UN: 18 April 2008 – Urging the international community to adopt a comprehensive treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned today in a new report that the deadly devices deal a blow to development.
“We are concerned about cluster munitions, both as a threat to the lives of innocent civilians and as a major obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said UNDP Associate Administrator Ad Melkert, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets.
The release of the report, entitled Prohibiting Cluster Munitions: Our Chance to Protect Civilians, comes on the eve of the Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs.
Calling on governments to join efforts to establish a new global pact to ban cluster munitions, UNDP’s Director of the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery Kathleen Cravero characterized these weapons as insidious and observed that they pose “a long-term threat to the very lives and livelihoods of civilians.”
Negotiations among nations to create such a treaty prohibiting the use, production, and transfer and stockpiling of the devices kick off next month in Dublin, Ireland.
Without such an instrument, the proliferation of cluster munitions will remain unchecked, the UNDP report cautioned.
When launched, these weapons disperse many sub-munitions, over areas often spanning the size of four football fields, which are intended to explode upon impact but often do not, and thus turning homes and communities into minefields.
Unexploded munitions are many times shaped like balls and are brightly coloured, putting children at risk. More than three decades after the end of the conflict in Viet Nam, children still account for over 60 per cent of cluster munitions casualties.
Worldwide, the devices have caused more than 13,000 confirmed injuries and deaths, mostly concentrated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon and Viet Nam.
But they also lead to food insecurity by contaminating farmland and by killing livestock, as well as causing heath and hygiene problems by cutting off access to shelter, water and sanitation. Billions of cluster munitions are currently being stockpiled by over 70 countries around the world, UNDP reported.
“I know from the experience of my own country, Côte d’Ivoire, how terrible war can be for individuals, families and communities,” said Didier Drogba, Chelsea football star and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador. “For people who are injured or killed by unexploded cluster bombs, or who live in poverty because they cannot farm their land, it is as though the war never ended.”
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