Statement on behalf of the UN Mine Action Team
Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions
5 – 7 December 2007
Ms. Kathleen Cravero
Assistant Administrator and Director,
Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP
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Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Thank you for the opportunity to address this conference on cluster munitions. I
would also like to offer my congratulations and gratitude to the Government of
Austria for hosting this important event.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to start my remarks by relaying the good
wishes of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon. The Secretary-
General issued a message yesterday which sees this Conference as providing an
opportunity to give further impetus to dealing decisively with the appalling inhumane
impact of cluster munitions.
I would like to elaborate on the Secretary-General’s message by focusing on three
topics: first, the nature and scale of the problem; second, the role of the United
Nations in addressing the problem; and third, and perhaps most pressing at this
point, the urgent need to take action.
Regarding the nature and scale of the problem, we know the immediate threat posed
to civilians when munitions with wide-area effects are used around populated areas.
As an organization whose mandate is to support the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals, I would also like to highlight the development imperative for
action. Indeed, UNDP and other UN and humanitarian staff have witnessed time and
time again, the devastating consequences of cluster munitions that leave behind
large numbers of unexploded and unstable sub-munitions.
Similar to landmines, these sub-munitions do not only kill and injure. They prevent
the productive use of lands thereby threatening the livelihoods – and economic
viability - of communities in affected areas.
Lebanon illustrates this all too well. More than a million unexploded bomblets made
inaccessible a quarter of arable land. In Kosovo, more than 17 km² of agricultural
land had to be cleared of cluster munitions after that conflict. In some places, this
contamination has damaged commercial agricultural enterprises putting paid
labourers out of work. Elsewhere contamination resulted in an abandonment of
arable cash crops and a reliance on aid inputs amongst rural villages.
In Lao PDR, cluster munition contamination has had a widespread and ongoing
negative effect on development in a number of areas for 35 years. A preliminary
survey of the impact of unexploded ordnance on development projects in Lao PDR
indicates that clearance operations have cost these initiatives some US $20million.
These projects include the construction of roads, clinics, schools, water pipelines,
irrigation structures, power lines and dams and assistance to rural small holders.
As well as making it more difficult for rural communities to escape from poverty,
cluster munitions directly impede efforts to achieve other Millennium Development
Goals. In affected states, clearance organizations have documented the need to
remove cluster munitions before schools and teacher training facilities could be built,
thereby delaying the delivery of education.
In other words, beyond the humanitarian impact, cluster munitions exacerbate
poverty in affected areas. They block local and national economic recovery and long-
term development. They impede the ability of states to achieve the Millennium
Let me now turn to my second point; what the United Nations is doing to actively
help address the problem of cluster munitions. Collectively the UN system is a
significant actor in addressing the humanitarian and developmental impact of cluster
munitions. This involves a wide-range of actions, from prevention to recovery, and
from monitoring to advocacy.
A key role of the United Nations is to protect civilians in armed conflict and prevent
casualties by ensuring the respect for, and implementation of, international
humanitarian law. The UN Secretary-General has outlined previously the significant
challenges cluster munitions pose for international humanitarian law. More
specifically, the UN must sound an alarm when the lives and well-being of civilians
are at stake and call for urgent action by Member States to prevent further loss. The
UN advocates for change and reform of international law when existing frameworks
for the protection of civilians are challenged or deficient.
During conflicts, the UN acts to protect and assist civilians caught in the cross-fire.
Unfortunately, the nature of warfare today means that weapons, including cluster
munitions, are used in or around populated areas and urban settings. The
indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions – both at the time of use, and long after
conflicts have ended - presents a danger to civilians, humanitarian aid workers,
peacekeepers and military service personnel alike and has presented challenges to
existing international humanitarian law.
Immediately following the end of conflict, the UN acts to assist in early recovery
efforts to ensure that civilians can return home safely and begin rebuilding their lives.
UN agencies work with national counterparts and NGOs to clear areas contaminated
by unexploded munitions, and to educate civilians, for example through risk
education, to prevent further casualties. UN agencies also assist survivors of cluster
munitions to rebuild their lives and to be productive members of their communities.
This brings me to my last point. Based on these practical experiences, and our first-
hand knowledge of the horrific effects of cluster munitions, the UN has called for
urgent action and is actively involved in all efforts to address this issue.
A practical expression of our commitment to action is the role of the UN
Development Programme in managing and implementing the sponsorship
programmes for this conference, and previous ones. UNDP country offices around
the world advocate for the participation of states in these conferences, which I am
pleased to see has contributed to the expansion of the number of participating
states. UN agencies, in partnership with civil society organizations, are also
supporting research projects that document the effects of cluster munitions and we
have launched media campaigns to publicize the findings of the studies.
Another practical expression of the UN’s commitment and engagement is our
advocacy for change and the establishment of a common UN position on cluster
This position fully supports new legal measures to prohibit cluster munitions that
cause unacceptable harm to civilians and calls upon Member States to conclude a
legally binding instrument of international humanitarian law. We call for a law that:
prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster
munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians;
requires the destruction of current stockpiles of those munitions; and
provides for clearance, risk education and other risk mitigation activities, as
well as actions for victim assistance, for cooperation, and for compliance and
Until such a legal instrument is adopted, the UN calls on all Member States to take
domestic measures to freeze immediately the use and transfer of all cluster
The Secretary-General has reminded us of just what is at stake in terms of human
rights and humanitarian access and development gains. He has called upon the
international community to “address immediately the horrendous humanitarian
effects of cluster munitions”.
By addressing the issue of cluster munitions in an urgent, forthright way, you - as
Member States - will be heeding this call. You will be taking a major step in
preventing further human suffering. We very much hope that Member States
gathering here in Vienna will take up this urgent challenge. The UN stands ready to
support this goal.