Thursday, August 20, 2009
Photo: LEBANON) Ali Oussama Joumaa’ was 11 years old when this photograph was taken. On 4 September 2006, two weeks into the ceasefire, he was in the streets near his family’s house in Houmin El, Fawka, when he and his three cousins found many unexploded cluster submunitions. “They were everywhere around us. We knew that they were dangerous and we went to report them, but I fell and my hand hit one. It exploded and my hand was badly injured,” says Oussama. He was lucky not to have been more seriously injured, as cluster submunitions are designed to kill. When we met him at the Ragheb Harb Hospital on 6 September 2006, his mother Samia Alloush sat at his bed side, watching, fretting and wondering how she would get all of her kids to the other end of this nightmare in one piece.
Photo credit: John Rodsted / Norwegian People's Aid
The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) took one small step for mankind this week when Croatia became the 15th country to ratify the treaty.
However, a total of 30 states are required to ratify the treaty, which would then make it international law.
Cluster bomb survivors and civil society groups are now waiting on the next 15 countries to complete the final ratification process and mark the treaty’s entry into force.
And that should happen in the near future, according to a spokesperson with the Cluster Munition Coalition.
“The ratification process is going at a normal pace and getting 15 ratifications in nine months is not bad at all,” said the spokesperson in an email interview. “Parliamentary procedures can be cumbersome in some countries which means that even if countries prioritize the issue, the administrative side of it may delay the process a bit.”
The countries that have ratified the CCM are: Albania, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Holy See, Ireland, Japan, Lao PDR, Luxembourg, Mexico, Niger, Norway, San Marino, Sierra Leone, and Spain.
Canada has not yet ratified the treaty, although campaigners are not overly concerned at this point.
“With a minority government, issues such as treaties are moving slower than normally,” said Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada (MAC), in an email interview.
“MAC is in regular contact with all parties and sees no impediments to Canada ratifying the CCM.
Mr. Hannon believes Canada will be a full State Party in time for the First Meeting of States Parties in 2010.
One of the requirements of the CCM is for each State Party to destroy all cluster munitions that it stockpiles as soon as possible but no later than eight years after the CCM enters into force.
Canada has cluster munitions stockpiled but has taken them out of service.
“The cluster munitions currently in Canada’s possession are 155-millimetre Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM),” said a spokesperson with the Department of National Defence, in an email interview. “These remaining cluster munition stocks are artillery based and have been taken out of operational service. They have never been used by the CF in operations and are in the process of being destroyed. We have already destroyed our entire stockpile of MK20 Rockeye airdelivered cluster munitions.”
Cluster bombs were last used during the Georgia/Russia conflict in August 2008. Civil society groups hope the treaty will stigmatize the use of the weapon, much like the Mine Ban Treaty did for anti-personnel landmines.
“The emerging international norm is gaining momentum and even non-signatories will find it increasingly difficult to even consider the use of the weapon in the future,” said the Coalition spokesperson.
The Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to media requests by deadline.
To learn more about the issue, please click here.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada.
If there is a benefit for having to endure a particularly rainy summer in Ottawa, it is that it gives one a good excuse to visit the plentiful museums here in Canada’s capital city.
Of particular interest is the Festival Karsh now on at the Museum of Science and Technology in the city’s east end.
Yousuf Karsh is well known in Ottawa – and, indeed, throughout the world, as one of the finest portrait photographers of all time. The exhibition features many of the images that propelled Karsh to international fame, including his 1941 portrait of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in his defiant “Roaring Lion” pose.
In this exhibition, Karsh is also shown as a masterful darkroom technician and lighting expert.
Besides the large black and white photographs, the exhibition features Karsh’s floor-to-ceiling enlarger, a Calumet 8 x 10 view camera, tungsten lighting equipment, studio backdrops and numerous darkroom tools.
If there is a downside to the current exhibition, it is that some of the prints are underlit and the captions are below the photographs – meaning that tall people must bend over to read them. This is not always easy in poor light.
The exhibition continues until mid-September.
For more information, please click here.