“Punching above our weight” is one of the most over-used phrases to describe New Zealand’s international presence, but today’s entry into force of the Cluster Munitions Convention is an example of our ability to take a leadership role in global debates. Along with Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Norway and Peru we were the core group of countries that led the push for a ban.
The convention bans the use and production of cluster bombs. These are munitions that contain a number of small bomblets and are used to cover a large area and act as a deterent to advances by ground troops. The reality is that many civilians are affected by them, because just like landmines they litter the ground after conflict is over.
While China, Russia and the US are still to sign up, and the campaign will go on, the fact that more than 100 countries have signed, and now 30 have ratified is a sign that the international community are well and truly behind this convention.
New Zealand government Ministers (particularly Marian Hobbs and Phil Goff) and officials played a leading role in getting the convention finalised, including hosting a crucial negotiations here in 2008. The real drive has come from NGOs, and in particular from Mary Wareham. Mary has been a tireless campaigner on this issue, and I know just how thrilled she will be to see the convention come into force.
If you want to find out more information about cluster munitions and the campaign to ban them check out this website