First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions

  • Georgina te Heuheu
Disarmament and Arms Control

Mr President, Deputy Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We are all here as supporters of this very important Treaty - the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

It has been almost four years since a group of 46 states, including New Zealand, signed up to a declaration in Oslo that committed us to stopping the human suffering caused by cluster munitions.  This marked the beginning of the Oslo Process.

Our process has grown from strength to strength.  Those 46 states who were present in Oslo had more than doubled in number by the time of our conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

We now have over 100 signatories and 46 State Parties to the Cluster Munitions Convention.  This strong - and still growing - commitment makes clear the normative power of our move to ban cluster munitions.

We can be proud of what our movement has achieved - the creation of the Convention has been a major step forward - but it is also true that a tremendous challenge remains.

The commitments contained within the Vientiane Declaration and the Vientiane Action Plan are critical to our taking the next step: effective implementation of the Treaty.

The timetables set in our Vientiane documents are ambitious and challenging. They will require us all to strengthen our efforts in the areas of clearance, reduction of stockpiles, victim assistance and universalisation.  We must fully implement the Convention - we must indeed translate its vision into our reality.

It is my Government's intention that New Zealand play a strong role in making this Treaty effective.

Mr President 

As the country most affected by the terrible impact of cluster munitions, and as one that has done much to assist in banning these terrible weapons, it is appropriate that Laos is the venue for this First Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic for hosting this important meeting and for the warm welcome my delegation and I have received. 

For nearly two decades now, New Zealand has been providing funding and technical support for clearance of unexploded ordnance in Laos.  Much of New Zealand's effort, combined with expertise provided by UNESCO, has been targeted towards clearance work linked to tourism and heritage development on the Plain of Jars.   

In addition, a further New Zealand Government-funded tourism development initiative will soon be commencing.  Today I would like to announce that my Government will be making a contribution of just over NZ$1 million to the UNDP Cluster Munition Trust Fund for Lao.  This funding, provided through the New Zealand Aid Programme, will be used by UXO Lao to target clearance in the north-west of Laos.

We will continue to assess opportunities to support the clearance of cluster mines in Laos - work which is so essential to the development and security of this beautiful country and its people.

Laos has certainly suffered greatly from the effects of cluster munitions but there are many other countries which have also witnessed their deadly legacy.  My country's defence forces have been deployed in clearance efforts, for instance, in as wide-ranging places as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mozambique and Southern Lebanon.  Our teams have had firsthand experience of the appalling humanitarian cost paid by the victims of cluster munitions.

Mr President

My Government has been active in pressing other states to ratify the Cluster Munitions Treaty. I was particularly happy to see some of New Zealand's Pacific neighbours join our ranks.  I hope that New Zealand's own cluster munitions legislation which was passed into law last December will prove to be a useful model for other countries as they move to implement the Convention.

We must work together to bring about universal acceptance of the Treaty so that these weapons are banned in all places and at all times.  I urge those countries yet to join the Convention to do so without delay.     

Mr President

This Convention remains a partnership: a partnership not only between affected and non-affected countries, but also between governments and civil society - both in terms of the creation of the Convention as well as in its implementation. 

States do not act alone.

We continue to benefit from our active partnership with civil society, as well as with international organisations such as the UNDP and other UN agencies.  I would like to commend the international Cluster Munitions Coalition, including its active New Zealand branch, together with other important civil society groups for their tireless work in ensuring that the momentum behind the Convention is sustained.

Finally, let me congratulate each and everyone of you who has played a part in moving forward this humanitarian ideal to ban cluster munitions.  You have transformed it into a vital and important international agreement.  Let us continue this good work.

Thank you.