Defusing cluster bomb policy
Billions of cluster munitions are believed to be stockpiled in an estimated 85 countries worldwide. Over the past 40 years, these weapons — designed to destroy a significant area by ejecting smaller submunitions, called bomblets, upon impact — have been dropped on 31 countries, killing millions.
According to the awareness group Legacies of War, 98 percent of casualties that have come as a result of cluster bombings are innocent civilians. Furthermore, anywhere from five to 20 percent of the explosives released by a cluster bomb will not explode on impact, creating deadly hazards that remain for years after a conflict has been resolved.
In response to this, 98 countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008, prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. The convention will officially enter into force six months after 30 countries have ratified it; to date, only 17 countries have done so. Despite being an original signatory, Canada has yet to ratify the agreement and continues to stockpile cluster munitions.
This is where Grow International, Mount Royal’s only registered human rights club, comes in with an ambitious awareness campaign.
“Banning victim-weaponry is something that we really can’t ignore,” said the group’s president and founder Jamie LeSueur, a policy studies student at Mount Royal. “Canada has yet to ratify the mission to ban cluster bombs. We need to step up and set an example for others.”
Grow International, which also includes policy studies students Ashraf Ghandour and Michael Davis as well as business student Philip Horan, plans to host an initial event, aptly titled Bombs Away, in the Liberty Lounge on Oct. 3. For a $5 cover charge, patrons will be treated to performances by two local bands and a set by DJ Nathan to close out the night.
LeSueur said that despite the increase in international exposure, the use of cluster munitions does not seem to have dwindled in recent years. The United Nations estimates that Israel fired up to four million cluster bomblets into Lebanon during its 2006 clash with Hezbollah, who is believed to have returned fire with more than 4,400 of their own. The U.S. is believed to have dropped nearly 250,000 bomblets on Afghanistan in 2001-02 and as many as 1.8 million into Iraq during airstrikes in 2003.
“The thing about cluster munitions is that it is the innocent who suffer,” LeSueur said. “Unexploded ordinance are unable to determine the difference between the foot of a soldier and the foot of a child.”
While capacity for the Bombs Away event is limited to 200 people, if all goes well, Grow International has plans to host a much larger event sometime next year, possibly at MRU’s Kenyon Court.
Advanced tickets for Bombs Away can be purchased at Grow International’s booth on main street Sept. 28 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. or Oct. 2 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets will also be available at the door if space remains.