The term ‘cluster munitions’ refers to conventional weapons which disperse smaller explosive devices – known as ‘submunitions’ – weighing less than 20kg each. The Oslo Convention prohibits this type of munitions and also contains provisions on destroying existing stockpiles, clearing areas contaminated with cluster munitions, supporting the victims of cluster munitions and compiling annual reports. Ninety‑nine states plus the Palestinian territories are currently parties to the Convention. A further 19 countries have signed but not yet ratified it. The German Government is working to see the Convention applied universally. Paraguay, Canada, South Africa, Rwanda, Iceland, Colombia and Somalia ratified it in 2015, while Slovakia and Mauritius became parties. In 2016, Palau ratified the Convention and Cuba became a party.
Germany, the eleventh country to complete the ratification process, deposited its instrument of ratification on 8 July 2009. Germany began destroying its armed forces’ considerable stockpiles of cluster munitions in 2001. This process was concluded on 25 November 2015, two and a half years before the deadline set in the Convention. Germany’s armed forces have never deployed cluster munitions.
The danger of Cluster munitions
Cluster munitions are particularly hazardous because a considerable proportion of the submunitions tend not to detonate. This unexploded ordnance remains where it falls and presents a danger to local people. Submunitions are sensitive, very numerous and, because of their small size, hard to detect. They are also often mistaken for toys or other objects. Cluster munitions thus place civilian populations at particular risk, not only when they are deployed but also long after hostilities have ended.
The Convention provides for annual Meetings of States Parties and Review Conferences held every five years – the most recent held in Dubrovnik in September 2015. The 8th Meeting of States Parties was held in Geneva from 3 to 5 September 2018.
Germany's commitment around the world
Germany is actively engaged internationally in the sphere of humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance, including clearance of cluster munitions and explosive submunitions. It also supports projects taking care of people who have fallen victim to cluster munitions. Having become one of the world’s largest and most reliable donors, Germany has lived up to its role in the implementation of the Oslo Convention. Projects are funded in places where explosive remnants of war pose a particular humanitarian threat.
In 2015, the German Government provided around 13 million euros in support of humanitarian projects in 14 countries to clear mines and ordnance and to care for people injured by explosive remnants of war. Support was also continued for projects run by the GICHD, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. In April 2015, the Federal Foreign Office supported the international symposium Mine Action 2015 held in Croatia by RACVIAC, the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Centre. Representatives of the Federal Ministry of Defence gave a presentation on the technical challenges involved in destroying cluster munitions stockpiles.