The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), an international coalition of NGOs, expects a treaty banning the use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions, signed in the Norwegian capital of Oslo in 2008, to come into force in the first half of 2010.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions has been signed by 96 countries but requires ratification by 30 countries for its "entry into force". It is widely regarded as the most important treaty since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which outlawed the use of antipersonnel landmines and was signed by 155 states.
Handicap International (HI), an NGO working to improve the quality of life of disabled people in the developing world and post-conflict zones, defines cluster submunition as "explosive ordnance that, to perform its task, separates from a parent munition or dispenser".
This definition includes "all explosive ordnance designed to explode at some point in time after dispersal or release from the parent cluster munition, as well as munitions that are sometimes referred to as bomblets (e.g. from air-dropped cluster munitions), grenades (e.g. from ground-launched artillery, rocket or missile systems) and 'improved conventional munitions'."
According to the CMC, many of the submunitions fail to detonate on impact and remain active long after the end of a conflict, and are more lethal than antipersonnel mines as they are more likely to cause death than injury when they explode.
Laura Cheeseman, a British-based campaign manager for CMC, which represents more than 250 NGOs in 70 countries, told IRIN that the signatories to the convention had to ratify it domestically, using the legislation process, such as parliament, or by decree, in order for it to become binding in each state.
On 2 June, Niger became the eighth country in the world, and the second in Africa after Sierra Leone, to ratify the convention.
Cheeseman said the CMC expected the critical mass of 30 countries to be breached "later in 2009", and the convention could have "entry into force" six months after this milestone was reached.
Kennedy Mabasa of Ceasefire, the local partner of CMC, told IRIN that South Africa, a signatory to the convention, was "busy preparing" legislation for parliament to enact in order to ratify the convention.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions