Convention on Cluster Munitions: An Effort to Change States’ Behavior

Monday, May 5th, 2014

“Before the accident, I had a lot of dreams. After the accident, I lost my dreams. Now, I have another dream, that is not to see other people facing the same problems I have to face in my daily life, because of cluster bombs,” Berihu Mesele, an Ethiopian, said.

A student looking at the photos of cluster bomb survivals exhibited at Gadjah Mada University

Berihu Mesele is a former Ethiopian soldier.  While he was helping injured children in a school hit by bombs during the border conflict, a cluster sub-monition took away both his legs.  Now he has been working actively to ban cluster munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is a legally binding international treaty which bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions – it also obligates countries to destroy stockpiles within 8 years and to clear affected areas within 10 years. 113 countries have signed the convention, 84 of which have ratified it. The Indonesian government signed the convention on December 3rd, 2008, yet it still has not ratified the convention.

One cluster bomb can contain hundreds of sub-munitions that rain down on a big area indiscriminately injuring or even killing many civilians. Million of unexploded cluster munitions exist throughout wide contaminated areas, and are the most deadly threat to civilians following periods of war. They are able to explode at any time when touched by people working in a field, or by children playing outside. The clearance process of cluster munitions is time consuming, costly, and extremely dangerous – with a high possibility that those undertaking the clearance will be killed.

In order to commemorate the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Gadjah Mada University’s Institute of International Studies (IIS) held a series of film screenings and discussion events titled “Indonesian Voices for the Ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions”. The series of activities are intended to identify the kind of impediment that hindered the Indonesian government to ratify the convention, to encourage the Indonesian government to urgently ratify the convention, and to mobilize support from the public to sign a petition urging the Indonesian government to recognize the importance of the the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

These activities of Film screenings, discussions, photo exhibition and signing the petition were held on several campuses in Yogyakarta. On April 4th, 2014, the activities were held in Gadjah Mada University (UGM). On April 11th, 2014 the activities were held in Pembangunan Nasional University (UPN) Yogyakarta. On April 6, 2014 the activities were held at the University of Respati Yogyakarta (UNRIYO). During these activities, JRS Indonesia was involved as one of the speakers in a series of public discussions.

Rochdi Mohan Nazala MSA. M. Litt, a lecturer and researcher of the Gadjah Mada University International Relations Department, declared that the government and the Indonesian House of Representatives are not serious in discussions concerning the ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions – even though it is already included in the national legislation program.

With an important role as a peace keeper in the ASEAN region, ratifying the Convention will allow the Indonesian government to strengthen its position to encourage other nations to ratify the convention. June Cahyaningtyas SIP, a lecturer of the International Relations Department of Pembangunan Nasional University of Yogyakarta, has stated that in the context of international diplomacy, ratifying the convention is a vital way to build trust between countries.

Meanwhile, the lecturer of International Relations Department and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences University of Respati Yogyakarta (UNRIYO), Hartanto SIP, MA, stated that encouraging signatory countries to ratify the convention is an attempt to change the behavior of these nation-states, in order to improve their standing in line with international norms. The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international agreement on conditions and values that should be implemented together.

“By signing the Convention, the Government of Indonesia shows a good will that needs to be supported by people, though it still takes time to ratify. If the people of Indonesia have given support to the government to ban cluster bombs, such as by signing the petition, we hope that the Government would be encouraged and would ratify the convention soon,” said Hartanto.

To convince the public and the Indonesian government that ratification is something important and necessary, a socialization of the impact of cluster bomb use should be a continuous process. Socializing the impacts of cluster munitions faced by civilians is an attempt to help the public come to grasp the suffering and loss – and the process of “passing over” the pain – that is experienced by the victims and survivors of cluster bombs. This will make empathy for the victims and survivors grow exponentially. In turn, this empathy will encourage the growth of interest in prohibiting cluster munitions in a more effective way. Hopefully, the dream of Berihu Mesele, to prevent other people from facing the problems caused by cluster munitions, is increasingly becoming a reality.***

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