Cluster Munitions

Cluster munitions are large weapons, such as bombs or rockets, that contain dozens and often hundreds of smaller submunitions. Whether air dropped or surface launched, cluster munitions disperse their submunitions over a wide area and pose a humanitarian threat both during and after attacks. When cluster munitions are used in populated areas, as they frequently have been, they almost inevitably kill or injure civilians because the submunitions cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians. In addition, many of the submunitions fail to explode on impact and become de facto landmines, endangering civilians for months or years to come.

In 2007, the Cluster Munition Coalition and a core group of countries, led by Norway, initiated the Oslo Process to negotiate a treaty aiming to end the unacceptable harm caused by cluster munitions. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted in 2008, bans the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of these weapons. It also includes remedial measures that require states parties to destroy stockpiles, clear contaminated areas, and assist victims.

Credits (clockwise from left): Bonnie Docherty, 2008, 2006, 2002