Kelly Howell

Kelly Howell (Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities - AEPD): Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kelly received her B.A. in International Relations from Grand Valley State University in 2012. She went on to study in both Egypt and Ireland, where she developed a special interest in post-conflict community building. At the time of her fellowship Kelly was studying for a Masters Degree in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon. After her fellowship she wrote: “AEPD’s work here is much needed and so important, and I am very happy to be working alongside such brilliant advocates for human rights.”

Vietnam and the Cluster Munitions Charter

08 Aug

August 1 marked the 3 year anniversary for the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CMC), celebrated all over the world. Vietnam was no exception, with AEPD leading the effort to mark this notable day.

AEPD held an event at a local community center that was attended by local authorities, citizens, and survivors. AEPD also led a billboard campaign calling for action against land mines and cluster munitions, plastering the city of Dong Hoi with banners large and small.

The employees and volunteers that make up this vibrant organization hope that the destruction wrought by these unremitting sub-munitions can be curtailed and even prevented, and they have contributed year after year to those efforts as much as possible. This is inspirational for me to see, and it is sobering to experience the legacy of the terror that these explosives leave behind on the ground, generally after being blindly dropped by an airborne pilot who never has to face the reality of the horror that erupts on the ground in his or her wake.

Cluster Munitions can be dropped from planes or ground-launched, and are explosive weapons that release or eject smaller sub-munitions. These sub-munitions, little bombs, are so powerful they can even pierce tank armor and destroy vehicles. Some cluster munitions are designed to destroy runways or electric power transmission lines, disperse chemical or biological weapons, or to scatter land mines. They kill and disable people indiscriminately, harm more civilians than soldiers, and continue to harm people long after wars cease.

“The facade of a burned out church that was bombed during the Vietnam/American War”

Adopted on 30 May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 01 August 2010. Currently the Convention has 112 signatories, out of which 83 are also State parties

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. In addition, it establishes a framework for cooperation and assistance to ensure adequate care and rehabilitation to survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk reduction education and destruction of stockpiles.

Since its inception, none of the signatories or state parties to the CMC have used, produced, or purchased Cluster Munitions. As well, the destruction of hundreds of thousands of stockpiled cluster munitions containing tens of millions of sub-munitions has occurred, as well as expanded clearance of contaminated land, and advances in victim assistance.

Vietnam is not currently a signatory to the CMC, nor to the Mine Ban Treaty, citing security reasons among others. November 2010, Vietnam’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh, welcomed the humanitarian goals of the convention, but said that some of its obligations “create difficulty for implementation.” He cited two particular concerns: 1. That the convention places “responsibility for solving the cluster munitions problem with victim states while the international cooperation and assistance mechanisms have not been specified,” and 2. That it will take Vietnam “decades, if not a couple of centuries” to complete clearance in affected areas while the convention requires that states “complete in ten years with an extension of not more than five years.”

All of this notwithstanding, AEPD marked the occasion with a celebration and sporting event. Ms. Hong, chairwoman, spoke to a crowd of local people, NGOs, and government officials about the process of the convention, what countries are involved, and the benefits of signing the CMC. The event, held annually, is meant to raise awareness about the problem of cluster munitions and the importance of the ban.

Ms. Hong spoke of the interest of Vietnam’s government in the human rights aspect of the CMC, and encouraged the idea of Vietnam as a signatory. She stressed the significance of the Victim Assistance articles of the CMC, and encouraged local authorities to raise their voices to the central government of Vietnam. Land mine survivors spoke and sang to the crowd, raising awareness and spirits.

After speeches and singing, games ensue!

“This is a forum to ask for change.” said Ms. Hong. “We hope that we can continue to have this event every year, so that the people of Quang Binh province have an opportunity to speak about these issues that they care deeply about.”

Posted By Kelly Howell

Posted Aug 8th, 2013

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