3 December 2008

A solid majority of the world's governments today sign a treaty to ban cluster munitions, a type of weapon that kills people indiscriminately and over a wide area.  We congratulate the more than 100 countries in Oslo to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the coalition of more than 300 civil society groups including churches that have helped the international community move to resolve a long-standing problem.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is a humane and historic victory.  It sets new standards for disarmament treaties and international humanitarian law by banning a whole class of weapon and requiring specific assistance for the victims of the weapon.

Lives and limbs will be spared wherever the treaty is implemented.  It will reduce new casualties as old unexploded weapons are cleared and make civilians less vulnerable in future conflict zones where this random killer is not used.  To sign such a treaty on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is highly appropriate.

Every government that implements this Oslo treaty puts constructive pressure on states that have not signed, including the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and Zimbabwe. We reiterate the need for those states to sign and support this timely arms control and humanitarian initiative, as the World Council of Churches Central Committee requested in February this year.

Meanwhile, we commend the many groups including church-related organizations that support the clearance of millions of left-over explosives in the 30 countries where cluster munitions have been used in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.  We encourage governments that must now begin the monumental task of destroying existing stocks held by 75 countries.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

WCC general secretary