Cluster munitions still in use seven years after ban came into force

  • Explosive weapons
  • International

The Oslo Convention banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions entered into force seven years ago, on 1st August 2010. Despite the undeniable success of the convention, which has been signed by 119 countries, cluster munitions are still used intensively and repeatedly in Yemen and Syria.

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A sub-munition found by Handicap International’s teams in Laos.
A sub-munition found by Handicap International’s teams in Laos.
A sub-munition found by Handicap International’s teams in Laos.

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report, cluster munitions were used repeatedly in Syria and Yemen.[1]

76 attacks using cluster munitions were documented between September 2015 and July 2016 in Syria, very probably a conservative estimate. In Yemen, at least 19 attacks were documented between April 2015 and February 2016. Cluster munitions were also used in Sudan and Ukraine until early 2015.

Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs are designed to open in the air, releasing sub-munitions over an area equivalent to several football pitches. They kill and maim civilians and combatants indiscriminately.

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report, 97% of recorded victims of these weapons are civilians. Up to 40% of these sub-munitions do not explode on impact. This endangers the lives of civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended, and disrupts the economic and social life of contaminated areas.

Progress on the universalisation of the convention

Despite the continued use of cluster munitions, real progress has been made towards the universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions over the last seven years. The convention has now been signed by 119 countries, of which 102 are States Parties, making it a powerful arms control instrument[2]. States are increasingly likely to issue official statements when these barbaric weapons are used.

Significant progress has also been made towards their elimination. Since the Convention entered into force, 29 States Parties have destroyed 1.4 million cluster munitions, equivalent to 93% of cluster munitions declared stockpiled by States Parties. Eight States have completed the clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munitions since the Oslo Convention came into force in 2010.


[2] From 4th to 6th September 2017, Geneva will play host to the 7th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, when each State Party will review progress towards meeting their obligations under the Convention, particularly in terms of the destruction of stockpiles, clearance and victim assistance. This conference will also provide States Parties with an opportunity to underline their commitment to the universalisation of the convention and to unanimously condemn any future use of cluster munitions.

Published 01/08/17

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