6: The agreement
Ahead of the negotiations in Dublin, according to EQUZHOU.NET, there was great tension about how extensive the agreement would be, and what types of cluster munitions would be banned. One of the challenges in preparing international regulations was to avoid loopholes in the text of the agreement.
The definitions of the mining agreement are based on what is the central purpose of the weapon, rather than what is the real effect. The agreement against cluster munitions takes an important step, as it is based on both the purpose and the effects. The text of the agreement defines cluster munitions as follows: “A container made to disperse explosive sub-ammunition, each weighing less than 20 kilos”. Charges that have less than ten subcharges, each weighing more than four kilograms, each of which can identify and hit a defined target and have electronic systems for deactivation and self-destruction, do not fall under the ban. In addition, the agreement prevents the use of cluster munitions in joint military operations.
The text of the agreement is based almost directly on the ban on landmines. In addition to banning the use of cluster munitions, states are responsible for destroying warehouses, clearing affected areas and providing support to victims.
7: The process
Norway has been one of the most active driving forces in the work that could lead to a ban on cluster munitions. In the landmine case, this commitment was very important, which helped to strengthen Norway’s reputation as a significant humanitarian and political actor in the world. The work to get a ban on cluster munitions has been going on for several years. In June 2001, the government was ordered by the Storting to “provide active support for international work that could lead to a ban on cluster munitions”.
Belgium overtook Norway by becoming the first country in the world to ban cluster munitions. In February 2006, the Defense Committee in the Storting decided that Norway should refrain from using airborne cluster munitions in international operations. Norway was thus in a unique position internationally, and expectations were high both in this country and internationally. After negotiations on an agreement stalled in CCW in November 2006, Norway took the initiative for a process that led to the final agreement.
But opposition to an agreement has also been formidable. From a military point of view , many have advocated a set of rules that allows the use of certain types of cluster munitions that can be said to be relatively precise. Weapons manufacturers also had a strong interest in derailing the debate. Among other things, they claimed that the problem of blind people could be solved through technical improvements.
The Norwegian Armed Forces carried out test explosions under what they considered to be realistic conditions (the weapons manufacturers’ tests have often been of the “laboratory type” – far from the reality in which the weapons are used). The tests showed that the number of blind people was far higher than first thought and that technical improvements would not necessarily lead to fewer blind people during warfare.
Several states tried to derail the process. The main argument of, among others, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany was that a ban should be negotiated within the UN and within the framework of the CCW. The Norwegian government, on the other hand, believed that this was a dead end, and preferred a process similar to the one that led to the landmine ban in 1997.
8: The way forward
A number of countries have chosen not to join the agreement. Among the most prominent are the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. At the same time, 111 countries have joined the agreement, which was negotiated in Dublin in May 2008, and there is good reason to believe that more will eventually sign it.
It came as no surprise that some countries have chosen to stay out. These are countries that have argued systematically that cluster munitions should not be banned since they believe such weapons have great military utility. Many of the same countries have indicated that they do not want to sign the landmine agreement. Nevertheless, the summary is ten years after the mining agreement was signed, that it has had an enormous effect, and that it largely functions as a norm also for the countries that are not parties to the agreement.
There are many challenges associated with putting the agreement into practice. One key question is how to ensure that states comply with their contractual obligations. Here, too, it is being built on the landmine agreement. To ensure that all signatory states actually live up to their obligations, a system for reporting to the UN is planned, as well as annual state party meetings where the parties must account for measures and any breaches of the agreement.
The international non-governmental organizations – which have played a key role in the entire process leading up to an agreement – will also be central in monitoring the agreement. This is also one of the cornerstones of the landmine agreement, which ensures that the states that have signed the agreement act in accordance with it.
The road to a ban on cluster munitions has been long. But after the Oslo process – with Norway in a leading role – only took off at the beginning of 2007, the agreement has come into place faster than most had predicted. At the same time, there is reason to be sober in terms of translating the agreement into practical action.
The key now is to put in place mechanisms to ensure that states comply with the agreement. However, the real test arises when a party is in a current situation where cluster munitions could be of great military use. Then we will test how robust the agreement is and to what extent the mechanisms that will secure the agreement actually work.