Eliminating cluster munitions


Cluster munitions are traditional munitions, designed to give off or disperse multiple smaller explosives. The fact that they cover a large range and are very sensitive make them a threat to civilian populations who are the leading victims of these weapons. The presence of active but unexploded cluster mines also hinders the economic and social life of certain areas which become inhabitable.

International instruments to combat cluster bombs

The Oslo Convention

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international instrument prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, and the outcome of a process launched in 2007 by 46 States, including France. The CCM was adopted in Dublin on 30 May 2008 and signed in Oslo on 3 and 4 December 2008. It entered into force on 1 August 2010. There are currently 106 States Parties. According to Article 2 of the Convention, the term "cluster munition" means "a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions."

The text, which supports the same disarmament dynamic as the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, provides for:

the prohibition of the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of most cluster munitions. There are exceptions according to capacity, weight or the presence of an auto-de-activation or auto-destruction mechanism;

the clearance of cluster munition remnants in contaminated areas within a period of ten years that can be extended in the event of difficult circumstances;

the destruction of prohibited cluster munitions within a period of eight years that can also be extended;

advanced international cooperation and victim-assistance measures.

However, the CCM gives States Parties the possibility to engage in military cooperation and operations with States not party to the Convention.

As of early December 2019, the Convention had 106 States Parties and 16 Signatories. Nevertheless, most of the major possessors and manufacturers of cluster munitions, such as the United States, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, China and South Korea, have refused to join the Convention on the grounds of the military need for cluster munitions. The work for the universalization of the Convention is therefore far from completed.

Furthermore, the States Parties convene at the same period each year to monitor the Convention. Intersessional Meetings are also held twice a year.

France’s action

France has not used cluster munitions since 1991 and ceased to manufacture them in 2002.

During the Oslo Convention negotiations, France distinguished itself through a significant gesture by announcing the immediate withdrawal of 90% of French cluster munition stockpiles. This initiative was in fact followed by the United Kingdom and Germany. Even before the Convention entered into force, France had thus decided to decommission all its munitions that had been prohibited by the Convention, namely the M26 rocket and the 155 mm grenade shell.

From the outset of negotiations, France has played a key role as facilitator between cluster munition affected States and cluster munition States, industrialized countries and developing countries, and also between governments and NGOs so as to ensure that this Treaty would be as effective as possible from a humanitarian standpoint. It has mobilized to rally the greatest number of supporters. France has defended an unambiguous position, namely banning all cluster munitions, which are unacceptable because of the humanitarian damage they cause.

Internally, the national bill implementing the Treaty was passed by the National Assembly on 6 July 2010 and enacted on 20 July (Act No. 2010-819): the Convention entered into force on 1 August 2010 and was published on that date (Decree No. 2010-900).

In addition, the national implementation of the Oslo Convention is ensured by the National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA), whose mandate has been expanded to include cluster munitions, under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lastly, the Convention currently only covers the holders of 10% of cluster munition stockpiles in the world. It is for this reason that France is permanently working on outreach and advocacy, both with Signatories which are close to ratification, and with non-Signatories, in order to universalize the norm introduced by the Convention.

Reference texts

Convention on Cluster Munitions (Oslo Convention - (30 May 2008)
Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)

Useful websites:

Permanent Representation of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
Website of the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions

Updated December 2019