization of the event in its capacity as interim implementation support unit for the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“As a survivor, I wish for no more victims. But it will prove impossible if stockpiles still exist around the world, if the land is not cleared and given back to its people so they can farm, build, invest and play. And it will prove impossible if cluster munitions continue to be used like now in Syria, if such use is not strongly condemned by the community of states,” said Aynalem Zenebe, a cluster bomb survivor from Ethiopia.

A bomblet blew off her right limb, leaving Zenebe, 21, among the estimated tens of thousands of civilians around the world who have been killed or wounded by the weapons.

“I was only six years, when on the 5th of June 1998 my school was bombed. On that day, my younger brother, two of my sisters and I were all injured. On that day, I lost my limb. On that day, I did not realize I had actually lost a lot more,” she told her story to delegates at the opening ceremony on Monday.   

Zenebe hopes that the conference in Lusaka this week, the fourth meeting of parties to the convention banning cluster munitions, will ensure that cluster bombs will not be used anywhere, as protecting civilians is a duty of all states.

A total of 112 countries have signed the convention out of which 83 are States Parties while 29 countries have only signed and are yet to ratify the convention which prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster weapons and places the responsibility of financial support and other assistance to clean up the explosives on its signatories.

The Lusaka Convention which runs through September 13 is the first to be held in Africa. Previous meetings of the Convention were held in Lao PDR, Lebanon, and Norway.

In a statement issued ahead of the official opening ceremony on Monday, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) said nearly all of the 49 states in Sub-Saharan Africa including Zambia have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, with the exception of eight countries. Nineteen African countries have signed but not ratified the Convention.

Zambia’s President Michael Chilufya Sata reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Convention, in spite of his country not being a producer or a user of cluster munitions. He promised that Zambia will shortly domesticate the convention.

“Zambia will use her Presidency to focus on new strategies that can be used to achieve full universalization of the convention,” Mr. Sata said, promising that his country would spare no effort in ensuring that Africa becomes the first to universalize and that this would happen during Zambia’s Presidency.

The outgoing President of the Third Meeting of States Parties, Ambassador Steffen Kongstad of Norway said the first few years of the convention have been extraordinarily successful. “The use of cluster munitions has practically stopped, larger quantities than expected of stockpiles have been destroyed and the international market for munitions of this kind has virtually disappeared.”

“Together, we have stigmatised cluster munitions to the extent that no state can be indifferent to the norms established by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. And as a result, any use of cluster munitions today is generally considered unacceptable, illegal and unbefitting of responsible members of the international community,” Ambassador Kongstad said.

Parties at the four-day event are expected to translate the convention’s obligations into concrete and measurable actions. They are also expected to adopt documents committing to prompt implementation of the convention's vision for a world free of the weapons.