Lebanese civil society acts against cluster munitions
On Saturday, the 4th of November - on the same weekend of the Cluster Munitions Coalition meeting and prior to an international conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva – the National Demining Office and National Steering Committees on Mine Risk Education and Victim Assistance in Lebanon have made a call for a public mobilization to urge the international community to take action against cluster munitions.
Cluster munitions are weapons that consist of containers holding hundreds of submunitions known as bomblets. Designed to be scattered over and saturate large areas, these bomblets inevitably target civilian zones. By failing to distinguish between civilian zones and military targets, cluster munitions violate the spirit of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention.
After Laos, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, Lebanon is the most recent case of the devastating impact of cluster munitions. According to Chris Clark, director of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) for South Lebanon, 2.8 million cluster munitions were fired by artillery shells into South Lebanon, primarily in the last 72 hours of the conflict, acknowledging that these figures do not take into consideration air-dropped cluster munitions.
This intense and random bombardment reached more than 700 different sites. Furthermore, 40% of these bomblets did not explode on impact, thus littering southern Lebanon with around one million unexploded cluster munitions. This concentration of cluster munitions is more severe than that noted in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Cluster munitions have polluted civilian and agricultural areas, residential zones, schools and infrastructure, thus hindering long-term economic recovery and putting civilian lives at stake. Since the ceasefire, 150 persons have become victims of cluster munitions, 90% of which were civilians, with one third under the age of 18 years. Jan Egeland, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs called it an "outrage" that Israel dropped cluster munitions in southern Lebanon during the last days of its offensive against Lebanon. Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, also condemned Israel's use of cluster munitions and asked the Hebrew state to provide the locations of these cluster munitions strikes.
Whereas anti-personnel mines are prohibited, cluster munitions are still legal. A huge number of countries are still manufacturing, using and exporting these weapons. For stakeholders involved in programs related to victim assistance, accident prevention and clearance of contaminated zones in southern Lebanon and in other affected countries, this situation is unbearable.
On Saturday, 4th November 2006, the National Demining Office, the National Steering Committees for Mine Risk Education and Victim Assistance, UNICEF, Norwegian People's Aid and Handicap International have made a call on civil society to participate and mobilize in a national day against cluster munitions. This event will send a message to the international community at a time when the Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva (7-17 November) will take place. This conferencce presents an important opportunity for states to launch international negotiations on the legality of cluster munitions.
The main activities of this day will be as follows: a large photo exhibition, revealing the disasters caused by these weapons in southern Lebanon and other countries; a workshop illustrating the construction of prosthetics and artificial limbs; an area where the public can try prosthetics and wheelchairs; a puppet show for children to raise awareness on the issue of cluster munitions; a reproduction of a polluted zone with a representation of different types of cluster munitions; demining demonstrations; and the signing of a petition to show Lebanese civil society’s solidarity in a call on the international community for action against cluster munitions. In addition, a press tent, information booths and other Mine Risk Education activities will help contribute to a better understanding of the extent of the tragedy amongst the public.
 The CMC (Cluster Munitions Coalition) is a network of civil society organisations, including NGOs, faith-based groups and professional organisations. It includes large worldwide organisations like Human Rights Watch or Pax Christi International , as well as nationally based organisations such as Landmine Action UK. All of these organisations share a common goal of stopping civilian casualties from cluster munitions. Through their activites, the people who make up the CMC have learnt about the dreadful impact of cluster munitions on civilians. Many people in the CMC have seen the devastation first hand through the course of their work in conflict zones, helping survivors, investigating human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.
 The National Demining Office and the National Steering Committees for Mine Risk Education and Victim Assistance: HABBOUBA TEXT
Source : Arab NGO Network for Development