10th anniversary of the Oslo Process: The Historic start to the cluster bomb ban


An article by the Cluster Munition Coalition

23rd February marks the 10th anniversary of the Oslo Process. Ten years ago today the Oslo Process began when 46 states took an extraordinary step by making a historic declaration to outlaw cluster munitions at a conference hosted by the Norwegian government in Oslo in February 2007.

The Oslo Process culminated with the signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions within less than two years. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store with Soraj Ghulam Habib from Afghanistan. © Federico Visi

With persistent and concerted efforts by governments in close partnerships with the Cluster Munition Coalition, International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations agencies, the Oslo Conference was followed by ten regional meetings hosted by different countries, including by some of the most affected such as Lao PDR and Lebanon, to mobilize international support for a total ban on cluster munitions. In less than two years, the ambitious goal of the Oslo Declaration was achieved, when 94 states signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions during the first week of December 2008 in Oslo.

We asked Ambassador Steffen Kongstad of Norway, who played a crucial role during the Oslo Process, what the launch of the process meant to him. Ambassador Kongstad, currently Norway’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the OSCE, said: “The launch of the Oslo Process and the successful conclusion of the Convention on Cluster Munitions that followed demonstrated what can be achieved when affected countries, other interested countries and competent civil society organisations work together based on facts and humanitarian concerns and principles. The CCM has saved countless lives and limbs and prevented unacceptable human suffering. That was exactly the purpose and objective of this process.”

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Question related to this article:

Can cluster bombs be abolished?

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We asked Mr. Hrvoje Debač, Director at Office for Mine Action of the Republic of Croatia, what the Oslo Process and the Convention on Cluster Munitions mean to him.

Cluster munitions were known to be indiscriminate and for having caused disproportionate civilian casualties for decades before the start of the Oslo Process. The use of cluster munitions by the United States in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 and in Iraq in 2003 and the massive use of cluster munitions in Southern Lebanon by Israel and Hezbullah (a non-state armed group) in 2006, provided indisputable evidence of the indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions and caused global outrage. Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners, together a core group of states and other actors worked tirelessly to bring the devastation caused by cluster munitions to the attention of the international community and to urge the immediate ban of the weapons.

What the international community, and most importantly affected countries, have achieved through the Convention on Cluster Munitions is remarkable. To date, 119 nations have joined the convention. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor, 29 States Parties have destroyed nearly 1.4 million stockpiled cluster munitions containing 172.9 million submunitions. Seventeen States Parties and one non-signatory have ceased the production of cluster munitions. Last year, the United States suspended its transfers of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia and one of the world´s largest arms producers, Textron, announced plans to stop producing cluster munitions. The Saudi-led coalition ended its use of UK-made cluster bombs in Yemen.

Listen to this short interview with Ms. Habbouba Aoun, head of the Landmines Resource Center for Lebanon, a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition in Beirut. Ms. Aoun actively participated in the Oslo Process and she continues to advocate for a cluster munition-free world.

We congratulate governments and other actors for their efforts to eradicate cluster bombs. We also demand that the international community remains fully committed until all countries join the convention, until no one else gets killed or maimed by cluster bombs, until the Saudi-led coalition, Syria, Russia and any other actor that uses cluster munitions stops doing so, until all victims receive sufficient assistance, until all states destroy their stockpiles of the weapon, and until the world is free from the plague of cluster munitions.

[Editor’s note: As of June 2018, Among the major powers, the United States, Russia and China have not yet signed the convention.]

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)