Negotiations on a UN convention on cluster munitions terminated

Bern, Press release, 25.11.2011

The negotiations taking place in Geneva on a UN convention on cluster munitions concluded today without success. Switzerland regrets the failure of the negotiations but is pleased that the process did not result in an agreement that could have been problematical for humanitarian reasons or from the perspective of international law.

The so-called Oslo Convention, which places a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions, came into force in 2010. It was negotiated outside the UN and has since been signed by 111 states including Switzerland. However, the main producers and users of cluster munitions considered the Oslo Convention to be too restrictive and for this reason a number of these states attempted to negotiate an agreement within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), parallel to the Oslo Convention, that would take into account security and military considerations that they deemed to be relevant. 

Switzerland took an active part in these negotiations in Geneva with the intention of obtaining a commitment from the large producers and users – who for the foreseeable future would not be prepared to accede to the comprehensive ban stipulated in the Oslo Convention – to a legally binding instrument that would have significant humanitarian implications. 

The negotiations on a UN convention, which have been going on in Geneva since 2007, have ended without an agreement. They were characterised by diverging views about the right balance between humanitarian and military interests. From Switzerland’s perspective, however, it was especially problematic that although the convention would have placed a total ban on some older types of cluster munitions, at the same time it would have explicitly permitted the use of more recent types which have in principle been banned due to their potentially serious humanitarian consequences for at least a further 12 years. Such an agreement would have permanently undermined the comprehensive ban enshrined in the Oslo Convention.

The Swiss delegation, headed by Ambassador Alexandre Fasel, was committed to the decisively strengthening the text of the UN convention, which in Switzerland’s view was too weak as a body of international law and problematical from the perspective of humanitarian and disarmament policies. The aim of Switzerland’s initiatives was to prevent contradictions in terms of international law with the Oslo Convention, that would hinder the further positive development of international humanitarian law.  

Switzerland regrets the failure of the negotiations because the opportunity has been lost to place the bulk of the cluster munitions stocks in the world under international regulation. However, together with many other States involved in the negotiations, Switzerland is pleased that no agreement has been reached that would be problematical for humanitarian reasons or from the perspective of international law. With the failure of these negotiations, the Oslo Convention with its comprehensive ban remains the only international agreement on cluster munitions.  


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