Global Cluster Munition Clearance Levels at New High as the Convention on Cluster Munitions Marks Tenth Anniversary
This year marks ten years since the Convention on Cluster Munitions (also known as the Oslo Convention) became legally binding. During this period, close to one million submunitions have been destroyed during survey and clearance operations globally and more than 766 square kilometres of cluster munition-contaminated area has been cleared. This averages over 250 submunitions destroyed every single day for 10 years.
Countless lives and limbs have undoubtedly been saved as a direct result, an untold number of communities have been freed from the fear of unexploded submunitions, and a significant contribution has been made to development through the handing back of land for safe and productive use.
In 2019 alone, a global total of more than 130 square kilometres was cleared of cluster munition remnants, a new annual high (equivalent to more than eight times the size of Geneva), which saw destruction of more than 132,000 unexploded submunitions during clearance and survey operations.
These impressive achievements are revealed in the Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2020 report, launched by Mine Action Review in advance of the forthcoming Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Typically, States and observers come together in person to discuss progress in ridding the world of cluster munitions, but due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the Review Conference will be split into a virtual meeting on 25–27 November 2020, followed by a two-day hybrid in-person and virtual gathering on 4–5 February 2021 in Geneva.
In August 2020, Croatia and Montenegro became the latest States Parties to successfully complete cluster munition clearance, both within their original 10-year Convention deadlines. The United Kingdom was also removed from Mine Action Review’s list of affected countries, having confirmed that UK bombing data for the Falkland Islands showed there was no evidence that cluster munitions were dropped on the four minefields which remained in Yorke Bay, which were subsequently cleared in fulfilment of the United Kingdom’s Article 5 clearance obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
This leaves a total of 25 States and 3 other areas that still have cluster munition contaminated area to clear. Of these, 10 States have joined the Convention, requiring them to clear contaminated land as soon as possible and within treaty agreed deadlines.
As in previous years, the highest amount of clearance took place in the world’s most cluster munition remnant-contaminated State, Lao PDR, with more than 45km2 of cluster munition contaminated area cleared and destruction of more than 80,000 submunitions during survey, clearance, and spot tasks. Very significant clearance also occurred in States not party Vietnam and Cambodia.
This is in large part thanks to the methodology for the survey and clearance of cluster munition remnants which has significantly improved over the last decade, with high-quality evidencebased survey being increasingly employed to good effect, enabling the effective targeting of clearance and efficient use of resources.
But the Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2020 report also highlights that progress is not fast enough in several States Parties.
Lucy Pinches, the Mine Action Review’s Project Manager emphasises:
“Despite good progress in some, we are seeing too many States fall behind in their clearance efforts. The Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2020 shows only two of the ten remaining contaminated States Parties are currently on track to complete clearance within their respective Convention deadlines.
“With the exception of the two most heavily contaminated States Parties, Lao PDR and Iraq, all other affected States Parties—Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Chile, Germany, Lebanon, Mauritania, and Somalia—should be in a position to fulfil their Article 4 clearance obligations by the Third Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2025. But it will require strong national ownership, elaboration of concrete action plans, application of efficient land release methodology, and sufficient and sustained funding through to completion.
“National authorities and their implementing partners must identify and overcome challenges, and work together to free contaminated land as fast, efficiently, and safely as possible so that communities can live free from the fear and threat of unexploded submunitions.”
While there have been no confirmed reports or allegations of new use of cluster munitions by any State Party since the Convention was adopted in 2008, in 2020 there has been use in Syria, and also new use in Nagorno-Karabakh, since the outbreak of hostilities in September 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Armenian-supported forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lucy Pinches, warns:
“Use of cluster munitions poses a direct and significant risk to civilians. Mine Action Review calls on all parties to all armed conflicts to refrain from any use of cluster munitions in order to protect civilians from the humanitarian harm these weapons cause.”
Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the mine action sector, just as it is countless other sectors worldwide. The Clearing Cluster Munitions Remnants 2020 report shows that while cluster munition clearance has continued in many locations in spite of COVID-19, the full extent of the pandemic on survey and clearance operations is unclear and will only be revealed next year in the 2020 clearance output data. Progress towards completion of clearance will require continued and increased commitment especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summary of Key Findings (full key findings on pages 1-2 of the Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2020 report):
To date 123 states have committed to the goals of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, of which 110 have become States Parties and 13 are Signatories.
As at November 2020, 25 States and three other areas were confirmed or suspected to have cluster munition-contaminated areas under their jurisdiction or control. Of the 25 affected States, 10 are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions requiring them to clear contaminated land as soon as possible and within Convention deadlines. Only two of the ten affected States Parties, Afghanistan and Mauritania, seemed likely to meet their existing respective treaty deadlines without the need for an extension.
With the exception of the two most heavily contaminated States Parties, Lao PDR and Iraq, the remaining affected States Parties (Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Chile, Germany, Lebanon, Mauritania, and Somalia) should be in a position to fulfil their Article 4 clearance obligations by the Third Review Conference of the CCM in 2025. But it will require strong national ownership, elaboration of concrete action plans, application of efficient land release methodology, and sufficient and sustained funding through to completion.
In total, ten States Parties and one State not party have been declared free of cluster munition-contaminated area in the last 10 years. In 2020, three States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munition Remnants—Croatia, Montenegro, and the United Kingdom—fulfilled their Article 4 obligations, all within their original 10-year treaty deadlines. Croatia and Montenegro both completed clearance of known CMR-contaminated areas and the United Kingdom confirmed that UK bombing data for the Falkland Islands shows there is no evidence that cluster munitions were dropped on the four remaining minefields in Yorke Bay which the United Kingdom has subsequently cleared as part of its Article 5 obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Mauritania, which had reported fulfilment of its Article 4 clearance obligations in 2013, was added back to the list of affected States Parties after discovering cluster munition-contaminated areas in territory under its jurisdiction or control.
In Mine Action Review’s assessment of national mine action performance in 2019, two States Parties had demining programmes rated as ‘very good’: Croatia and Montenegro, both of which fulfilled their Article 4 obligations in July 2020, within their original treaty deadlines. Four were assessed to be ‘good’: Afghanistan, Germany, Lao PDR, and Lebanon. Programmes in BiH and Iraq were ranked ‘average’ while in Chad, Chile, and Somalia they were ranked as ‘poor’.
In 2019 alone, a global total of more than 130 square kilometres was cleared of cluster munition remnants, a new record, beating the previous high (in 2018) by nearly 2 km2. An impressive number of unexploded submunitions, more than 132,000, were destroyed during clearance, survey, and spot tasks in 2019 (slightly less than in 2018).
In the 10 years since the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2020, a total of more than 766 square kilometres of cluster munition-contaminated area has been cleared. During survey, clearance, and spot task operations in 2019 nearly one million unexploded submunitions have been destroyed.
Notes to editor:
Mine Action Review was launched in 2014 and conducts the primary research and analysis on landmine and cluster munition remnant contamination, survey, and clearance worldwide, including assessing fulfilment of clearance obligations by States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).
Supported and published by Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), as an independent project, Mine Action Review collates and analyses mine action data globally from national authorities, clearance operators, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and other key stakeholders.
Mine Action Review produces two annual reports, ‘Clearing the Mines’ and ‘Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants’, which provide information on contamination and progress in clearance for every State and other area affected by anti-personnel mines and/or cluster munition remnants.
The reports also contain country-specific analysis of the performance of national mine action programmes of affected States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and Convention on Cluster Munitions, including accompanying Recommendations for Action.
The HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) form Mine Action Review’s Advisory Board.
Contact: Lucy Pinches, Project Manager, email: MineActionReview@npaid.org