STATEMENT BY ICELAND
Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference
Oslo, 3 December 2008
Distinguished Ministers and other participants,
First, allow me to join others in expressing my appreciation to our host, Mr. Jonas Gahr Störe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the Norwegian Government for hosting this Signing Conference and for their outstanding leadership in guiding us through the Oslo Process, initiated in February 2007, to the successful conclusion of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This has been a remarkable journey and a remarkable achievement, to finalize in little over a year a comprehensive agreement which bans the scourge of cluster munitions, giving new hope to thousands of people in affected countries for a better and safer life.
I would also like to thank the other Governments that have been instrumental in bringing this achievement about, particularly Peru, Austria, New Zealand and Ireland, who have generously hosted previous conferences. Also, I would like to praise the participation and support of international organizations and civil society in negotiating this Convention, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations agencies and the Cluster Munitions Coalition. Their involvement and their professionalism have made a tremendous difference in achieving this result.
A United States President once said that "it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow ... that are the aftermath of war." [Herbert Hoover, 27 June 1944]. This holds particularly true when cluster munitions are used; they continue to kill and maim civilians for decades after the fighting ends and create severe hindrances to peacebuilding and reconstruction.
Iceland supports the ban on cluster munitions for humanitarian reasons. These weapons have been shown time and again to inflict unacceptable harm to civilians. Cluster munitions have never been used in Iceland. However, we do have considerable experience with explosive remnants of war in my country, mostly dating from the Second World War. We have used our experience to carry out de-mining operations in areas affected by cluster munitions, most recently in Lebanon this year.
Now is the time to look ahead. After signature we need to ratify the Convention and work on getting as many other countries as possible on board as Parties. Much work remains to be done. Iceland will work together with other Parties to the Convention on its full and complete implementation in the years to come. Stockpile destruction needs to be funded and implemented. Iceland will certainly continue to assist affected countries in clearing cluster munitions infested areas. As a major producer of prosthetics, Iceland will also continue to assist victims.
All present are aware that not all countries support the ban on cluster munitions outlined in this Convention. But I am confident that, with time, our position will prevail. The principles of the Convention will eventually be universally recognized as an essential part of international humanitarian law. In the period until that aim is achieved, which I hope will be short, the Convention recognizes the need for military cooperation between States Parties and non-Parties. As Iceland stated at the Dublin Conference in May, the relevant Article should be interpreted narrowly and cannot be used to avoid obligations under the Convention.
Dear friends and colleagues,
By this Convention we all give new hope to thousands of people affected by cluster munitions. Allow me in closing to give special tribute to the victims of these terrible weapons, whatever their situation, but particularly those who have taken part in bringing about this historic ban.