Posted By: Marc Garlasco, Senior Military Analyst, HRW and CIVIC Board Member
Here I am in Dublin at the massive Croke Park Stadium, with nearly one thousand diplomats and campaigners to write the text of a treaty banning cluster munitions. I never would have thought this event was possible just three or four years ago, and yet here we are about to ban one of the most dangerous weapons to civilians caught up in war.
From day one, I had reason to be optimistic. The media was in a frenzy and the Pope came out supporting the ban in this Catholic nation – that was some big news. But even knowing that we would have some kind of ban didn’t mean we’d have the ban we wanted. The treaty we’re here to create could get watered down by the Americans. The United States isn’t formally here (there are no official representatives) but there are surrogates attending, and while nobody will say “the Americans don’t want this” everyone knows it.
Like any conference, the real work happens in the hallways. I’ve spent my coffee breaks and lunches handing off documents and gathering information – like passing notes in high school. To get all 100+ countries here on board, we keep an eye on which country delegates are having coffee together and if their positions change after their caffeine fix.
After a somber week spent arguing about this or that detail we’re finally making some headway. France announced it would destroy all its cluster rockets (about 80% of all French cluster munitions). That’s the kind of leadership we’re looking for! The UK’s Gordon Brown directed his Ministry Of Defence to reassess their current cluster munitions. It just may signal a willingness to get rid of the M85 they used in Iraq and the CRV-7 they are so adamantly defending here. In the past they defended these weapons, but I’ve seen firsthand the civilian harm they cause. And after some Western nations demanded time to use their stockpiled bombs before the ban, the rest of the world rejected the request – first Mexico, then Mauritania, Costa Rica, Cooke Islands, Togo, on and on. For the first time, we actually heard applause break up the dark mood.
I am seeing more and more delegations scurrying off to call their capitals for instructions. We have to get this settled soon… time is short.