Today, on August 1st 2020 Montenegro declares itself free of cluster munitions. The small bomblets – that sometimes can resemble toys in vivid colors – have posed a major danger to civilians in the country since the NATO bombing in 1999. Norwegian People's Aid has developed effective clearing methods and have assisted Montenegro in achieving its obligations to clear the insidious bomblets within the deadline set by the Cluster Munitions Convention. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has financed this work in Montenegro.
Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of explosive bomlets. They hit large areas and spread their bomblets over areas that could be as large as several football fields.
Cluster munitions pose a grave danger to civilians. Like landmines, unexploded ordnance can remain a deadly threat to all people in the area for decades after a conflict ends. Cluster munitions kills and injures thousands of civilians each year.
The ban on cluster munitions
The Cluster Munitions Convention (CCM), which was adopted in 2008 and entered into force on August 1st 2010, prohibits the use, production, transfer and storage of cluster munitions.
The convention requires state parties to clear up cluster munitions in their countries within ten years and destroy warehouses within eight years, as well as provide assistance to victims. Norwegian People's Aid has been central in the effort that led to the ban.
In addition to working politically to put in place a ban on weapons that can just as easily kill or maim innocent civilians as soldiers, Norwegian People's Aid works operatively to assist countries in surveying and clearing cluster munitions. Norwegian People's Aid is a world leader in this work and has developed methods that have made the cluster munition clearing much more efficient. Norwegian People's Aid is also pioneering when it comes to using explosive ordnance teams that are composed of both sexes and different ethnicities.
10 years on 121 countries have joined the cluster munition ban, which has led to a stigma that prevents other countries from using the weapons as well. But in recent years we have unfortunately seen that cluster munitions have still been used in countries such as Ukraine and South Sudan. In Syria, the use of cluster munitions by the Syrian government has led to countless civilian casualties.
There are currently 30 countries and territories that still are contaminated with cluster munitions. New effective clearing methods mean that we now envisage that it is possible to clear most of these countries within a few years. As of today, 35 countries have fulfilled their obligations to destroy their cluster munitions depots and 99 percent of the depots have now been destroyed.