Sunday, September 27, 2009

Laos: Laos urges countries to ratify UN-backed pact banning cluster munitions

Laos, which has suffered more from the deadly effects of cluster munitions than any other country, today urged Member States to sign and ratify the United Nations-backed convention that bans such munitions so it can enter into force as soon as possible.

Addressing the General Assembly’s high-level segment, the country’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Thongloun Sisoulith, said the explosive remnants of war known as either cluster munitions or unexploded ordnance (UXO) continue to threaten socio-economic development and efforts to eradicate poverty in at least 80 countries worldwide.

First used in the Second World War, cluster munitions contain dozens of smaller explosives designed to disperse over an area the size of several football fields, but often fail to detonate upon impact, creating large de facto minefields.

The failure rate makes these weapons particularly dangerous for civilians, who continue to be maimed or killed for years after conflicts end. Some 98 per cent of victims are civilians and cluster bombs have claimed over 10,000 civilian lives, 40 per cent of whom are children.

The effects are especially acute in Laos. An estimated 37 per cent of its territory remains contained with UXO today, three decades after war ended, and an average of 300 Laotians are killed each year as a result of cluster munitions – half the annual global total.

“There has not yet been a definite estimation on how many hundred years are required to clear all UXO-contaminated areas across the country,” Mr. Sisoulith said.

Last year the so-called Oslo Convention, which calls for the prohibition and eradication of cluster munitions, opened for signature. So far 100 countries have signed the treaty but only 20 nations – including Laos – have ratified, and the pact does not enter into force until six months after the 30th ratification.

“We welcome and commend those countries which have signed and ratified the Oslo Convention, and we hope that other countries which have not done so would follow suit in order to allow this Convention to enter into force as soon as possible,” Mr. Sisoulith said.

“In order to prepare for the future implementation of this Convention, the Lao Government has offered to host the First Conference of State Parties to the Oslo Convention after it enters into force.”

Source: UN

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