The Convention on Cluster Munitions Will Enter Into Force

Two days ago, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the Oslo Agreement) achieved its 30th ratification — and therefore, by its own terms, enough support to becoming a binding international instrument on all ratifying nations. (Art. 17.) It will do so on Aug. 1, 2010.

Although 104 nations have signed the Oslo Agreement, it took Tuesday’s ratifications by Burkina Faso and Moldova to trigger the entry into force provisions. This brings the total number of ratifying nations to 30, and

include[s] states that led the “Oslo Process” effort to create the Convention (Norway, Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, and New Zealand), states where cluster munitions have been used (Albania, Croatia, Lao PDR, Sierra Leone, and Zambia), cluster munition stockpilers (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovenia), as well as Spain, the first signatory country to complete destruction of its stockpile. Other ratifying states are: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, Nicaragua, Niger, San Marino, and Uruguay.

Enough of those states have been involved in cluster bomb manufacture or stockpiling for the treaty to also embody some state practice in support of the norm. In fact, half of the fourteen countries that have actually used cluster bombs since the formation of the United Nations have now signed or ratified the treaty.

Of course, this still leaves the major manufactures of cluster bombs — the U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel — who are not on board with the treaty.

Although the United States has not been a signatory, it has taken a few steps towards limiting the use of its own cluster munition resources. In early 2009, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act was introduced, but has since stalled in Congress. That legislation would have banned “most” uses of cluster munitions by the U.S. In March 2009, a separate bill was passed that banned all but a “tiny fraction” of cluster bomb exports.

The U.S. continues to maintain that cluster bombs are a legitimate military weapons, and that their absence would create a “capability gap” for military forces. Because the Oslo Agreement does not allow for any reservations — a practice the U.S. frequently resorts to when it does wish to enter a treaty of this nature — and because the U.S. has made clear it does not intend to enter into a complete abandonment of its cluster munitions programs, it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. will sign, let alone ratify, the treaty.

However, even if it does not participate in any actions on the international plane to reduce the harm to civilians caused by cluster bombs, the U.S. has repeatedly shown that, on the domestic level, it intends to regulate its own use of the weapons. Although the CMCP bill has stalled, in 2008, even before the drafting of the Oslo Agreement, Defense Secretary Gates issued a memo with regulations aimed at minimizing any potential harm to civilians caused by U.S. use of cluster munitions. [PDF]


“You will thank me for not having to travel for 20 hours to this place.”

So everyone knows by now that Colonel Qaddafi had a train wreck of speech before the General Assembly (“everyone” includes, disturbingly enough, Stormfront — a google search earlier on ‘Qaddafi’s speech’ had them in the top ten returns!), but while reading about Qaddafi’s ramblings, I learned some other nifty facts about UN Assembly procedure I thought I’d share here:

1) By tradition dating to the 4th GA, Brazil is always the first country to speak. The second speaker is the host country. After that, it’s first come first serve, with a 15 minute time limit.

2) Despite the 15 minute limit, Qaddafi Ranty McRantypants went off for an hour and a half. Then again, who would shut him up? Under UN procedure, speakers are supposed to be cut off by the President of the General Assembly. “Though originally largely a ceremonial position, the president of the General Assembly does have considerable say during the annual session, ruling on matters of procedure, time limitations for speakers, and making decisions on extending, curtailing or adjourning debates.” So who’s the current president? Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, a Libyan Diplomat. Maybe that’s why Qaddafi chose now to make his first speech before the GA in his 40 years as the leader of Libya.

(Then again– Obama went on for 38 minutes. So Qaddafi’s hardly alone in going overtime.)

3) Heads of state trump heads of government, at least in UN speech order. (Princes lose to both.) Although PM Gordon Brown did go ahead of President Jintao, this year, so it’s not strictly followed.

4) Much like failed plans for introducing prayer into U.S. public schools, under Rule 62 of the GA Rules of Procedure, at the beginning of plenary General Assembly meetings, “the President shall invite the representatives to observe one minute of silence dedicated to prayer or meditation.”

5) There are five regional groupings of UN members: Asian Group, African Group, GRULAC (Latin America + Caribbean), Eastern European Group, and WEOG (the Western states). Q: Which two member nations of the UN do not belong to any regional group? A: Kiribati and the United States.

The best quote of all, however, comes from a New York Times article. On whether or not Qaddafi’s diatribe was all that unusual, compared to past General Assembly meetings:

“I don’t think anybody has ever done a real study of General Assembly speeches because nobody listens to them,” said Stephen Schlesinger, a historian of the body.