No Cluster Munitions: From Vision to Action

Published: 12 November 2010

Statement by Dr. Snivourast Sramany, President of the Lao Red Cross, on behalf of the IFRC, at the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Thank you, Mr President, for giving the floor to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for the first time at this meeting. We are touched by the warm welcome given by the Government and people of Laos. As head of the Federation delegation, I wish to thank the United Nations, UNDP and member states as well as the Government and people of Laos who have made this first conference such a success.

Mr President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) welcomes that a growing number of countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We note the importance of universal ratification in order to end the suffering caused by these weapons.

We recall the journey that we have taken together – from Geneva at the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2007, then Dublin, Oslo and Santiago to today in Vientiane. We are pleased to be here, at this very first Meeting of States Parties, which will transform our common vision, a vision that is based upon people and humanity, into action.

The political will and commitment of all states is vital to securing compliance with the Convention and its promises to humanity. Our member Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies are committed to removing the threat cluster munitions pose. Our auxiliary role to the public authorities in the humanitarian field enables us to work with governments to reduce the harm caused by these weapons at national and community levels.

Since its adoption, many National Societies have advocated for the universalisation of the Convention. In affected countries they are often appointed as the focal point for casualty data collection and analysis and in identifying amputees in need of assistance. Activities to reduce risk and provide immediate and long-term support to the victims are also being carried out at local level.

To illustrate how National Societies contribute in this area please allow me to share with you two examples of programmes run by the Lao Red Cross.

Through the promotion of voluntary, regular non-remunerated blood donation, in cooperation with the Global Fund, the German Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross through our International Federation, the Lao Red Cross ensures an adequate and safe supply of blood to victims. Of course, the blood donation programme is not solely aimed at providing support to victims of cluster munitions, but seeing how existing services can assist different groups is part of the flexibility of our programming.

The second example that I wish to highlight here is how the Lao Red Cross works in partnership with the Ministry of Health to implement the Health Equity Fund. This fund was created to provide health services to poor people and the Lao Red Cross, supported by the Swiss Red Cross, Asian Development Bank and World Bank, delivers health and care services across the country. Such an extended service delivery is meaningful and of particular importance in Xieng Khouang province, which is the second area most affected by cluster munitions, as many of you have witnessed during the field trip this week.

Currently, the Lao Red Cross, in cooperation with ICRC, is in discussion with our Government. It is in our hope that with extended activities, we can better provide support to the Lao Government and contribute to transforming the vision at the international level into reality at the local level.

Speaking with my capacity as the President of the Lao Red Cross, allow me to take this opportunity to thank all our partners for their trust on and support to the Lao Red Cross.

Mr President,

At the 30th International Conference in 2007, Governments and National Societies reaffirmed their commitment to preserving human life and dignity in armed conflict through the faithful implementation of international humanitarian law. Resolution 3 of that conference echoes the spirit of the Convention and received a considerable number of pledges.

With the next International Conference coming up in one year’s time in Geneva, reports of the progress-made in implementing these pledges are being made at country level by Governments and National Societies and we take this opportunity to express our appreciation.

In November last year, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which unites the IFRC, ICRC and 186 National Societies, adopted a “Movement Strategy on Landmines, Cluster Munitions and other Explosive Remnants of War [aimed at] Reducing the Effects of Weapons on Civilians”. This strategy is based on the experience of the Movement in addressing landmines. It will further enhance cooperation within and beyond the Movement to address the humanitarian consequences of these weapons in communities.

In conclusion, we call for the universalisation of the Convention and remain committed to supporting governments and local populations in need. We call for the true implementation of the Vientiane Declaration and Action Plan. And, finally, we welcome cooperation and partnership at all levels to realise the objectives of this Convention on the ground, as stated in the Action 1 of the Vientiane Action Plan.

Thank you.