NGO Statement on Explosive Remnants of War

Tasneem Jamal

What follows is the NGO statement read by Celina Tuttle of Mines Action Canada in Geneva during the July 2002 meetings of the CCCW (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons) relating to explosive remnants of War (ERW) and cluster bombs. Project Ploughshares is a member of Mines Action Canada.

15-26 July 2002, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Explosive Remnants of War [ERW], Geneva, NGO Statement – 24 July 2002

Mr. Coordinator, Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues and Friends:

We speak as representatives from non-governmental organizations regarding explosive remnants of war in general and our responsibilities to address the humanitarian concerns associated with this issue in particular. The knowledge and experience of NGOs and civil society [are] an important resource for these discussions. The evidence presented here and at the May meeting by Landmine Action and in May by Human Rights Watch demonstrates how NGOs can feed new and useful information into this process.

I speak on behalf of various NGOs from Africa, Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Recent field research unambiguously concludes that communities take huge risks with ERW, risks where fear of death is overcome by the desire for a safe environment for their children and the need for economic security for their families. This sense of ‘social responsibility’ and poverty drives people to ‘remove’ ERW by hand and to interact with ERW in ways we never would.

As many States Parties realize, our work in post-conflict communities demonstrates that all types of explosive munitions cause ERW incidents. Bearing in mind the pressing nature of the humanitarian problem, an effective solution will require measures addressing the broad issue as well as breaking it down into weapon specific measures.

We welcome the work of all participants in beginning the process of addressing explosive remnants of war and their acknowledgement that this is a problem deserving urgent attention.

Reduction of ERW is important and so the issues of manufacturing, storage, handling, launching and use, environmental conditions and training must be considered. In post-conflict situations comprehensive, effective and rapid clearance is crucial. These issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

We recognize the commitment of States Parties to the CCW to find the appropriate balance between security needs and humanitarian concerns. Taking steps to improve the protection of civilians from the harmful effects of ERW will benefit the interests of humanity and states.

We are particularly pleased to hear member states in May and here in July urging the need for effective binding legal obligations, echoing the sentiments of NGOs involved. Without doubt, new legal measures are needed to tackle the humanitarian problems caused by ERW. The first principle should be that the users of munitions take responsibility for, or provide assistance in, the clearance of unexploded ordnance. Secondly, all information required to facilitate clearance should be provided immediately after hostilities cease – including types and numbers of ordnance used, geographical locations and render safe procedures. Thirdly, the users of munitions likely to have a long-term impact should provide early and appropriate warnings to civilians.

Tackling the humanitarian, developmental and socio-economic problems caused by ERW is an effort that will benefit from collective action by NGOs, international organizations, civil society and States. The concept of social responsibility applies to all of us, regardless of where we live.

Our sense of social responsibility compels us to recognize the impact of explosive remnants of war. The difficult and contentious issues of targeting and use must be addressed so that the humanitarian impact issues are resolved.

Civilians living with the remnants of war have begun to share their experiences and, while I would not presume to speak on their behalf, I am sure we are in agreement that their experiences bear special consideration in these discussions. The users of explosive ordnance should consider their responsibility towards the survivors of ERW incidents. As with landmines, people who have been injured or disabled by other explosive remnants of war will require at least some of the following care: emergency first aid, medical care including surgery, physical aids and prosthetics, psychiatric support and assistance for long-term social and economic rehabilitation.

Further to the Danish representative’s reference to the Marshall Plan – do not think it is impossible, only that it can be done – I would like to add that obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Political will, commitment to the principles of human security and the establishment of international norms are required. These can and should prevail. Whether the solutions to the problem of ERW are worked out in a single process or captured in parallel processes, the need to resolve these issues is urgent. Given the particular problems caused by cluster submunitions we once again call upon states to enact unilateral moratoria on the use, production and transfer of cluster submunitions until the humanitarian concerns that arise from their use are addressed.

Civil society’s awareness of the issue of ERW is increasing. We look to you, our representatives here, for an effective response.

Thank you.
This statement was endorsed by the following organizations:

Afghanaid (UK)
*Aid International/Mercy Corps Scotland
*ALEM-SOLVIG (Portugal)
Amnesty International (UK)
Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and ERW
ASAP – Acting in Solidarity with Afghan People (USA)
Australia Network – ICBL
CALM – Campaign Against Landmines (New Zealand)
Cambodia Trust (UK)
CAMEO – Canadian Association for Mine and Explosive Ordnance Security
CANADEM (Canada)
Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief
*Centre de ressources sur la non-violence (Canada)
Christian Aid (UK)
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee of Canada
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (UK)
Engineers for Social Responsibility
*Engineers Without Boarders (Canada)
German Initiative to Ban Landmines
*Global Exchange
Handicap International Belgium
Handicap International France
Inter-religious Peace Foundation (Sri Lanka)
ISIS – International Security Information Services (UK)
Jhai Foundation (Laos)
Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines
Justice and International Mission Units, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania (Australia)
Landmine Action (UK)
Landmines Struggle Centre (Egypt)
LumiPre Productions (Canada)
Mennonite Central Committee (USA)
Mines Action Canada
Mines Action Southern Africa (South Africa)
Mines Awareness Trust (UK)
Non-violence International (Thailand)
One Sky – The Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living
Pax Christi International
Physicians for Global Survival (Canada)
*Project Ploughshares (Canada)
Soroptomist International UK Programme Action Committee
Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines
Turkish Campaign to Ban Landmines

* Endorsements received after 24 July 2002

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